Parental Alienation is child abuse.
To the day I die I know I will see it play out over and over as clearly as if it was happening right now.
I was sitting on my couch in our family room hyperventilating and trying to maintain some sense of dignity and self control while succumbing to the surreal understanding that I was about to lose my 14-year-old daughter. I did not then and still don't know how or why it had come to this but somewhere in the back of my mind I hear her shuffling around packing things while her father sits waiting outside in his car.
She walked down the stairs, opened the front door, and walked away with barely a look back or a perfunctory "goodbye." At that moment a part of me died. I don't know if Emma will ever understand the extent of abuse she was then and is still suffering.
I still cry a lot and feel a great hole in my heart and an emptiness in my life. But, I have not surrendered. Despite my loss of two daughters I still have Aubrey who unknowingly is a source of strength and solace and is a constant reminder that the loss of my two other daughters resulted from a malignant narcissist successfully executing a strategy of hate and alienation. But, as Yogi Berra so famously said "it ain't over till it's over." This is my story.
I am the mother of 3 daughters ages 24, 19 and 14. My story is complicated but isn't everyone's? I might be the only person in the United States, heck the world, to experience PAS twice at ten year intervals. Let me explain.
I had my biological daughter for 9 years when my ex-husband and I adopted a baby from China. That baby is now 14 and my oldest is 24. Two years after adopting the baby, we adopted a 7 year old, who is now 19. We really were excited about adopting an older child but I shortly learned that older children come with significant baggage. Shortly after the adoption my ex-husband began to dislike her and announced that he wanted to send her back to China. He began staying out late at night, leaving me alone with 3 girls although I was a full time teacher. A short time later, he was soliciting over the internet sexual encounters with both men and women and eventually I caught him cheating with another woman and immediately called an attorney. The adoption process for our new daughter, aged 7, wasn't even complete.
Fortunately, although I was a single woman with 3 daughters I had a very supported extended
family who helped me while I dealt with attorneys, private investigators and, of course, social workers. I
had to reveal this news to the adoption agency but I was determined to keep my daughter despite these developments.
Parental Alienation Is Often Caused By Pathological Narcissists
My ex tried to patch things up while maintaining his relationship with his girlfriend. I refused. His Solution? He initiated a calculated campaign of parental alienation. He began to demonstrate or reveal his extreme narcissism so common in parental alienation situations. He could not cope with the fact that he was losing everything and that he could no longer dominate or bully the family. But, the disorder required that he be admired and be the center of attention. So, he initiated a campaign to alienate my oldest daughter from me.
Under his direction Karen began tape recording
me in my own home and passing the tapes along to her father. She became verbally abusive and eventually became violent towards me. She was still only 13. I took her to child
psychologists who told me that I was the "safe parent" and my daughter felt that she must turn on me and take "Dad's side" in order
to maintain a relationship with him now that he had a new life. Never once did anyone allude to the concept of parental alienation. Today, I feel that both Karen and I were not only the victims of parental alienation but that we were victimized by incompetent psychologists.
Because her violent behavior steadily intensified I agreed to allow her to move in with John in Massachusetts. I became alienated shortly thereafter while
busy raising the two other children. I continued attempting to repair my relationship with Karen but was allowed to see her only one or two days a month. And, when she was with me her father would repeatedly call her to check on her welfare and remind her that "he loved
her." I would often call him screaming my anger at his tactics but he would respond by claiming that he was just checking about her welfare since she hated to be with me. He is a malignant narcissist and displays sociopathic and antisocial disorders. Like many narcissists my ex-husband can be quite charming. So, I am sometimes accused of being a disgruntled ex-wife whose children simply don't like me. And, since the DSM refuses to recognize parental alienation syndrome my ex-husband continues to damage his own children while professionals charged with protecting children look the other way. Sort of like the United Nations in Ruwanda.
So, since there was no professional intervention both of the younger girls visited with John on weekends. Eventually, Aubrey, who came to us at age 7 refused to go because she was treated poorly. It was only when she rejected him that he began to show an interest in her, told her that he loved her, and begged her to visit. She refused, which is probably why she eluded his malevolence. We lived that this way for 10 years. I did not realize what was brewing in the background. Certainly, John's reaction to Aubrey's rejection is typical of a narcissist working a strategy of parental alienation.
For 10 years my oldest
daughter and I maintained a tumultuous relationship, going months
without seeing each other. My middle
daughter refused to visit John but was always polite if she was around
him. And, my youngest -
(the baby) who was only 3 when we divorced was visiting on Friday
nights. I almost always complied when he would call to request that she
stay on Saturday, only
denying him if she had Sunday school. I tried to
appease him, fearing the damage he could do. I lived with great anxiety
hoping we could navigate our way through this.
I remarried and my new
husband raised my two younger daughters. They both love him. My middle
daughter, who my ex disliked, calls
her step-father Dad, my baby calls him Paul, all fine, whatever they are
comfortable with. Paul never tried to
replace the youngest child's father. After all, she went with him on
weekends. We never denigrated my ex or his new wife. When first
I was devastated and, surely I said bad things about the situation in
front of my
girls. But, that did not continue. I never tried to fight back with my
own version of parental alienation.
Karen went to college and I wanted
to help with the process. However, I was told it was none of my
business. Because Karen and John were so antagonistically against
my involvement I sent certified letters stating that I
wanted to help out with the college search and that I was willing to
make equal monthly payments as John. I was told, however, that his
finances were none of my business and that I could make whatever
payments I desired .
I argued that I just wanted to ensure that my daughter
didn't graduate with huge debt, as she was now settled on attending a
small private New England college. During the college
years, she somewhat warmed up to me and my family.
Her grandmother and I would go for parent's weekends, and would even
politely meet with her father and his new wife. I sent spending money,
helped fund foreign travel,
It was about the time that Karen graduated that my youngest, Emma, began showing problem. Around grade 4 she began coming home from a visit in a bad mood and immediately began crying. She said there were secrets at her father's home that she couldn't tell us. She said that her father and his wife made fun of me and they walked around the house imitating my new husband's walk ( my husband has multiple sclerosis). She was clearly stressed. We took her to a counselor for a few years. I tried to talk to her father about it and I thought things were okay. I was wrong.
Around grade 6, Emma, at her therapist's suggestion, stopped counseling . Soon thereafter she again became problematic. She gave up birthday party invitations, sleep overs, etc. saying "she had to go to Daddy's", all
with distress in her voice. I
would try to calm her by assuring her that I would speak to her Dad, that this discussion should be for parents, not for a 6th grader to worry about. She always seemed relieved when I told her
I would handle it. But, my husband and I both were concerned that she was conflicted by something happening at her father's house. The parental alienation had shifted to a higher gear.
As we worked through middle school she became increasingly despondent at home. In some ways her behavior was consistent with a girl entering adolescence and we were assured by professionals that this was the case. But, we became increasingly concerned when she failed to come out of her room and constantly was on the internet, and overly involved with Anime chat rooms with older people. When I foolishly tried to discuss the problem with her father I was rebuffed by his telling me "she is fine here, we see no problems." Little did I know that this must have been music to his ears. In retrospect, we realized just how hard he was working to quietly manipulate her.
When Karen graduated college there was a short window when I thought we had a chance to rebuild our relationship. She got a job and rented an apartment. My husband and I paid her security deposit and my mother bought her a new bedroom set. Unfortunately, six months after graduation her loans became due and she was forced to move back home with her father. It was at this time that I learned that her father had her take loans to pay for her entire college education. The total was $125,000 and she was oblivious to both the amount and to how she would or could repay them. She holds me in contempt for this problem but in no way blames her father. This is parental alienation. I have not seen my daughter in two years.
Parental Neglect Doesn't Matter
As Emma approached age 14 the situation became more and more difficult. I had gone to China to bring her home when she was eight months old. My new husband raised her for 10 years. Besides Friday night visits her father NEVER showed any interest in her. He never inquired about her grades, never went to a teacher's meeting, showed no interest when she passed out one morning while taking a shower, and never called her when she was having medical problems such as an extremely heavy and almost constant menstrual period. As she approached age 14 and was displaying what we considered to be serious issues John never called or expressed any concern.
In Rhode Island, the courts allow a child who has turned 14 to make her own decision regarding her domicile. This is a perfect scenario for parental alienation. So, it should have come as no surprise shortly after turning 14 that we were served court papers demanding the change of domicile to John's house.
A Fruitless Fight
We tried to fight but to no avail. We retained an attorney and visited with a few "experts" in parental alienation at the cost of the about $250 an hour. The bottom line is that the decision makers, led by Family Court, just don't care. DSM-V refuses to recognize parental alienation as a syndrome so everyone gets off the hook. The very sad result is that the courts simply do not want to deal with something as complex as parental alienation. So, they have decided that at age 14 a child's brain is sufficiently developed that they can make such momentous decision all by themselves. Of course, those of us who have been targets of parental alienation know that the decisions are not made by the children. They are made by highly manipulative narcissistic parents who only have their own self interests at heart.
After having a long talk with a GAL from Brown University my attorney advised me that we could pursue the case and spend a fortune. However, unless the Guardian Ad Litem found obvious evidence of either physical or sexual abuse we would lose.
I remember waking up after getting the news
from the attorney and having to teach school while thinking that i am not going
to survive. I could not get my body
into the car never mind to work to teach high school economics. But I did. And I will continue.
Although the court grants me visitation two weekends per month my daughter resists visiting and my ex-husband puts up as many barriers as possible. One weekend when I was supposed to have her for two nights he contacted her around lunchtime on Saturday. After a few texts went back and forth Emma announced she wanted to go home. After a short discussion I told her she could call and have him come to pick her up. He lives an hour away but showed up to get her within 10 minutes. He had been lurking in the area and instigated the entire thing.
So, I am once again trying to maintain a relationship while fighting the overwhelming power of a father with a malignant personality disorder. Lightening does strike twice. For me it struck 10 years apart. In retrospect, had I known anything about parental alienation or if the DSM recognized its legitimacy I could have intervened and possibly saved my child. But, I will keep fighting because the prognosis is not good for children of extreme narcissists.
A final blow came when I learned that John had withdrawn Emma from the therapy the court ordered when we all agreed to the terms of the change of domicile. The court mandated that Emma participate in therapy until the psychologist released her after determining that her mental health was satisfactory. After agreeing to take the summer off from therapy John and Emma secretly visited the therapist and presented a happy picture of a healthy child. Consequently, the therapist released her. The irony here is that the therapist had initially refused to even see Emma unless I made sure that John was also present at the first meeting. Now, she had released her without my permission or knowledge. When I challenged her she just said that she assumed that I knew about the appointment and for some reason could not make it. Then she moved her practice to the Midwest
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