maltreatment

What's Working and What Is Not

Dear Friends,

There are so many opportunities for us in the ACEs, trauma informed, and resilience building movement, that I decided the most efficient and effective way for us to get our powerful scientific based message out to all those who can help us end the nightmare of narcissistic abuse, is to publish a book.  So, I am taking a 2-month sabbatical from running the Alliance (including the face book and LinkedIn pages) to write.

 

But before I do, I wanted to up date you on:

What’s working and what is not.

What’s Not Working?—The same things that never worked.

 

 Some targeted parents are still trying to prove “parental alienation” in family court.  GRRRRR.  Please remember that there aren’t any States with statutes that define “parental alienation” let alone have made it a crime.  A lawyer would have to prove “it” by case law- Good Luck with that, Perry Mason.

 I’ve had contact with a few lawyers and GALs who know that one parent is using alienation strategies to discard the TP, but that’s as far as they get.  Even if they get past the obstacles of trying to prove something that most legal professionals have strongly held misconceptions about, there are no laws or protocols to take it to the next level. 

Usually the courts think that the next level is therapy for the child and TP.  We know where that goes-- No protective separation---No reunification.  Therapy further harms the child and further traumatizes the TP.  In addition,  children who express strong desires about placement with one parent, intimidate Judges and GALs.  They are afraid that the children will be too traumatized if they transfer custody from the abusive parent to the TP and they will be held accountable.

What IS Working.

1. Using an advocate.  Advocates can be another parent, friend, sibling, spiritual leader, therapist, a coach or anyone who is willing to help you manage the stress of being re-traumatized by Family Court and Child Protective Services.  It is very hard for targeted parents to effectively manage their own high conflict cases even with all that we know about the circumstances and people.  

2. Designing a plan.  Targeted parents do not have the luxury to “wait and see” what will happen in the next court hearing.  I can almost guarantee it won’t be good.

The abuser is spending 24/7 planning how to execute the next attack, the next step to devalue you and the final phases of discarding you.  He or she has been in the drivers seat since the beginning.  And don’t give credit to the lawyers,  your ex-partner calls the shots.

Plan to take the offensive. Use your advocate. Your lawyer will not take the lead and fix this. Family law professionals do not understand child development, attachment systems, personality disorders or trauma.  We cannot teach them all of this, we must lead them through what needs to be done.

3.  File contempt every time your ex violates a court order (including child support).  The only way the court will “see” the narcissistic/borderline traits will be if you show them.  You want the conflict to be between the abuser and the Judge; not between the two of you.  It won’t take long for the court to see that he/she has no respect for authority and will not comply or cooperate with anything that supports your relationships with your children. This is abuse!

4. Convince the GAL or your lawyer to request psychological evaluations for both of you, as soon as possible.  Use an independent clinic that is competent is diagnosing personality disorders. These objective mental health professionals are pretty easy to find.  Do not use custody evaluators; they work for the court and will not diagnose the personality disorder or work on your behalf once the evaluation is complete.

When the diagnosis comes back with the personality disorder, be prepared to push the court to involve CPS.  If they won’t, you will need to file an abuse report on your own.  It doesn’t cost anything but your persistence.

5. File Child Psychological Maltreatment (also called psychological abuse and neglect, emotional and/or mental abuse and neglect) with your local Child Protective Service Agency.  Child Psychological Maltreatment is the most prevalent and damaging type of child abuse.  And although it co-occurs with physical and sexual abuse it is a formidable type of abuse on its own. Narcissistic/borderline personality disordered parents are psychologically abusive to their children and (ex) partners 24/7. 

These are not custody cases they are abuse cases.

6. Make your concerns about child abuse and neglect known to anyone and everyone.   Otherwise, it looks like you don’t care and you could ultimately be charged with neglect       (I’ve seen it happen)!

7. Keep processing your trauma and elevating to new levels of healing. There is a plethora of information available on the best ways to treat trauma, but you can’t do it alone.  Work with a trauma informed therapist and do your homework.  

8. Become a trauma expert by getting familiar with the ACES, trauma informed and resiliency movements.  They are really very easy to understand and the most powerful agency we have. 

Our children have ACE scores of 8+.  This precisely defines what is at stake.  If a psychologically abused child is not removed from a narcissistic/borderline abuser and isn’t allowed to rekindle the attachment with the healthy parent,  he or she will be at extreme risk for developing self-destructive behaviors such as substance abuse, promiscuity and criminal or antisocial lifestyles.  These adverse experiences in turn trigger the onset of the most common chronic diseases and a premature death.

 

Until I blog Again,

Kay

 

 

 

For Far Too Long...

 For far too long we were isolated and alone.   For decades, narcissistic parents tore the souls out of our innocent children that they called their sons and daughters, as if they had the right.  Slowly they bled the life out of their happy and healthy partners, as if they had the right.  No one believed that a person would terrify their own children into complete submission and use them as decoys and weapons to hurt the person who had pledged them their love.   Pure trauma engulfed the American dream and crushed our spirits aided by the mental health and legal systems.  Friends, family members, neighbors and bystanders chose to ignore or even profit from our pain and torture.  We remained isolated and alone, for far too long.

Last October, a few isolated targeted parents banded together on a hope and a prayer over the Internet.  Together, we faced the hard facts.  First, we accepted that we had loved, trusted, married and had a family with someone who never had the capacity to care about anyone but themselves.  We were not unlovable, as they tried and sometimes succeeded to convince us; they could NOT love.   Second, we acknowledged that no one else was going to care enough about the health and future of our children to actually DO anything to help us.  Child protective services just whined about caseloads.  Law enforcement didn’t enforce the laws.  Mental health professionals couldn’t recognize trauma, child psychological abuse or narcissistic patterns of behaviors and misdiagnosed us as the problem.  Guardian ad litems were insecure, arrogant and uniformed.  Getting to the truth, was too much work for what they were being paid.  And Family Courts felt entitled to ignore state statutes, roll their eyes at our constitutional rights and punish us if we protested their misconduct or questioned their mistaken assumptions. Third, we decided that awareness and education had gotten nowhere and needed to be replaced by action.  We; you and I were exactly where we needed to be at exactly the right time.  We decided that this horror had to end.

None of us had any money or extra time to devote to the “good of the order,” but we had to start DOING something.  Three months after a pretty shaky start, the National Alliance For Targeted Parents launched a petition to the APA demanding that they formally acknowledge that the pathology of “parental alienation” is tragically real.  We didn’t care what they called it or who took credit for labeling it, we were done arguing a mute point in the face of our children’s demise.   It was time for America to recognize that narcissistic parents were  psychologically/emotionally abusing and neglecting their children to reject the other fit and emotionally available parent.   The American Psychological Association(APA) was the avenue to acknowledge us as a special population and assert the need for protective separation between our children and the abusive parent.

It's a sad commentary that we are surprised and feel grateful to the APA for taking a strong, visible lead.  At our request, the APA is moving forward to validate and address our family crisis by establishing a conference/team of experts in attachment theory, personality disorder pathology, trauma, and family systems.  The goal is a short and intense conference to produce a white paper on the pathology of “parental alienation.”  Our request for a conference of experts has only one more committee to hurdle before it can be presented to American Psychological Association’s Board of Directors for consideration. 

Concurrent with this movement, the web page that contained the APA's position statement on "Parental Alienation Syndrome" was removed.  Although we haven’t heard why it was taken down, this actionis extremely significant.

 For over a decade, the published position statement has fueled a false adversarial relationship with our natural and common allies in domestic violence and stalled progress.

2008 Statement on Parental Alienation Syndrome
The American Psychological Association (APA) believes that all mental health practitioners as well as law enforcement officials and the courts must take any reports of domestic violence in divorce and child custody cases seriously. An APA 1996 Presidential Task Force on Violence and the Family noted the lack of data to support so-called "parental alienation syndrome", and raised concern about the term's use. However, we have no official position on the purported syndrome.

What is becoming abundantly clear is that narcissistic abusers have stayed under the radar by NOT battering with their fists.  My ex-partner would shame me and insist that he never abused the children or me because he never “touched” us.  And the fact that society focuses almost exclusively on physical and sexual violence leaves narcissistic-abusers free to savagely assault their ex-partners and children without ever being held accountable. 

This is about to change!

If you haven’t had the chance yet to join us as an official member of the National Alliance for Targeted Parents, please fill in your name and email at the bottom of this page.  You are no longer isolated or alone.  Join us as we save our children, save the next generation, and save this nation!

APA Responds With Respect and Enthusiasm

We were delighted to receive a confirmation from the American Psychological Association's (APA) Committee on Children, Youth & Families (CYF) that our petition had their full attention.  What really made me smile was that they immediately realized that the crisis we experience day and night can not be handled by their committee alone.  CYF bumped our petition up to their parent board, The Board on the Advancement of Psychology in the Public Interest (BAPPI), who determined that our petition has strong practice implications.  And indeed it does!

 BAPPI is considering forming a joint working group with the Practice Directorate but there are others who need to be represented on the work group in order to get all the pieces together.  The following diagram is not perfectly accurate, but illustrates how fragmented and complex our issue is.  However it also illustrates the power of collaboration, which is highly valued by the APA.

This diagram only illustrates the point that our issue is complex.

 

The NATP is not a polished, well-funded lobbying organization, or celebrities or even folks with any clout or influence.  On the contrary; we are parents who have been abused, tormented, marginalized and re-victimized by every system in place that claims to advocate for the best interest of children and families.  Even so, we never stopped trying to find a way to protect our children from our narcissistic/borderline ex-partners who have caused so much pain and suffering.  

Now, for the first time in the history of this nationwide travesty, one of the world’s most powerful organizations, the APA has heard our collective voice and responded swiftly with respect and compassion.  

Chills just ran down my spine as I re-read that last sentence.  I know this means that we are just at the starting gate, but my dear long suffering and heroic targeted parents, we are

AT the starting gate

and it’s only April.

We didn't start this war on families in American, but we will finish it. We still need to get as many of us in one place as possible, so PLEASE Join Us!  Submit you name and email in the red and black box at the bottom of this or any page of our website www.targetedparent.com.  

 

You Don't Have to Throw the Baby Out With the Bathwater

Healthy skepticism encourages us to check our assumptions, recognize the limitations of our methods, and proceed thoughtfully. When skepticism and controversy about a concept or label still remains as an obstacle, after decades of work to validate it in the eyes of mainstream science, then the validity of the skepticism must be examined.

 

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When all efforts to get society, especially the mental health and legal professional to recognize parental alienation as a legitimate crisis in science and health have failed, then the problem is not on “them;" it is on us.   How can we expect "them" to adopt a concept when we ourselves cannot even define it?     Regardless of the inherent controversy with the term parental alienation, it is short sighted to think that the mental health and legal professions are going to fully embrace a problem that doesn't have a clear, stable definition.  Is it a dynamic?  Is it a mental illness?  Is it child abuse?  No one, outside of our elite little PA community is going to take us seriously until we resolve the confusion about what parental alienation is. 

Recently, a member of the Parental Alienation Study Group (PASG), proposed a far reaching position statement to its members for their feedback and adoption.  The position statement strongly supports using more widely accepted and less controversial terms like "coercive control" and "child psychological abuse" in place of “parental alienation”; recognizing that the controversy about "parental alienation" is more about the term than about the actual phenomenon.

Adopting this position statement (or an amended version) could bring this international group of authors and researches in line with the largest, most powerful organizations and agencies in the world working to change the outcomes for families struggling with child psychological abuse.  PASG could then network with established change agents such as; childhood attachment trauma, psychological maltreatment,   domestic violence association, developmental and personality psychology and a plethora of others, all fighting to stop psychological abuse.

The biggest problem associated with shifting our perception is that many of us are invested and comfortable with using this term.  But, we don’t have to throw the baby out with the bathwater!  Simply put,  parental alienation is not the whole enchilada but a specific set of abusive strategiesor a pattern of abusive behaviors by one parent to alienate children from their other parent. 

Parental Alienation is a set of abusive strategies (or a pattern of abusive behaviors) that a narcissistic/borderline parent uses to exile the other parent from their children’s lives.

It is a subtle but significant difference.  The abusive acts of alienating a parentcannot be separated from the abuser's reenactment of their childhood trauma, or their narcissistic/borderline personality disorder.  

  Below is a diagram of the chronology of how attachment trauma impacts the development of narcissistic/borderline personality disorder and how that disorder plays out in family situations.  The hallmark of these parents is that they are abusive to their family and escalate conflict whenever possible. Most of these families breakdown under the unrelenting stress, which triggers the unstable parent to reenact his or her childhood trauma based on distorted and disorganized memories stored in their internal working model.   During this reenactment period the narcissistic/borderline parent engages in and escalates specific strategies meant to alienate a child from his or her parent.  

       

 

 

 

 The sooner we stop calling psychological abuse parental alienation, the sooner we can engage in meaningful and effective intervention and prevention.

But this is up to us.

 

 

 

 

Courts That Care?

As we begin to talk about trauma, I thought it would be good to re-post this blog from last February.  The newest addition in the library section of this website now contains the protocol manual being used for family courts to become trauma informed.   Every targeted parent in family court must be aware of the official, professional movement to make family courts trauma informed and use their personal cases as avenues to protect their children while pushing the movement forward.    We are traumatized and our children are traumatized.  We need courts that are trauma informed! 

According to the protocol manual for developing trauma informed courts, "Juvenile and family judges and courts are in a unique position to promote healing and prevent future trauma.  In 2013, the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ) undertook development of a court trauma consultation protocol in response to an increase in requests for assistance from courts seeking to become trauma-informed. the NCJFCJ and organizations such as the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) have an extensive history of providing training and technical assistance to courts on traumatic stress."

Published February 10, 2016

Recently, The Honorable Marshall Murray, a respected and experienced Circuit Court Judge in Milwaukee County, co-authored a blog with the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ) in which he sounded more like a caring parent than a Judge.  It was the first time I heard a Judge express sadness at seeing so many abused children in his court.  It was also the first time I had heard anyone defend judges for being concerned that courts make the right decisions in cases involving abuse.

“One of the most important duties for any court system

is to ensure that youth in the community

are protected.” 

                                         -Judge Marshall Murray (2016)

One point that Judge Murray discusses is that in order for judges to make the right decisions when ruling on cases involving children and youth, they must be able to recognize how trauma affects behavior. He specifically mentioned trauma from emotional and verbal abuse, recognizing that psychological maltreatment (emotional abuse and neglect) is the most prevalent and damaging type of child abuse, causing a lifetime of problems for these victims.  The blog that Judge Murray wrote focuses on teen dating violence, but I found that his sentiments reflected a fundamental problem for Judges presiding over high conflict custody cases in family courts.

For decades, Family Court Judges have misinterpreted the expression of trauma in most of the high conflict custody cases.  This misinterpretation continues to lead Family Court Judges to make inaccurate assumptions about the parents and children.  Their mistaken assumptions are the basis for placing children with the abusive parent.  Thus, Family Courts directly contribute to severe adverse childhood experiences and the escalation of intimate partner violence.  The travesty of Family Courts abandoning children to their abusive parent is so common that it appears as if the Judges are intentionally colluding with the abusers.  As it stands today, a Family Court Judge could throw a dart at both parents in high conflict custody disputes, and at least then, they would make the right decision at least 50% of the time.   

It is hard to imagine that Family Court Judges care about families, abuse or even the job they do because I see no indication that family courts are trying to improve their longstanding abysmal record of making family situations worse for the “high conflict” families they serve.  As a self-regulating profession, this lack of care, due process or competence is inexcusable and begs external oversight if not remedied.

While the majority of families can manage custody issues without assertive court intervention, a significant and growing population of parents cannot.  These “high conflict” custody cases take up a disproportional amount of family court dockets because one parent has a personality disorder in which he or she is manipulating the court and escalating conflict.  All the while, he or she continues to psychologically abuse the family causing extreme ongoing chaos and stress.  In the pure sense, these cases aren’t “custody” cases; they are cases of child abuse and domestic violence and need immediate court ordered protection.

High conflict custody cases have been particularly troublesome for family court because the origin and nature of the problem lies in the abusive relational pathology of a narcissistic and /or borderline personality disordered parent who is a master at manipulation and exploitation.   By the time the family gets to court, the abuser has seriously wounded the children and the non-abusive parent and they present with extreme and misleading symptoms of trauma.  Comparatively, the abuser appears calm and confident as if he or she were innocent.

To add more confusion to the decision, narcissistic and/or borderline personality disordered parents have a well-developed social persona where they can mirror appropriate responses appearing sincere, charming and caring.  The abusive parent stays hidden behind this persona while covertly escalating conflict, exploiting the expressed trauma of the non-abusive parent and the children, making false allegations of abuse or fitness, manipulating the Judiciary, sabotaging treatment plans and lying through their teeth.  

Narcissistic and/or borderline parents will not admit that they have a personality disorder, even if they have been diagnosed, however once Family Court Judges are cued into looking for a handful of specific personality disorder traits, they will see that narcissistic/borderline abusers present as predictable as a March snowstorm in Wisconsin, and are just as easy to spot. 

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Family court judges are not psychologist, nor should they be.  However, the fact remains that family courts have become the roosting site for narcissistic and/or borderline personality disordered parents and they are manipulating the court into making decisions that are extremely harmful to children and the non-abusive parent.  Assertive court intervention is necessary because these abusers cannot and will not change or follow any orders by the court unless the court will enforce sanctions for violations.   

The good news is that under a caring family court judge, trained to recognize the psychological manipulation of a narcissistic/borderline abuser and to spot trauma, family courts can stop being part of the problem of child abuse and domestic violence and become a big part of THE solution.  If these high conflict abuse cases can be stopped when they get to family court, the children and parents can recover and learn how to protect themselves from being psychologically abused so that the children can still have a relationship with both parents.  Just as important, Family Courts can lead the way in breaking the cycle of narcissistic/borderline abuse by preventing it from being expressed in the next generation of families who are lucky enough to have found their way into a court that is concerned about making the right decisions.