FAO Joanna Potts - Dispatches Editor

Dear Sirs and Ms Potts

We represent a collective group who were dismayed at the bias and lack of balanced reporting in the above programme.

There were no interviews with adult children who had been alienated (who need to be heard).

There were no interviews with parents (both Mothers and Fathers) who are victims of parental alienation, having seen their children turned against them. Perfectly safe, loving parents.

There were no interviews with grandparents who had seen their grandchildren alienated against them by their son or daughter’s spouse.

There were no interviews with Fathers to see what their homes were like with their children and their experiences of the family courts. Other than two extremely brief clips from a Dad group organiser.

There was a lack of equal and unbiased research. When Louise Tickle says numerous lawyers had told her “forced” removals were rare, she conducted extensive online research to try to show that it was not as rare as she had been led to believe.

Yet when a single source, Cardiff University, was quoted as saying that there are “Few to no high-quality evaluations of interventions in relation to parental alienation”. This was accepted as read. No extensive online research into whether or not this was the case.

Whilst the programme highlighted how some women who had been abused were not listened to, and was effective in highlighting the domestic abuse issue. This was a single issue focus. When the issue is about children of separated parents.

What is concerning, is the programme and interviews were conducted by someone without an understanding of the complexities of Parental Alienation, nor having done any research into it.

To interview alienated teenagers is to further enable, and effectively be complicit in that alienation. Any parent who has been found to have alienated their children, to the point of having their children removed – is of course, going to deny it! Some alienators are unaware they are alienators – some do it deliberately – create a situation which splits the childrens loyalties and forces them to take sides – align with one parent and reject the other parent.

It is not normal for children to do this. A normal situation is where children are allowed to have relationships flourish with both parents - if both parents allow and encourage that - or at the very least, follow court orders.



Louise Tickle says at the opening of the programme

“These are not child protection cases involving abuse or neglect, they are private battles between parents, but some of these cases can end up with children being forcibly removed, against their will, in very distressing circumstances.”

While these may not be public child protection cases, they are still child protection cases. The first thing the family courts do is establish if there are any welfare issues with either parent, before any orders are made. That is partly the role of Cafcass, the court social workers.

If children are forcibly removed from a parent it is because it has been proven in court that they have been alienated by that parent – and that is child abuse. So private cases between parents DO involve abuse and neglect – often with social services and psychologists involved.

It is not normal for a child to refuse to see a parent unless a) that parent is abusive to them (in which case no contact would be ordered) or b) they have been manipulated into hostility and refusal by the resident parent.

No Judge would transfer residency to an abusive parent – only from an abusive parent. Because alienation is emotional and psychological abuse of a child. It is like Stockholm syndrome – where the child loves their kidnapper and wants to protect them – but once released – is able to see things in perspective and realise they have been manipulated - if it's not too late.

What was hugely glossed over and unaddressed – was why removals are “forced”. They are only forced because a resident parent has refused to follow a court order to allow the children to see or live with the other parent. The courts are well aware that “I can’t make them” is an excuse. It is a failure of parenting. If a parent “couldn’t make” their children go to school then social services would remove the children. Because it is the law that children go to school and parents are obliged to follow the law.

On a positive note – I think it was good that “forced removals” were shown – because it is well known among experts and psychologists, that this only occurs in cases of extreme alienation. That only alienated children kick and scream at the idea of living with the other parent. What would be more normal than seeing both parents and families every other week-end and having holidays with both parents? That is the norm.

The real issue, as regards female victims of domestic violence – is the reason they are not believed. Sadly that is because there are vast numbers of false allegations of domestic violence, once the other parent has applied to court (usually by Mothers who have a vendetta against their former husband or partner or don’t like him being in a new relationship, or the child having a stepmum, or to obtain legal aid and free lawyers) – and this means that genuine victims of domestic violence are not believed, without evidence.

The issue there then is – this is women creating issues for other women. Overall, Fathers were silent, unseen, unheard and it was insinuated that they are bad controlling monsters who force children to see them or live with them! That is a gross disservice to Fathers, the vast majority of whom are normal loving parents who happen to be divorced – some of whom are emotionally struggling after the ex wife had an affair and ended the relationship. Many of whom are struggling financially and grieving the loss of family life - not always their own choice.

The other bias was the inherent assumption that children only have one home – with their Mothers. Children of separated parents have two homes, two extended families, grandparents on both sides, relatives and friends on both sides and can be very attached to both homes (and their possessions and pets in both homes).

It is an archaic (and sexist?) view to think of children only having one home with their Mother and the Father being a distant Dad who they “visit” now and then.

There could have been much more balance – for example, an interview with a Father who has 50/50 shared care and how he manages day to day life caring for the children – and his views on forced removals. And I am sure those views would be “well those must be very extreme circumstances – to remove children from a parent and give them to the other parent and the parent they were removed from must have done something wrong”.

The interview with a legal professional about Parental Alienation was brief and minimalist. Whereas the interviews with womens groups and domestic violence groups, took centre stage and were allowed to claim that parental alienation was a strategy being used to “attack” domestic violence victims – with no statistics or evidence of this. This was all hearsay. Indeed, in the family courts, an allegation of parental alienation by a parent would immediately cause Cafcass to consider that parent may themselves be the alienator. Because that is what alienators do - make false allegations and project what they are doing on the other parent. It would not be taken as read that this was a genuine allegation - it needs evidence and specialist intervention.

The only other person questioned about Parental Alienation was Dr Adrienne Barnett, who is not a parental alienation expert, nor a lawyer or Judge, denies it exists and has a feminist agenda, insinuating it is a strategy used by men to attack women (which is incorrect - both sexes are affected by Parental Alienation – Mothers and Fathers). Yet she was taken as a credible authority in saying that there were very few authentic studies. Judges know that it is not about studies - it is about behaviour and psychology of parents – and evidence of harm to children.

While there will be parents, of both sexes, who will make false allegations, the situation for Fathers unable to see their children, if the Mother prevents it, is so tortuous and difficult that it is very rare for Fathers to make any allegations at all – even if they should be doing so – because they fear being labelled as abusers or seen as negative towards the other parent.

We have had many Fathers go through the court process and been abused themselves, in receipt of harassment and abusive messages from their ex partner, suffering from ptsd at the false accusations made against them, by Mothers who just don’t want the Dad involved any more – particularly when the Mother has remarried and wants to move on. These Fathers patiently sit out the process while investigations are made to exonerate them. This is a lengthy process which ultimately harms children who are kept away from a parent even longer. However Dads going through the process accept that the family courts have to leave no stone unturned to ensure safety of the children, before making court orders.

This is about children. It should not be fuelling a gender war, and the lack of balance in the programme very much turned the subject into a gender war, with women as the innocent victims and men and Fathers painted as invisible abusers and controlling men. Although the criticism was of the family courts, the overall view was that women and children are innocent victims, courts are draconian and Fathers drag Mothers through the courts.

The only cases that end up in the family courts are those where one parent is not making reasonable arrangements for the children with both parents. Or when there are other welfare issues.

Request

We ask that Channel 4 and Dispatches make a public statement acknowledging that the programme did not give a balanced view or interview Fathers, and that the programme makers have no knowledge of the serious topic of emotional and psychological abuse of a child, perpetrated by a parent, sometimes known as parental alienation or psychological manipulation and did not research the subject.

We ask that Channel 4 and Dispatches make it clear that parental alienation is not a gender issue – it is an abuse issue - both Mothers and Fathers can be victims of parental alienation by the other parent (as well as children). And that a "loving family home" is not a loving family home if children are being emotionally abused and the other parent derogated to them.

We ask that Channel 4 and Dispatches make an apology for not interviewing any adult children recovering from being alienated (many of whom are still suffering or in therapy) for their views. They would not blame the family courts. They would blame the parent who stole their childhood and turned them against the other parent.

Abuse is abuse – whichever gender perpetrates it.
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