There has been a dramatic increase in the number of divorces over the last thirty years. Experts estimate that at least half of all marriages will end in divorce. Divorce has an effect on everyone involved, especially children if there are children in the relationship.
False Allegations Of Abuse In Divorce By Reverend Dennis Austin
Many times divorces become very hostile, which results in long courtroom battles. These battles are over money, houses, land and cars, but the most sensitive, traumatic and often the most cruel battle is the battle over the custody of the children. Custody battles for children are often long and heated debates over which parent is the better parent for the child. In the past, custody was always awarded to the mother because of the belief that children needed to be nurtured.
In recent years, there has been an upward trend to fathers seeking custody rights to the children. Often times parenting plans can be set up with mediation between the two parents but in most cases, the court becomes involved. During custody battles, there is a growing trend of one parent alleging abuse by the other parent. Before 1973, Child abuse was rarely reported to authorities and often times it was covered up. In 1963, reports of suspected child abuse was 160,000 but between 1976 and 1993, the total yearly number of child abuse reports grew from 669,000 to over 2.9 million after the child abuse protection legislation that Senator Mondale sponsored. The passing of this legislation has also resulted in the increase of allegations of child abuse in divorce battles.
In 1975, thirty five percent of all child abuse reports were unsubstantiated, but by 1993, that percentage sky-rocketed to sixty six percent. In divorce, when allegations are made and the police conduct investigations, ninety seven percent of these claims are unable to be substantiated. It is obvious that many allegations of abuse which are reported in divorce situations are false and ninety five percent of those accusers are women. With the high amount of divorces, the percentage of those divorces which abuse is reported, and the percentage of which are unsubstantiated, it shows that children are being used as pawns to hurt or destroy the other parent. These false allegations of abuse, even if proven to be false, can ruin someone's life and have a devastating effect on the children.
Two syndromes have been occurring in rapidly increasing numbers since 1980. The first is called Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS). Douglas Darnall, PhD. States that, many women say that PAS does not exist or it is simply a tool used by male dominant courts to take the children from their mothers. They also contend that fathers and attorneys use PAS as an aggressive defense for physical and sexual abuse. There are three different types of alienators. The first is the naïve alienator who recognizes the importance of and encourages the relationship between the children and the other parent and only occasionally will do or say something that may alienate. This is not done to try to destroy the relationship between the children and the other parent.
The second is the active alienator who alienates the children from the other parent by lashing out at the other parent in front of the children. They may even give the children the choice of whether or not the child wants to visit with the parent although the court has ordered rights to visitation.
The third type of alienator is the obsessed alienator who does everything in their power to align the children to their side and campaign to destroy their relationship with the targeted parent. The obsessed parent is bitter and angry and tries to completely remove the targeted parent from their lives by vilifying them and set themselves up as a victim/hero. Some weapons that the alienating parent uses are false allegations of domestic violence, sexual or physical or emotional abuse of the child, mental illness on the part of the target parent, or alcoholism/drug abuse/homosexuality on the part of the target parent. This is a form of parentectomy, or the removal or erasure of a parent from the child's life.
The second syndrome that is occurring is called Sexual Allegations In Divorce (SAID). SAID is a false accusation against one parent, usually the father, for molesting the child. In the American society, there is such a sensitivity or outrage about child abuse that when an allegation is made, it is presumed to be true. Instead of being innocent until proven guilty, the accused child molester, especially fathers, are guilty until proven innocent. Upon allegation, the courts generally order the removal of the child from the father and at the very best, allows the father only limited supervised visitation until the matter is completely settled.
Frank Zepezauer states that "in some jurisdictions, the accusation can send a man to prison for life. In others, it can incarcerated him for ten or twenty years or more and brand him, for the rest of his life as a sex offender. At the very least, it can immobilize him in custody proceedings by involving him in costly litigation." SAID is often used by women to alienate the father from his children. It is used more often than physical abuse since there is often no physical signs from sexual abuse. A defense attorney in San Jose, California states, "In one fell swoop, she (the mother) can get her husband completely out of her and her children's lives, and assure herself complete custodial control. And in one fell swoop, she can completely destroy the man's life, and any semblance of a normal relationship between him and his children."
One may wonder what the alienator would have to gain in making such false accusations or why one parent would try to erase the other parent from the child's life. There are several reasons. Fear of losing their parental identity, loss of family structure, envy, rage and revenge are all viable bases for which one parent will alienate the other parent from the child. This epidemic is not exclusively seen in America but is wide spread throughout the world. In the National Shared Parenting Association (Saskatchewan Chapter) Press Release, it states that in Canada, a Children's Aid Society study showed that of 1200 complaints of abuse, 900 involved custody disputes. Of those 900 allegations, two thirds (600) were found to be false.
Most people do not realize the effects of parental alienation on children and the false allegations of abuse. Many young children whose mothers have made false allegations of abuse will develop false memories of abuse because of leading questions or suggestive counseling. These children are left fatherless. Parentectomy results in children becoming depressed, sometimes reaching suicidal proportions. They often lack self-esteem. Often they will turn against the alienator in later adolescence when they realize they have been "brainwashed" against the other parent.
David Blankenhorn gives statistics of fatherless children. He states that forty percent of American children will live apart from their fathers sometime before they are 18. He also says that drugs, child and adult abuse, poverty, teen pregnancy, gangs, crime and growing prison population are all driven by the separation of fathers from their children. He states, "A man can communicate to his son how to be a good man. The best mother in the world can't do that."
"Children who are deprived of their natural fathers, compared to children in two-parent families, are more likely to go to prison by eight times, to commit suicide by 5 times, to have behavioral problems by 20 times, to become rapists by 20 times, to run away by 32 times to abuse chemical substances by 10 times, to drop out of high school by 9 times, to be seriously abused by 33 times, to be fatally abused by 73 times and to have a 44 percent higher mortality rate."
These statistics are alarming and horrifying but what is behind all the statistics are hurting children who long for a normal life and was never given the chance to have that. They long for a relationship, with both their parents, that is healthy. Many times the mother has so convinced the children that their father is worthless, that they have a bitter resentment toward their father, which is solely based on the fabrications of the mother. This can ruin the child emotionally. It is not only boys that need their fathers in their lives to help them become emotionally stable.
"Adolescent girls whose parents divorced during their oedipal years, we postulate that particular coping patterns emerge in response to the absence of the father which may complicate the consolidation of positive feminine identification in many female children and is observable during the latency years. We illustrate both the existence of these phenomena and implication for treatment:
intensified separation anxiety
denial and avoidance of feelings associated with loss of father
identification with the lost object
object hunger for males.
This also shows the hurt and anger that a child goes through with the loss of the father in their lives. They repress their feelings and act out upon them trying to make themselves whole again but without any hope of doing that because the only way would to be able to undo the emotional abuse that the alienating parent perpetrates on the child.
The target parent has literally lost their children. In essence, their children have died. The target parent grieves but continues to love their children from a distance. They are forced to live as if their children are dead. The only hope that the target parent has is that someone will be able to reach their children and explain what has happened and the child will be willing to start a relationship with their lost parent. This alienation from their child can, as one can imagine, cause an increase in suicide rates among fathers. It is financially devastating to those who choose not to take their lives and result in poverty. They must fight long legal battles to clear their names of the crime that they have allegedly committed. This can take thousands upon thousands of dollars as well as years of court proceedings.
Many men lose everything they own to fight the court system because not only have they lost their rights as a parent, they have lost their reputation as well but they are still required to pay child support to those children. Even once a man has been cleared of the charges of abuse, there will always be emotional scars from the abuse that their ex-wife and the court system has ravaged them with. As stated earlier, many are branded as child molesters for the rest of their lives even with an acquittal.
The legislation that passed that began this massive surge of false abuse allegations is called the Mondale Act of 1974 or the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA). This law was well intentioned to stop child abuse, but it has created an epidemic of false allegations of abuse. CAPTA matches monies to states that comply with their provisions, which are to set up programs which identify and prosecute child abusers. CAPTA created a vague and ambiguous definition of child abuse which is left up to the subjective discretion of the caller who reports the abuse or investigator. CAPTA has been revisited many times and has had minor amendments.
President Clinton re-authorized the act in the fall of 1996. Most states have what are called Child Protective Service Workers (CPS). These workers, along with law enforcement officers, investigate abuse reports. While the law enforcement officers have been trained to be objective, the CPS have not been and they even are called "validators" which raises a question to their role in an investigation. The CPS have authority to deny a parent the access to the children even if there is a court order which allows them to have visitation with the children. The CPS will send a child for an evaluation. According to the Mondale Act, if an evaluator does not report suspected abuse and the child goes back to an abusive situation, the evaluator can be imprisoned. These evaluators are often either afraid of the consequences of imprisonment if they mistakenly place a child back in the home of an abuser or they may even be a validator as the CPS workers.
The indicators that these validators use to determine abuse are actually quite common behavior which even normal children sometimes exhibit. Some of these indicators include, bedwetting, acting out, nightmares, whining, temper tantrums, thumb-sucking, and compliant and fearful behavior. These validators often propitiate allegations of abuse because it puts food on their tables. It is their career and without such allegations, they could be without a job. Although this is a horrifying thought, this is a reason to ignore evidence that shows innocence and only present to the court "evidence" that substantiate the client's claims of abuse.
In Armin A. Brott's article "A System Out Of Control: The Epidemic Of False Allegations Of Child Abuse", he states that, "In California, for example, the Victim/Witness program will pay directly to a licensed therapist up to $10,000 per child for counseling as long as the child was alleged to have been abused. An additional $10,000 is available to counsel the child's mother. The only catch: to get their therapy paid for, the child victim and her mother must see a therapist from an approved list. Guess who directs the mother to a therapist who would be best for her and her child? CPS, of course." These CPS workers often ask leading questions which can distort the children's memories. In their reports to the court, they often ignore evidences that would clear the accused, such as lie detector tests and outside therapist evaluations and rely solely on the child's evaluations which have been skewed by the CPS and the therapists that they recommend.
In a report disseminated by the National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect (NCCAN) Child Maltreatment 1995 Reports From the States to the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System depicts more than three million reports of alleged child abuse and neglect in 1995 of which two million of those complaints were without foundation.
False allegations of abuse in divorce is an epidemic that is sweeping the world. Children are becoming the heirs to hatred passed down to them from their parents and because this is all that they know, they in turn foster this pain, hatred and deceptiveness in their own adult relationships. The children are crushed under the weight of the system and a parent that is only looking out for their own best interests. Look at the rise in crime in recent years. There needs to be an accountability set within the legislation that would help to stop the false allegations of abuse and the propitiation of such allegations by the judicial system through CPS. The Mondale Act does not provide boundaries that would provide for prosecution of those who make false accusations. Where is the protection of the innocent in all of this?
The CPS has become a money making business and not a public service. Their theories that children do not lie about such issues are false. Many times children are coached into believing that something happened when it really did not. It is important to have laws to protect the innocent children from abuse but it is also equally important to protect the innocent adult from a wrongful accusation that could ruin them for the rest of their life.
America's judicial system was founded on the principal that the accused is innocent until proven guilty. The CPS has changed the law in this issue to guilty until proven innocent. Those who commit perjury are indicted and imprisoned and there should also be the same punishment for those who falsely allege abuse. This legislation will never change until men and women come together and protest the unjustness of this issue. Most people's attitudes are "it is better to falsely convict than to allow a child to be abused." There is no justice in this. The American Constitution gives us the rights to justice. Only if we decide to speak can our voices be heard.
There needs to be an accountability that the CPS has so answer to so that they cannot simply ignore the truth. Therapists should not have to fear making an honest evaluation. We cannot sit by and allow the burden of proof to always be on the father. The burden of proof must be placed once again on the courts and the person that makes the allegations. Children and the target parent will never lead normal, healthy lives until the abuse is stopped.
Legislation needs to be changed to protect all the innocent, not just one. Let's be the voice of freedom and justice to change the legislation on the abuse laws so that false allegations cannot be made so easily, destroying the life of one of America's citizens and hurting the most precious thing that God has given us, his children.
Reverend Dennis Austin
Credits go to: PAS The effects of PAS on the child and Target Parent, Dean Tong on his Abuse Excuse Web Site www.abuse-excuse.com, The Father's Manifesto Forum (statistics), National Shared Parenting Association's Press Release, PAS Directory, Armin A. Brott A System Out of Control: The Epidemic of False Allegations of Child Abuse
Thanks to the many law enforcement offices that were contacted for information.