Why is parental alienation not more widely known? why does it still exist after so many years, and more importantly, why isn’t anything happening to stop it?
Let’s take a somewhat different example that can be seen in every newspaper these days: Transgender discussions. Without going into any of the detail in the different arguments, or groups involved, let’s just take a figure: The UK assume that the number of transgenders in the population is around 0.1%, the United States says it is around 0.3%. Taking the figure to mean the entire population of the United Kingdom, that means that there are around 68,000 transgenders in the UK.
Why I am mentioning this? Because this is the number at any one time. How many do you think are suffering from parental alienation at any one time? Children, absent parents, grandparents, etc. Given that in 2012 according to the office of national statistics there were 236,000 divorces of which half involved children under 16 years, and for argument’s sake 5-10% are acrimonious then it is probably safe to say that the figure of those affected by parental alienation is probably an order of magnitude higher. So why is this?
Following through on the example above the transgender lobby is substantial, it includes a substantial part of the LGBT community and associated support groups, as well as a number of people from all walks of life. Other causes have their lobby in civil liberties groups and in parliament, others even take to the street to make their voice heard. Parental Alienation has nothing as far as I can see. It is slowly becoming accepted as a concept in the wider population, but no group is championing us or even supporting us.
The United Kingdom Parliament did, in fact, have one MP give a speech about PA, but he resigned under a cloud before the last general election (Simon Danczuk). additionally, there are a couple of current MPs that support the fight against PA as part of a wider men’s rights perspective (Philip Davies for example), but they (certainly Davies) are under attack from the womans and equality committee, and indeed from quite a few of their peers, and are therefore not taken seriously enough to be supported in any major way, and more importantly not senior enough to push through an initiative in the House of Commons. In Germany where I live there parental alienation is simply not visible, and as far as I can see this is also the situation in Austria.
One group that lobbies on behalf of fathers and their children is Fathers4Justice. a group that through its stunts previously is, unfortunately, ‘tainted’ and not regarded as serious enough, alone the latest stunt from the founder was certainly not supportive of the cause. Reading through this blog, and also within the current social media atmosphere, once a discussion has taken occurred you appear to be tainted for life, or at least a great part thereof.
In this constellation, there appears to be no chance of getting any major change in the public perception of PA to support any positive change in the UK family law.
Mums Net, Feminism & Co.
Even though I believe that women and men are capable of PA, there is one group that tries very hard to stop the issue entering a mainstream discussion, even to the extent of complete denial that it exists. Their lobbying is so successful for instance that for example no political party in the UK (apart from UKIP) supports shared parenting even though it is supported by the European Council, been studied to death and found to be positive for the children. The US National Organisation of Women (NOW) for instance actively and openly advocates against it at a national level.
In a recent post the parental alienation expert Karen Woodall details the’success’ of ‘experts’ who – believe it or not – successfully lobby with CAFCASS for a system of letting the child or children choose which parent they want to stay with after the split, thus creating a ‘non-parent’ for want of a better phrase. Liz Trinder has been quite successful in lobbying for the voice of the child a feminist-driven agenda. Here is the post in full it is definitely worth a read.
In addition, there is still a school of thought – pushed by all mothers – that the child should stay with the mother, that it belongs to the mother. The reaction to the Sarah Baldwin case is in the case of many mothers just that. The mother drugged her own children to blame it on the father, and a huge swath of mothers found this to be acceptable to stop the father having the children. Even if the father is capable, and was the stay at home parent this can change in an instant in a court of law during a divorce.
Parental Alienation has no sponsors, no headline celebrity to champion our cause. Just a splattering of absent fathers that are A and B-list celebrities that give a television interview once in a while ( Mathieu Carriere and Ingo Appelt in Germany for example), or just let it sneak out into the press and hope for a positive result for themselves (Brad Pitt, ….). In the case of Ingo Applelt in Germany he was given time to express the case for parental alienation based on his own experiences while sitting across from John Cleese without socks on, as he (Cleese) had immediately before done something funny!
Now, this is a tricky one. For anyone who looks into the figures, it should be immediately apparent that men do have problems, certainly in terms of the number of suicides, workplace deaths. But looking into the men’s rights forums parental alienation takes a back seat to practically all issues.
Who hasn’t been in this situation? I know I certainly have, the question is always there, and always gets asked when you open yourself up with someone new.
“What did you do wrong?”
Whatever the reason for the split, the background to the PA, The default setting is you are the guilty party instead of the victim. To turn this around is difficult, especially if you are the one who left the mother, or there were real or alleged allegations of domestic violence. Couple this with the fact that most people cannot even perceive what it means to be separated from your children and then have them turned against you, and it is an upward battle to change this subconscious bias.
Sometimes I have the idea that the media certainly does not report on PA, and the number of times it has been reported on sympathetically tends towards zero. Take the example above with John Cleese on how to turn PA into a side issue for instance, or the report by Victoria Derbyshire, where she did report on PA, but predominately from the alienated mothers perspective. As I have said before there are female victims of PA, but I think we can agree that the overwhelming majority of cases are alienated fathers.
A Positive Note
I have come to the conclusion that it will take decades for parental alienation to be accepted by the general public. By this I mean quite simply a time when there will be no support from friends and family should somebody alienate their children from the other parent. It should be socially unacceptable and ‘frowned upon’. This requires societal change, perhaps even with legislation or at the very least some common sense open judgements from the family court.
The feminist lobby is too strong for any meaningful attempt at legislation to combat parental alienation. And then the question is how to legislate in such a subjective minefield of attacks and counter-attacks.
The valiant efforts of Karen Woodhouse as a practitioner in the field of dealing with parental alienation and its effects do give me hope nevertheless. Her efforts in dealing with these issues, and also in organising European symposia to discuss this at an international level is laudatory.
What remains are silly little blogs like this, and others to detail the scale of the problem, the hurt for the children and the alienated parents and grandparents. It becomes a body of knowledge that hopefully indicates the scale of the problem.
What is required is visibility and acceptance that we do have a problem and that it not only effects the alienated parents, but also the children – potentially all their lives.