Coercive control is the most insidious type of domestic abuse. A coercively controlling perpetrator denies their behaviour and often successfully blames it on their ex. It can be challenging for a judge to know which parent is the abusive parent and which one is the victim.
A coercively controlling parent, in the relationship, uses manipulation, gaslighting, intimidation and aggression to keep their victim in a constant state of confusion and fear. After separation, the child becomes a pawn, as the perpetrator uses the family courts to keep their victim in that same state of fear and under control.
The controlling parent manipulates the child’s thoughts and actions and attempts to get them on-side and turn them against the safe parent. (They try to alienate the child from the safe parent). When the victim of abuse (mostly mothers) claim in court that they are a victim of abusive, coercively controlling behaviour– the controlling parent uses DARVO techniques to deny their abusive behaviour and project it back onto their victim – they say in court;
“Im not the abusive one – they are – they are alienating the child from me. It’s parental alienation!”
Narcissistic abusers can often be charming and convincing. Mothers and children do not have equal rights to fathers in the family courts – patriarchy and misogyny exist; a father’s rights to contact tend to come before mother’s and children’s human rights.
Victims of domestic abuse and their children have suffered terribly in family courts globally as a result. Victims of domestic abuse, including coercive control (psychological manipulation), are often disbelieved, or the abusive behaviour does not get thoroughly investigated. When the abusive parent is successful in cross-claiming parental alienation, a custody transfer to the abusive parent from the apparently alienating parent is more likely; the Victim’s Commissioner in England described it as state-sanctioned abuse as these children often go on to get isolated from their loving, safe parent and get abused.
Academic research by Dr Adrienne Barnett shows that parental alienation, in the context of domestic abuse cases is a powerful weapon to deny and discredit real domestic abuse allegations. The only people that would benefit in Ireland from the criminalisation of parental alienation are coercively controlling perpetrators seeking to deny their abuse in a courtroom. ( Research by several experts worldwide ).
Mothers and fathers who suffer from a coercively controlling ex who pressures their child to reject them, already have a remedy in law in a Domestic Abuse Bill which recognises coercive control / psychological abuse. Those lobbying alongside abusive parents to have Gardner’s misogynistic parental alienation syndrome made a separate form of domestic abuse, will financially gain from parental alienation being it’s own ‘thing’ in law. The Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC) are an American networking association of family court professionals whose members profit from the business they get through the family courts. The association also profits from the training they offer in the industry.
In America, victim-blaming has become big business. Domestic Abuse V Parental Alienation cases get dragged out for years, and protective parents are often left destitute and heartbroken. Children are dying at the hands of dangerous perpetrators at extraordinary rates. Parents are now suing the courts for sending their children into the custody of known abusers, to then get murdered.
When fathers’ rights groups were climbing rooftops and gaining sympathy from the masses, they claimed to be unfairly treated in the family courts and to have been alienated from their children. Many of the members had criminal convictions for domestic abuse. One had to see through the charm and pseudo-heroism to get to the truth. These fathers’ rights groups helped disingenuous cross-claims of parental alienation gain traction in family courts.
Of course, some mothers are abusive, and some mothers do attempt to turn their child against the father post-separation. Many of these mothers who badmouth the father after separation are not pathological, or coercively controlling. They are unaware of a father’s parental rights and responsibilities, and this often gets sorted out by the time both parents have lawyers. Any psychologically abusive mother, who coercively controls and alienates, would be dealt with under the existing Domestic Abuse Act.
Sadly, female victims of domestic abuse are not being treated fairly under the Domestic Abuse Act, and as a result, their children are suffering from unsafe child contact. The reason is fundamentally the cross-claim of parental alienation used to conceal and deny the real abuse. The Irish government must have their wits about them and not get fooled into making parental alienation a crime for it then to be exploited in the family courts as a disingenuous cross-claim. Scotland foiled the plot. Ireland must do the same.