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The Rape of Innocence

I, like many parents, have been horrified by the creeping propaganda infesting children’s culture which recently plumbed new depths in a “cartoon” depicting the sexual assault of a fairy princess by Prince Charming.

This was widely shared by organisations like Amnesty International, allegedly as part of the #MeToo movement seemingly in an attempt to raise awareness of the need for mutual sexual consent.

Right!

sleeping-beauty-walt-disney

Of course, any parent in their right mind supports the aim of programmes and campaigns designed to improve the safety and security of our children. That isn’t my concern. What troubles me, as the title of this blog alludes, is the corruption of innocence and the erosion of childhood by the people behind this early-years targeting approach.

The cartoon in question depicts the archetypal Disney-esque Princess, a sort of mashup of Snow White and Sleeping Beauty, in a deep sleep in a classic forest glade. She is then approached by the archetypal Disney Prince who first kisses and then, to use the street phraseology, clearly  begins to “finger” her.

prince

The message is clear and obvious once they over-lay the street patois and interject the chat about “meeting at a party” etc? But my biggest objection is that it would have been far more powerful and far less cynical to have made a film about teenagers for teenagers deploying the tropes, medium and platforms that relate directly to teenagers. But, I guess the issue is, they probably wouldn’t have stirred up the same controversy and outrage leading to the “buzz” the juvenile social media drivers seem to dictate.

The pressing questions I have with this cynical approach to alleged education is “where are the grown ups?” or “why has nobody stepped in to question the wisdom here?”.

The Disney Princess demographic is probably age 3-11. Like it or not, however, children are finding ways to access the internet using our devices a lot earlier than they should be. Children of that age range will see this!

Parents are most likely to be reading fairytales and stories to their children at that age. So are you ready for the “fanny banging” chat at bedtime?

Oddly, if you’re like the vast majority of parents and want to stimulate their imaginations and cultivate mysticism and magic and romance for as long as you can while gently and carefully introducing values, wisdom and life skills, you do not want teenage or other extreme propagandists dictating this for you.

It used to irritate me watching advertisements during children’s prime time tv that are devoid of male role-models, all aimed at mothers. It  disappointed me watching children’s tv programmes in which Dads are the perpetual idiots and butt of all jokes or superhero movies devoid of female role models. And I thought I had seen it all when I was forced to introduce positive male characters into certain stories like Mermaid SOS while reading them to the children as THEY were asking where the boys were?

But then I watched Maleficent, the re-imagining of Sleeping Beauty by Angelina Jolie, infamous for her personal family issues, and had to spend days reassuring the children that there were “good men in the world” after all, “honestly”.

maleficent-18

The use of fairytales as moral exemplars and ways of conveying the values of the times is nothing new. If you read the classics in their original form, they echo the big issues of their age, be they the danger of strangers, the difficult relations within extended families or the impact of dangerous play, disease, war or famine. And yes, they do deal with relations between the genders and romantic love as a bastion of stable society. These classics have been adapted down the years to suit changing mores and norms. But we now appear to be going way too far too fast.

What is it saying about our society when stories aimed at 3-11 year olds depict explicit sexual assault? Well, clearly, it sends very mixed messages via a format, the fairy story that should be a safe, innocent space in a world that seems to have fewer oasis of calm and innocence by the day.

This trend towards sexualiising  children and the undermining of their innocence through excessive involvement in adult matters is, in my view, considerably concerning given the fact that children are increasingly portrayed as disaffected and unhappy in virtually every opinion poll. I believe the same applies to the abuse of “wishes and feelings” reports used in child arrangements disputes. Adults are forcing children into positions where they are having to choose between parents underpinned by a mistaken belief that they are both neutral and empowered enough to make decisions that are only fit for adults. It is actually damaging to the children and completely misses the point that it is impossible for the child to be objective as they are being controlled by the parent with whom they spend most of their time and who has control over their schooling, relationships and key activities.

So what can we , as parents, do about this relentless rape of innocence?

A few quick and simple things.

  1. If you still have influence over your children, then please do monitor what they are watching and reading and when. It is YOUR responsibility to ensure they get a balanced picture in line with YOUR core values. Set parental controls on social media and devices and get rid of and/or have conversations about messaging that you believe is contrary to your beliefs.
  2. Source great stories or tales in films and books that support a balanced view and ensure these are easily available. I always had a great selection of the classics to supplement the inevitable Disney and sought out authors that I believe portrayed healthy role models. Ian Buckingham’s Legend of the Lost is a current case in point.
  3. Make your voice heard and complain about the buzz-feeding nonsense like the latest campaign or films like Maleficent that are nothing short of sexist propaganda.

clairepollardchalfonts

If you’re in a a dispute over shared parenting, you owe it to your kids to make your views known about the way wishes and feelings reports etc are used and make a stand for your kids.

Innocence doesn’t last very long. Our children need their parents, the adults, to stand up for theirs.

SO make your voice heard.

Remember, (and this is an apt use of the metaphor) you need to be clear about what is and isn’t acceptable.

Silence by those properly empowered to know better, actually does encourage abuse.

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Parental Alienation & Death in the Afternoon!

hemingway

I’ve long been a fan of the writing of Hemingway.

A complex, controversial man who had such a deceptively simple style. 

He would have loathed the current age because, in many regards, he may be considered to represent what certain factions have, with some success, managed to label “toxic masculinity”.

This movement started in the 50s, continued in the 60s and 70s when Germaine Greer famously humiliated Norman Mailer, another writer of “machismo” and has found fresh voice and plumbed new depths in the social media age in which, by some ironic twist of fate, Greer herself has now become a target, thereby exposing the fanatics for what they are.

You can dig out reams written on the topic, but in essence the term “toxic” refers to the characteristics of men that stem from the added dose of testosterone that comes with the gene package. It’s a catch-all pejorative to describe all acts of aggression and dominance attributed to testosterone, implying that they are throwback qualities of a pre-evolved state and have resulted in the wars and atrocities that befall society.

Of course, this entirely one-eyed narrative neglects to recognise that the same attributes blamed for the woes of the world could also, if properly focused, be credited for many if not most of the world’s advances, developments and achievements in most spheres of life from engineering through to the arts and that the style of the attacks are, in themselves, examples of intolerant toxicity.

But that’s another debate for another day.

The book from which the  headline is taken, is a book about bullfighting.

bullfight

Hemingway spent his life obsessed with masculine pursuits of the hunting, shooting, fishing and hard drinking varieties and was fascinated by the characters he encountered along the way.

But he was also famously a depressive as a consequence, extremely self critical and took his own life.

Traveling on the train last week, a poster caught my attention. It was one of many now appearing, sponsored by the Samaritans, a suicide prevention campaign clearly aimed at men.

Then, hauntingly, as I was reading, news came over the PA of someone who had thrown themselves in front of a train.

A death in the afternoon.

For the rest of my journey, I couldn’t get two images out of my mind….the iconic cover of Hemingway’s book about bull fighters. And that poster of the man standing alone in the shadows.

See, if you read tales of bullfighting written back in the day, the bulls are often described as monsters, savage beasts to be bested by the courage of the meek, even effete matador with nothing but dexterity and guile to protect him from the raw aggression and power of the mighty animal.

It suddenly became clear to me that this is exactly the toxic narrative we are being fed about masculinity now.

This repeated aggressor/plucky hero narrative makes it so easy for naive third parties to enable the immoral, vindictive and the maliciously intelligent seeking to use children as weapons to separate their partners from their assets and subsume their lives. But not by matching muscle with force, but by goading, hobbling and then using guile to abuse and then exploit them while fooling onlookers into believing that the one butchering the dumb animal in stages is in fact the victim.

No surprise that modern parents are confused at times. The world has changed so fast that following the example set by our parents and grandparents is very, very difficult.

Both genders are so often called upon to be strong AND sensitive, thrusting AND forceful yet accommodating AND compassionate. We can’t just choose a camp and remain in it like our forebears largely did. We are simultaneously expected to be providers and carers, warriors and nurses and it’s bloody difficult, especially while the previous generation have set a different example but criticise us for our choices.

Post-war fathers still expect sons to behave like the bull and treated them that way. Our mothers are probably more aligned to the matador.

Yet frankly, we’re opposed to blood sports altogether.

So what is the true state of modern parenting?

Well, we’re expected to believe that perfection abounds if we believe social media. But if you happen to be one of the unlucky millions separating from someone who either complies with these toxic stereotypes, is advised by people who do or you are being assessed and judged by them, then the resident parents will be portrayed as the poor little person waving the cape and the “other” as the raging bull. Lest we forget, hwoever, in bullfights the matador has an army of helpers who hobble and cripple the poor “toxic” beast fighting for its life before and during the “battle from whence few bulls emerge alive. The bull has only its stamina and instincts.

Perhaps there is some hope, however, implied in the narrative behind the narrative?

Hemingway’s book is actually a very intimate portrayal of the matadors who, as you follow their stories, turn out to be tragic figures. Despite the fancy clothing and headlines, even the very best only enjoy brief glories but then fade into obscurity, with very few exceptions.

Most importantly, people are now starting to see these blood sports for what they are; cruel exploitation.

Sympathy has now turned to favour the poor, tortured animals and there is scant respect for their sadistic tormentors.

I have little doubt that, eventually, the deliberate alienation of one parent by the passive aggressive parent, deflecting attention away from their sadism with flashy “due process” and an army of lawyers on horseback like fee-chasing picadors and toreadors, will come to be viewed by society as the cruel and selfish blood sport it is. But society has some way to go to look beyond the gaudy cape of excuses and the trappings of moral indignation that somehow justify the abuse.

PA is not society’s salve to soothe the wounds of toxic parenting or masculinity or authority as the sneak-thieves will have us believe.

Parental alienation IS toxic parenting.death

Passive aggression, of the matador variety, may not be as apparent as the outright aggression of the bull. But it burns deeper and longer and it is arguably even more destructive to children and society at large.

If the practice of parent alienation is allowed to continue unchecked, sponsored and cheered on by baying fiesta crowds of enablers, there will be many more tragedies.

But which death in the afternoon will it take for people to finally say “enough is enough”?

Your brother’s? Your father’s? Your best friend’s? Your girlfriend’s?

Yours?

 

 

 

 

 

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PA: Your kids don’t need a martyr, they need you!

As we enter the traditional remembrance season during which those who sacrificed themselves for the “greater good” are recognised, it is worth reflecting that men have been programmed for self-sacrifice since, well forever.

They instinctively sleep by the bedroom door, allegedly hard wired to be the first reactor, defender, first victim should something nasty invade the “cave”.

They learn from the overwhelming weight of narrative tradition in films and fairy tales that they are supposed to endure trials on behalf of the family, the community and to prove themselves worthy of a partner. And this generation of fathers still has the “muscle memory” of grandfathers who “went away” and sacrificed themselves for the greater good in world wars, allegedly doing so with a quiet, resigned dignity.

The problem is, it’s a cliché to which we’re now largely desensitized because it’s frankly expected, a given and as a consequence, it garners little sympathy, attention, credit or even support. In fact, it is increasingly used as a weapon against men, especially in court by unscrupulous individuals trying to portray the masculine as “aggressor and risk” and the feminine as “protective and nurturing” when the opposite can just as readily be true.

Is it, therefore, any surprise that men clad in superhero outfits scaling big monuments to give voice to the injustice of parental alienation, are largely marginalised and ignored because, well, most people expect suffering on behalf of the family to be part of the parent’s lot and certainly the man’s lot and are intolerant of what is perceived by many as self-pity or selfishness.

dead-captain_america

Of course, the flip side of that equation has been sexist stereotyping of women as passive princesses, objects of ambition, victims of the birth rite, nurturing earth mothers, long-suffering stalwarts and mainstays of the family “left behind” to cope when men march against men or lack the maturity to cope with family life.

But, as with the masculine stereotypes, how dated and inappropriately subordinate these female stereotypes seem to our modern minds. We’ve spent decades now subverting these clichés and evolving to a more empowered vision of the female gender.

Yet, let’s be honest, can the same be said of the sacrificial male archetype? Has this really changed or have we simply bolted more onto the weight of what we expect from boys, dads, brothers, fathers, grandfathers, men?

Modern, so-called metrosexual males, to varying degrees, have tried to play their part as reconstituted fathers, often in the face of hostility from Baby Boomer grandparents who are largely threatened by the criticism implied by this evolution of parenting. They have at least tried to be partners in the truest sense during the key phases of child-birth and nurturing, recognising, in return, the just cause of female equality in the workplace and home.

But what happens when the fairy tale family, the meeting of two apparent equals goes wrong, as more than 1 in 3 now does? Seems that our systems still operate to that out-moded gender polemic.

A large part of the  problem is, we have yet to create the precedent that is appropriate to the pace of the evolution of the individual models. In short, our divorce process is patently out of step with the vast majority of parenting processes. One has evolved while the other appears to have stalled. And it is here, in this gap, that the abuse of children and non-resident parents of both genders is happening.

In the movies, there’s a noble place for the self-sacrificing male who falls on the grenade for his colleagues, who takes one for the team or who helps the women and children to the lifeboats while he waits to drown. The problem is, how sensible is that action if he is the  only one who knows how to row, is the strongest, the best nurturer, leader or navigator? Chances are, they will all perish, he will only have bought them time. And this analogy applies to many divorces which lead to bankrupted fathers and alienated, badly damaged children forced to repeat the patterns of their parents.

Current divorce legislation seems to be the equivalent of the terminal threat to the growing number of fathers alienated from their children by the system. They may have been prepared to sacrifice their house, pride, fortune and even much of their fathering time to the “grenade” – strewn cause. But what if it destroys them? Who wins if the children are abandoned? And what if the real threat to the children’s futures wasn’t actually from the outside but was lurking within all along in the form of an unstable partner hell-bent on destruction? This is the nightmare that keeps all non-resident parents, regardless of gender, awake at night, most nights, I can assure you.

Parent alienation is an abuse of power by one party to inflict ongoing trauma on the other, using the children and family assets as weapons. It happens to non-resident mothers as well but, largely owing to the legacy of sexist thinking, the vast majority of non-resident parents are currently men.

Children need both decent parents in their lives for a whole variety of reasons. And it’s an irrefutable fact that, whatever their flaws, fathers are equally amazing. They get stuff done, they invent, they create, they engineer, they care, they love deeply and are among the finest of artists, always have been and yes when necessary they can be formidable warriors too.

So if you are unfortunate enough to be reading this without the benefit of a 50/50 shared parenting arrangement and sometimes the road ahead seems strewn with peril and jeopardy, just remember that your children need you and there is little point  sacrificing yourself, walking away or throwing yourself on that emotional or psychological grenade.

Society has evolved and our answers to challenges facing us need to evolve as well. Our children need answers not problems, parents not martyrs, peace not pas and  you really are man/woman/parent enough to find another, better way.

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Alienation is no myth…but neither is reconciliation

As time passes and awareness increases, we’re slowly seeing a shift away from having to prove the existence of Parent Alienation or PA as a tactic of abuse and enforced parental estrangement enacted largely by resident parents. It’s becoming increasingly apparent that it’s a modern social disease and has been spreading fast.

The CEO of Cafcass has clearly and officially acknowledged its existence, as has Lord Justice Munby and many MPs.

So we now enter the “what to do about it” phase. That’s an even tougher task and one that alienated parents are understandably very impatient about given the extent of the abuse they and their children continue to suffer at the hands of self-centered people who clearly show nothing but contempt for shared parenting or the court.

While the anti-PA community has respect for the pioneering work of the more father-focused groups like F4J and FNF, established with a mandate focused on the woefully neglected area of father’s parental rights, we all recognise that PA, while mostly targeted at fathers, is not entirely gendered.

PA largely stems from the imbalance created when one parent, post separation, is empowered by being granted resident parent status (or simply takes it), dominates the finances and the children’s time and activities and then has both the power and opportunity to erase the other parent from the lives of the children.

Largely by manipulating the narrative, they literally re-program the children’s perceptions of the other parent in order to get them to reject them and to take everything for themselves.

Journey

 

The outcome, while convenient for the alienating parent, is severe psychological trauma for the children, damaging them for life and unimaginable suffering for the targeted parent and their extended family and new partner.

They are forced to face a living bereavement, are dangled on the end of an alienator’s puppet strings, enduring rolling grief with no idea if or when it will end given reunification can be the only antidote and that is the last thing the abuser will tolerate.

People find different ways to cope.

One is to reach out for support via social media, the online community, led by groups like FNF, the PNP movement of which we have been a pivotal part, NAAP, grandparents groups and committed individuals.

Some of the most vociferous include:

@fatherscontact; @sasquires3006; @JaneEjackson; @daddyduwsf; @DivorcePioneer;  @JoJoWAR_DRUMMER ; @Bgrandparents; @Peace_not_PAS; @mick_ogden; @stopalienation.

The extended anti-PA network includes “woke” social workers, legal and reconciliation experts and offers invaluable and informed support for affected parents, children and extended families.

So please do follow them on twitter and join in the awareness-raising conversations and protesting online.

One of the parents who has been instrumental in striving for change, by continually challenging the institutions and organisations to address the out-dated leadership, processes and culture problems that are allowing PA to creep into the cracks between agencies, has been transformation consultant Ian Buckingham. He has featured here before  in the ongoing Cafcass dialogue and change debate.

Ian champions the use of storytelling both at home and at work as a means of making sense of the challenges we face.

He reminds us that myths, legends and stories have long been the way of engaging with and educating children about the values and behaviours we hold dear; that life’s rocky road of adventure is never straightforward and that we need to be resolute in adversity and humble and balanced in moments of success.

Along with the business books, Ian has just published the first in a series of children’s fiction books. They are described as entertaining escapism, first and foremost, intended to entertain adults as much as children in the Blyton, Lewis or even Rowling tradition.

heros-journey_story

But as with the best children’s books, there is a clear moral undertone. Overcoming estrangement and adversity in order to forgive, re-focus and re-unify is the over-arching theme.

As you might expect, given they’re aimed at children 7-11 and young adults, the message is conveyed with the help of changeling children, mermaids, were-creatures, pirates, incredible magical items and a cast of thousands of animals who come together to save parts of the planet along the way.

If you are lucky enough to have anyone to read them to, or know a special young person who enjoys a cracking read and would benefit from a bit of escapism with an important message, then do grab a copy or two of Legend of the Lost, the first in the trilogy.

They are available online for orders now and will be in the shops the end of August.

As a special favour to our parent network however, Ian does have a limited number of advance copies of the first edition available.  He will be happy to personalise a message for you/someone special.

If you know a special someone who will benefit from that sort of message in an uplifting tale of overcoming adversity and reunification , then contact him via the website related to the books.

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Reunification Case Study III: An alternative to a solicitor

In the previous two posts on the theme of re-unification and re-connection, we showcased some of the expertise of the children’s social work team by focusing on the case study of Will and his son Zac.

Complementing and enabling this work, by helping to remove the legal barriers erected by the alienating parent, was one of our network of McKenzie Friends, a much more cost-effective alternative to using a solicitor and a lot less daunting than representing yourself in court.

In this blog, Amanda outlines the nature of her interaction with Will and his son that paved the way for the reunification of father and son:

I became McKenzie Friend for Will after, disillusioned and around £30k less well off, he found himself needing to apply for enforcement.

He was referred to me and we met so that I could hear what had happened in his case. His 6 year old son Zac was living hundreds of miles away, following separation, and he had literally run out of money to deal with the relentless obstructions that the mother was placing in the way of their relationship.

At our first meeting, I viewed his paperwork and heard the story in his words. I could hear that there were most certainly elements of alienation here. When a parent has to return to Court time and time again, despite Court Orders, that is a big clue and whilst I had no criticism of the work that Solicitors had done for Will and Zac to date, it always concerns me when parents are “forced” to spend tens of thousands just to get Court Orders to spend time with their children with no guarantee of enforcement. Will had the money, and could have continued to pay for representation.

What about all the thousands of parents that don’t. Who helps them?

In any case, Will had decided that he wanted to give self-representation a go. And so we made the application, and forged onwards.  A good Mckenzie Friend will give loads of support and advice for free, which when dealing with high conflict or alienation cases, can be invaluable, and so we talked often and at length about what to do and what we needed to be asking the Court for.

It was very clear from the outset that the mother in this case was not going to comply with the existing Order, and we immediately asked the Court to appoint a Guardian under Rule 16.4, which they did. This then led to various interventions, including a third party organisation called Core Assets, attempting to work with the family.

They made a few attempts to work with Zac, whom the mother said had suddenly become afraid of his father (this had been said before), due to a whole host of allegations which included things that had happened when the child was very young (and had previously been dealt with by the Court and Cafcass), and new allegations, such as ridiculous assertions that Will had eaten the child’s food, and had returned him muddy and wet.

shadow

It was observed by Core Assets that the mother would not leave Zac for them to hand him over to Will, and at one stage she was overheard telling him quietly that he “didn’t have to go.”

This is something we see time and again, the coercive control and manipulation of little minds.

At one very memorable meeting, with the Guardian, Core Assets, the mother and the mother’s partner, the hostility towards the father was palpable from both the mother and her new partner and it was at that stage that Core Assets said that there was nothing they could do, that the child was simply too anxious and mother too implacably hostile to work with.

At the next hearing, we made a Part 25 Application, for a report by a psychologist, and were lucky enough to get our preferred expert. Navigating such applications as a litigant in person is never easy, and we needed the support of both the Guardian and the mother’s solicitor to get this done and again I cannot stress as the financial burden was Will’s alone. Had he not had those available funds (in the region of £6,000) I am unsure that he would be spending time with Zac to this day.

The expert report was amazingly detailed and clearly identified alienation, along with a recommended action plan which included reunification work which then paved the way for us to further propose an Independent Social Worker for  to carry out the action plan.

Our preference was to use Alison (who features earlier), knowing how experienced she was in cases like this, but the Guardian was cautious due to the distance between her and the case. Again, the father’s willingness and ability to fund this work and cover the majority of the cost ensured that he secured Alison’s support.

As a McKenzie Friend, this case was one of my longest running, with proceedings from Enforcement Application to conclusion lasting just over 2 years. I continue to support Will, and he will call for advice, guidance and coaching on all aspects of co-parenting which I give for free, and currently things continue to go well for him and Zac.

I certainly hope we never see a return to Court.

I must stress that there are many, many parents that I work for as a McKenzie Friend who do not have the money to pay for my minimal fees, let alone a solicitor or a barrister and for whom the costs associated with a Part 25 Application such as the one Will made would be completely unaffordable.

It is one of the absolute scandals of our age that people are denied justice and a relationship with their children as a consequence of financial hardship, especially when this has been caused by the divorce process itself.

We hope we are able to provide a much more affordable and cost-effective alternative to trying to deal with alienation all alone.


Please Note:  The issues we deal with in this blog are distressing. If you feel you need support over and above the resources available, we will gladly refer readers to professionals within our team, such as those mentioned, who can help deliver results and who operate in line with our core principles. 

We are also more than happy to feature quality content by writers. Any wish to remain anonymous will be respected as you will observe.

 

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Ten Steps to End Parental Alienation

It has been well over a year since the CEO of Cafcass, Anthony Douglas, openly acknowledged that his organisation recognised the existence of Parental Alienation or PA and were taking steps to adapt their internal processes, procedures and staff protocols and training to help address it.

At the start of the Summer, I composed a letter with a select group of well-informed parents, requesting an urgent update and progress.

We were sent a polite, but clearly “holding” reply, although we were assured that our suggestions would be factored into the improvement work.

Since then we have seen little practical change. We have learned that Anthony Douglas intends to retire in March yet no commitment has been made regarding the outstanding work. Although worryingly, it has been suggested by certain commentators, that people see the change work taking around ten years.

A decade.

A childhood.

Sad Dolly.jpgOur network includes lawyers, doctors, social workers, entrepreneurs and management consultants. So we asked shared parenting advocate Ian Buckingham, a respected change management and organisation culture change specialist who has spoken out about PA in the past, for his views on the position and what could and should be done to address an issue now affecting millions of children and parents in the UK alone.

“I’ve worked on change programmes with organisations across sectors from investment banks and oil companies through to charities and government departments and the first point, which should provide some comfort to suffering parents enduring this abuse, is that change starts when a senior leader has both the conviction and drive to lead it.Mr Douglas clearly has the conviction, but now he’s leaving, the drive is going to be questioned.

The second point is that a problem as deep rooted as this needs to be addressed upstream nearer the source, not just downstream where the symptoms present. With this in mind, PA is not solely the responsibility of Cafcass. It’s pointless blaming them. Many agencies contribute to the root cause, from the legal profession and police through to social services generally.

A cross-agency approach to finding a lasting solution is clearly required. And  special interest groups like mothers and father’s groups don’t always help. They can entrench positions, if not careful. We are trying to change gender stereotypes and that isn’t easy because they have become ingrained in norms.

But to give people some sense of reality, you can change a corporate culture within 18 months. However, it requires cross-functional working between departments and the organisation needs a clear strategy. It must take a consistent systems and behaviours approach and implement it thoroughly and professionally with external support to keep the top team accountable and focused.

So, given the importance of the issue and the fact they have been aware and have acknowledged the problem, in terms of their sphere of influence, I would expect Cafcass to be most of the way there by now. I would also expect to see their CEO promoting a cross-agency solution, with the support of MPs. We have seen some signs of that. But progress appears to be very, very slow.

With regard to PA in the wider context, I believe the joint-working, cross-agency approach needs to bring about the following ten things:

  1. A law change to bring the same rigor to family law that we see now in employment law, where gender discrimination is illegal. This should mean 50/50 rights and responsibilities for both biological parents, meaning they both have to work out how to care and provide financially for their child and ensure that both parents have the security and stability to do so. This should be part rebuttable based on capability and fitness to parent based on hard evidence not conjecture or accusations.
  2. “No-fault” divorce to minimise acrimony and an exaggerated adversarial narrative.
  3. A law change to make shared parenting an absolute obligation, ensuring that biological parents have to work together to co-develop thorough child arrangement plans.
  4. Role of lawyers to change dramatically, with 1 lawyer appointed to a family and to focus on the needs of the children in the short and longer term based on the shared parenting and 50/50 premise and the child’s right to a relationship with both parents. This will take away much of the adversarial, winner-takes-all approach that currently creates acrimony and lasting harm. I would also expect to see different and better training of family lawyers to accommodate this.
  5. Much more support provided upstream for the family unit in the form of:
    1. marriage, relationship, grief and couples counseling
    2. facilitation and coaching to help parents move on respectfully and complete their shared parenting plans constructively
    3. child-centric mediation and conflict management
    4. child-centric courses and workshops
    5. mentoring and advocacy for family units
  6. Legal-aid available to family units, not individuals to help finance and ratify the agreements not prolong acrimony
  7. Court to ratify and finalise shared parenting only once these steps have been completed and to insist on a sliding scale of enforcement options.
  8. Enforcement to be a last resort, but to include:
    1. financial penalties (costs met by the defendant not litigant)
    2. community service
    3. modification of the financial arrangements and shared parenting plan
  9. Third party to provide a secure and confidential communications platform for couples to communicate about the child arrangements and to act as a permanent record, replacing contact books and the slew of ad-hoc data.
  10. An independent body (like an OFSTED) to own and review the process, continuously improve it and handle complaints.

Of course, the elephant in the room is that there are a great number of vested interests at play. Family law and its aftermath is a multi $£billion industry. However, resisting change for self-serving reasons renders complicit parties as guilty of contributing to child abuse as malicious parents. It is clear that unless the various government and other parties change, they will become obsolete. Witness the rise in LIPs and mounting talk of a class action by alienated parents.

The trade-off with this solution is that it is still likely that a similar quantity of funding will be required that currently trickles into the pockets of law firms and grief counselors downstream. Only, service providers who adapt to the upstream support model, however, will be able to fund their services. not as litigation specialists and enforcers, but as coaches, mentors, mediators and advisers upstream, preventing problems rather than creating or sweeping up after them.”

sadironman

Interesting food for thought from someone who knows about culture change and how transformation works within organisations.

But perhaps Ian’s final words are the most pertinent.

“Of course, multi-agency change is more complicated than just changing 1 organisation. But assuming Cafcass is on track, I see no reason why PA shouldn’t become as extinct as institutional racism or sexism within 2 years, provided the reformers get the right people in the “room.

After all, if this were an oil company with a leaking pipeline, it would be sorted by now,. Yet arguably PA causes much more damage. We just don’t have the same photos of impacted penguins to grab the attention of the world’s press. “

There is now a very strong wind of change blowing, motivated by the passion of millions of voting tax payers clearly being widely bullied and abused, as their children are, by a system oddly no longer fit for modern purpose.

And what’s more important than our children?

The right change shouldn’t be so hard, should it? But the big question is, what do the people currently responsible for child protection and family law really care about:

  •  reforming to end the bullying and abuse?

or

  • maintaining the lucrative status quo?

Very interested in your comments on this blog either by posting below or contacting us. Please do share this far and wide as we need to continue to raise awareness as, if you’re not affected, the odds are you soon will be.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Alienated? You just don’t have the magic genitals!

First and foremost I want to say that parent alienation is not always gender-specific.

Although predominantly something resident mothers do to non-resident fathers here in the UK, where 97% of single-parent families are female led, there are exceptions and their pain is every bit as bad as the alienated father’s.

In the US in particular I know that access to attorney power, costing $$$ can often be the factor to determine residency. And as we all know, residency means time, control and stability, increasing the risk that the non-resident or target parent will soon become an inconvenient irrelevance to a parent looking to move on, especially if they are challenged in the “personality  and ethics departments”, shall we say?

However, despite those anomalies, the rank sexism in family courts is still so pronounced that I have coined the term “magic genitalia” as a sarcastic way of describing the Mom bias. For, when you take two parents, equally educated, with similar jobs protected by gender equality legislation, sharing the care of the baby and toddler or child and yet, somehow, courts choose to grant the mother resident parent status and gift her the house, assets and an income for life from the father, even though he may have introduced most of the capital, what else but rank sexism is at play?

Magic genitalia! It must be a thing, right?

Despite the sexism surrounding the gender stereotyping we hear about men being from Mars and women from Venus etc, most of it is quack psychology. It’s obvious that men and women of current child-rearing age are very different to the 40s and 50s stereotypes, largely because they worked hard to be more enlightened.

Don’t believe me when I talk of the magic genital phenomenon? Well perhaps you’ll buy into the GU or Golden Uterus theory of someone much cleverer than me, relationship therapist Dr. Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD who, for a decade or so has been helping people understand and free themselves from abusive relationships.

For the good doctor, the GU Mom displays the following characteristics, some of which you may recognise, ( I most certainly do):

1. GU and child are one and the same. The golden uterus child isn’t allowed to have his or her own feelings and opinions.

2. GU and child are a two-fer. If you want to have your child in your life after you separate or divorce, the GU believes she’s a part of some twisted package deal. The GU is allowed to move on with her life. You’re expected to remain on ice.

3. Disobedience is abuse to the golden uterus. If the children, father/husband/ex-husband doesn’t heed her demands, the GU perceives it as abuse. If you don’t parent the same way the GU parents (or mis-parents); you’re a bad parent. If you challenge the GU’s decisions, she’ll punish you by denying you access to the kids or taking you to court. “A GU believes that because she gave birth, she has exclusive rights to all decision-making related to said child, no matter what anyone else (including the courts or the father)

This applies to the children, too.

4. GU exceptionalism. Even though humans have been procreating since human history began, the GU believes her pregnancy and childbirth are the most special pregnancy and childbirth ever.

5. Boundaries are for everyone else; boundaries don’t apply to the GU. You must respect the GU’s boundaries, but you’re not allowed to have any boundaries. If you have healthy boundaries, the GU will accuse you of being controlling, withholding, abusive, unresponsive and, naturally, a bad dad.

6. All other child caregivers are irrelevant. Fathers are walking ATMs. A father’s role is to financially and emotionally support the mother (i.e., be her emotional punching bag/doormat and listen to her complain about how hard it is to be a mother). That’s it. Fathers get no real input into how the children are raised.

Step-mothers are less than non-entities. They are to act as servants to the children.

7. Once you have sex with a GU, she owns you for life. The golden uterus believes that if she gave birth to your children, you are “connected for life.” She should always come first (even if you’ve both remarried) and YOU OWE HER until death you do part.

This also applies to the children. GUs wield guilt over their children with staggering virtuosity. “I am your mother. I carried you for 9 months. No one will ever love you like I do. No one will ever break our bond. No one will ever come between us. I CARRIED you in my WOMB for NINE months. YOU can NEVER do that for me.

When the children become adults, the GU still believes she should come first in her adult children’s lives and take precedence over their spouses and children. A GU’s children owe her because she is their mother.

8. GUs like to take kissy duck face make-out photos with their children.

Social media addicted GUs like to post kissy-duck face-make-out photos with their child(ren).

It’s rather like manic, digital age pietas. “Look at meeee and my child who loves meeee! See! We’re so close we’re more like best friennnnnds!” Boundaries, shmoundaries.

These photos are similar in nature to the photos drunken college girls take of themselves with their arms wrapped around each other and their faces pressed together. Whenever I see a photo of a mother with her child in a lip lock-bear hug with a Joker smile, I think: ENMESHED GU.

9. Golden uterus mothers are “feelers.” The golden uterus believes that her emotions are reason enough for any action, no matter how despicable. In fact, the GU’s feelings often trump what’s really in the child’s best interests.

For example, “I’m angry with your father” means the children are denied access to their father. Cutting the other parent out of a child’s life is rarely in the child’s best interests. However, the GU is feeling angry, wronged, ignored, disrespected, challenged, etc., so that becomes her justification to attack and/or punish others—even if her actions violate a court order.

10. Once the GU gives birth, her job is done. “GUs believe that simply birthing a child is all they’re responsible for as a contribution to the parenting, raising and welfare of their child. From the moment the child emerges from her hallowed trough, it is solely on the father to provide all for both her and the child” (anonymous source).

Once a GU gives birth, she has her own little foot soldier to weaponize and use as a control device over the child’s father and family. This is when many of these women choose not to return to work. By giving birth, the GU essentially has her husband over a barrel. She knows it and she uses it.

11. Children are possessions; not their own persons. “The GU views the child as her possession. The GU will take all the kudos for birthing a child, but none of the responsibility. If someone tries to point out the discrepancies, the GU will will heave out emotional garbage to cover up their horrible parenting. The GU only views the child in context to herself.  Everything is about her” (anonymous source).

12. The GU uses motherhood as an excuse. “Becoming a ‘mother’ is the GU’s excuse for EVERYTHING. She can’t work because ‘mothers don’t work.’ My husband HAS to give her all of his money because she’s the mother of his ONLY child. She lost all identity as a woman and used becoming a mother as her free ride in life” (anonymous source).

Even after their children are in school full-time, GUs still use the kids and being a mother as an excuse not to work outside the home and often not to work inside the home. “You have no idea how stressful it is being a mom.” Um, the kids are in school all day. What do you do with your time? “You always minimize all the hard work I do. YOU HAVE NO IDEA.” Um, the breakfast dishes are still in the sink when I get home from work in the evening. The laundry is piled up and the kids haven’t done their homework. What did you do all day? “HOW DARE YOU DISRESPECT ME. I’m THE MOTHER OF YOUR CHILDREN!”

13. GUs are self-appointed parenting experts. Despite the fact that her parenting behaviors should be used as an example in  How NOT to Parent 101, “the golden uterus believes that having birthed a child makes them better and more knowledgeable than others; e.g., the “Well you don’t have kids so how would you know anything?” woman (anonymous source). If you should dare challenge the GU’s parenting skills and superior authority, see number 3 above.

14. Motherhood is a title and a power trip. “The golden uterus views mothering as a title rather than a relationship and a set of behaviors. Mothering requires selflessness at times. It requires sacrifice at times. It requires paying attention to the child and putting your time and energy into meeting their needs, which also requires seeing the child as a unique and separate individual from yourself, not a mirror of your own thoughts, feelings, and needs. A golden uterus mother fails at mothering and instead uses her title to extort things from others ‘in the name of the child.’ Essentially, they use their offspring as a way to get their own needs met” (anonymous source).

15. The GU is never wrong. “The golden uterus seems to expect that they get a total free pass on accountability for their own behavior. I have often told my husband that his ex lives on a one way street paved in double standards. Her own bad behavior is to be overlooked. Yet she will attempt to crucify him for any and all perceived weaknesses or ‘failures.’ She is judge and jury and quick to condemn my husband (and me, for that matter) yet she can do no wrong.

Well?

What do you think?

That certainly made a lot of sense to me when I first read it and sits rather neatly alongside my golden genitalia GG theory.

It has also given me an idea for handing out tiaras as prizes for the GUGG of the month. Nominations in the comments section please. But just to structure your expectations, this month’s tiara has already been awarded to the person I’m picturing in a range of “duck faced” pictures with my children currently doing the social media rounds. And when I last checked, no, sorry, my poor pecker’s decidedly flesh-coloured.

As for my uterus?

Well, still working on that.


 

This blog deals with a disturbing subject, the alienation of a parent from their own children, a form of child abuse and bullying. If you need to reach out for help, we’ll be happy to connect you with people who can offer practical support.

If it will help you to share your personal PA story, then please do contact us and we’ll see what we can set up for you, using this awareness-raising platform.