The Invisible Abuse
It’s April, also known as Child Abuse Awareness Month or the Month of the Child. Most Americans are well-aware of heinous physical and sexual abuse cases as they’re covered by mainstream media. Criminal, Family and Juvenile Court Judges hear tragic cases from kids dying to child sex trafficking and others classified as high-conflict situations. The bottom line is our most precious resource, our kids, are traumatized victims due to horrific abuse at the hands of monsters and those charged with their protection.
What Americans do not hear much about are bitter child custody cases where children and families are torn apart due to another form of abuse called parental alienation. I call it the invisible abuse because it leaves no physical or medical evidence. Parental Alienation is a form of mental or emotional child abuse that leaves hidden scars, as it’s the systematic psychological manipulation of a child who is sadly wielded by a parent or guardian as a pawn, weapon or tool against the other parent. Typically, the alienating parent denigrates or berates the targeted parent and the child is a proxy witness to the badmouthing campaign against the latter. And, oftentimes the child victim becomes brainwashed against the targeted parent and if the alienation becomes severe enough total rejection can occur. Targeted parents in cases of alienation can and do lose relationships with their children. Allegations of parental alienation hit high-profile cases such as those of actors Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie and their children, and Johnny Depp and his estranged spouse Amber Heard – https://www.mercurynews.com/…/johnny-depp-amber-heards-abu…/. Depp claims he was falsely accused of domestic violence by Heard, and those same charges negatively affected his children from former paramour Vanessa Paradis.
A seminal article in the December 2018 issue of Psychological Bulletin co-authored by Psychology Experts Dr. Jennifer Harman and Dr. Edward Kruk categorized Parental Alienation as a form of family violence. Dr. Kruk even warned legal and mental health practitioners they’re being unethical and wrong if they ignore the significance of parental alienation – https://protectingfathersforkids.com/f/inaugural-piece….
Parental alienation is published in the bible of mental health disorders known as the DSM-5, but in less obvious verbiage. Four sub-types; Child Affected by Parental Relationship Distress (CAPRD), child psychological abuse, estrangement, and parent-child relational disorder exist in the DSM-5 that mental health and legal experts can use to their behest. And, the World Health Organization (WHO) claims Parental Alienation may be published and coded in their next ICD version (ICD-11) in 2021 or 2022.
Clearly, child victims of parental alienation can develop signs and symptoms consistent with victims of trauma; depression, anxiety, nightmares, flashbacks, recurring intrusive memories seen in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), eneuresis, and somatic issues such as headaches, stomach aches, nausea and vomiting. False allegations of domestic violence, and physical and sexual child abuse are sometimes used by warring parents to achieve equity-at-law in Court. Parents need no physical proof and can rely on hearsay from the mouths of babes to obtain equity-at-law in Court. These unfounded or false abuse allegations represent overt forms of parental alienation.
Fixing cases of parental alienation which translates to intense Trauma Focused – Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT) for child victims with reunification with their targeted parents is not an easy task. Oftentimes, Judges must order the appointment of fiduciaries such as Parenting Coordinators, Reintegration-Reunification Psychotherapists, and Child Custody Evaluators to facilitate the process, and figure out a plan of attack to extinguish the beast which is alienation and work in the best interest of the children and families. Sometimes in cases of severe parental alienation attachment bonds between children and parents cannot be restored.
In this writer’s opinion, mental health, social science (including child protection), and legal communities must act in concert to preserve the best interest of children, and well-being of American families. We must notice parental alienation early on in Court cases and nip it in the bud before it exacerbates and reaches the severe stage of the same. Police agencies, prosecutors and legislators must work feverishly, and consider the Harman & Kruk theory that parental alienation is tantamount to family violence and adopt criminal penalties for this invisible form of child abuse.
Dean Tong, MSc., CFC is a Forensic Trial Consultant and Author who has worked high-conflict Court cases from all States. Tong’s web site is deantong.academia.edu
Dean Tong is an American author, public speaker, consultant, and trial expert in the field of false child abuse allegations. He has consulted for the media on high-profile cases such as that of Elian Gonzalez, JonBenét Ramsey, and Michael Jackson. He is the author of three books inspired by his personal experience with being falsely accused of child abuse in 1985. In addition to testifying as an expert witness, he has appeared on numerous radio talk shows and television speaking on the topic of false abuse accusations. He has also been quoted by numerous publications on the topic including by the Chicago Defender, The Virginian-Pilot, The Boston Globe, and The Denver Post.