I cannot be the only one to feel immense relief on watching the news of Mrs Justice Pauffley’s judgement in the High Court this week, on the father who was supposedly a cult leader involved in importing babies to the UK in order to kill and eat them and dance around their skulls.  At least someone in the legal system is able to give a clear and unequivocal message, not only about the existence of satanic cults in Hampstead but on the way in which coaching a child to make false allegations of this nature is ‘torturing them.’  These children are now safe from the abuse that their mother and step father inflicted upon them, I cannot help but wonder about the mental and emotional health of their father who was at the centre of these allegations.

False allegations are a feature of family separation, especially when that separation is accompanied by high levels of conflict. Writing in the splendidly detailed and must have book for all mental health practitioners working with separated families – Parental Alienation – The Handbook for Legal and Mental Health Professionals, T W Campbell tells us

False allegations of CSA (Child Sexual Abuse) typically originate as rumours and can spiral out of control as the ensuing processes of rumour dissemmination gather greater and greater momentum. False allegations do not involve the malicious premeditation found in fabricated allegations (page 164)

Fabricated allegations however, are differentiated by Campbell as being

based upon premediated determination to direct allegations at an entirely innocent person (page 164)

Which is why, when we are working with separated families where such allegations are made, it is important to know how the allegation arose in the first place and then what impact the allegation had upon the concentric circles around the family. This allows differentiation and differentiation allows deeper understanding, of the nature of the allegations and why and how they arose.

In the case of the children in Hampstead, these allegations were apparently made by children who actually had been abused, the evidence from physical examination showed that sexual abuse had taken place.  This could place these children into the category of making false allegations about the abuse, taking something which actually happened and turning it into a fantastical story which centred around their mother and step father’s desire to drive the father out of the children’s lives.  In judging that these children had been harmed in order to get them to make the allegations, Mrs Justice Pauffley said that

 the boy and girl had been “tortured” into making false claims, and said that  their “minds were scrambled”.  

A condition which in my experience, can be regularly seen in children who are influenced to say things and believe things that are not true about a once loved parent.

Whilst this case is extreme in its presentation, there are cases of false allegations which spiral up from innocent events in which children who are caught between warring parents or, in many cases, between one parent determined to eradicate the other.  Children who are at the root of such situations, have often said or done something which has been taken by an angry parent who has misinterpreted what has been said as confirming their own deeply held beliefs about how bad the other parent is.  When children are confronted by this parent’s reaction to what they have said, they can be brought to a place where they are scared of the consequences of not confirming what the parent assumes is being said.  And it is at this point that a child can trip something that actually happened but which was not wrong and not damaging, into a full blown crisis.  Once inside the family court system, staffed as it is with people who are largely trained to take the wishes and feelings of children at face value, this crisis will burn through the lives of all it touches like wildfire. The flames being fanned by the children who will, quite easily by now, embellish the original story and shift it and change it to meet the needs of the adults around them.

In fabricated allegations, where no abuse has taken place but the children have been primed and persuaded to tell stories about what has happened to them, mind scrambling is a very good way of describing what is done to a child in order to get them to make the allegations in the first place.  Imagine, a child who has absolutely no understanding of sex, no concept of what sex means and no way of comprehending the act, but who is persuaded and encouraged to make such allegations against a loved parent. Unkowing of the implications of what they are saying, such children are often enmeshed by a parent who cannot see that their behaviour is damaging to the child.  What kind of ‘torture’ of the mind and emotions must a child endure in order to be brought to that point?  What kind of person manipulates a child to do such a thing? If Mrs Justice Pauffley is to be believed, such a person is damaging to the child’s wellbeing. And yet how many, less lurid and yet nevertheless just as damaging cases pass through the family courts on an annual basis, in long drawn out proceedings which often have to run alongside criminal investigations before an end can be found to the torture.

All of this is, to my mind, part of the cultural imperatives which our family courts and particularly our family services are influenced by.  Although feminism is a political ideology, and as such should not be found within a hundred metres of any such professional, it is routinely THE ideology of choice for professionals working with the family.  Feminism, which in the last forty years has come to be synonymous with the word equality, has an overarching driver, to ensure that the needs of women are put first within an assumption that men are always priviliged within a patriarchal society.  Practitioners around the family, who freely proclaim their feminist identity, are therefore always going to be biased in terms of whose needs they recognise and meet, it being an anathema to feminist doctrine that men’s needs are considered equally to those of women. Additionally, as much of our current legislation around the separated family was created and is maintained by feminist academics who are heavily interlinked with organisations such as Gingerbread and Women’s Aid, both of whom are outspokenly feminist, the family separation playing field is already far less than level for those who venture onto it.  Into this hotbed of political ideology enters the child who makes false or fabricated allegations and the parent with whom they are aligned, most often the mother and very often supported by groups of workers from feminist organisations.  Within which there is an unshakeable belief that all women must be believed without question and that children do not lie.

But children do lie and they lie regularly and often and they lie especially when the circumstances they find themselves in encourage them to lie and especially when there is little possibility their lies will be found out.  Ask any separated parent whether their child has ever reported something negative about the other parent and you will find that they have. And then try being the only person who moves between one hostile household and the other whilst maintaining an absolute honesty in each camp about what goes on in the other.  Children who live between hostile environments, or who have to navigate the hatred and hostily in one home towards the other are going to tell lies at some point in their lives, they have to, it’s a survival mechanism, it is a way of ensuring that they are welcome in both places.  Interviewing children who live in separated family situations without knowing the truth of this, is a bit like being an oncologist who believes that the cure for cancer lies in alternative medicine.

In his research paper Evidence of the extreme unreliability of some children’s ascertainable wishes and feelings – Dr Kirk Weir discusses the way in which young children who express wishes not to see a parent will often change their minds completely when they are taken to see that parent.  I myself, in my work with children of all ages, have observed the phenomenon of children being utterly adamant that they cannot, will not and must not see a parent, only to fall into that parent’s arms with a minute of seeing them.  Working in a prevailing orthodoxy which demands that we

a) believe that children  know their own minds

b) children never lie and

c) overriding children’s expressed wishes and feelings is abusive

is a difficult thing to do when one is aware of how children manage uncomfortable feelings that they find difficult to articulate.  Listening to Social Workers determinedly pronouncing that they will not ‘force’ children to see a parent because that would be abusive, as I have again this week, it is very hard not to feel one’s heart sinking into one’s boots.

Do children know their own minds?  Mrs Justice Pauffley says not this week, in fact she says that these young minds have been scrambled.  Yes this case is extreme and so it is easier to believe that the right judgement has been made, even amidst the wave after wave of child abuse hysteria sweeping the land. But away from the spotlight, week after week, month after month, year after year, children are being dragged into post separation family battles using the scrambling of their minds as the ‘evidence’ that is needed to secure victory.  And the prevelance of this is unlikely to stop anytime soon because collectively, the feminist ideologues push harder and harder for the time when children’s wishes and feelings are without question and children as young as ten should be given the right to say what should happen to them when their mum and dad go their separate ways.

It is wrong, it is torture and it is ruining the lives of children and their beloved parents up and down this land, not just in Hampstead.

Making decisions about life after family separation should not be left to the wishes and feelings of children as interpreted by people whose only training in the field of false and fabricated allegations is underpinned by a feminist political ideology which denies that these things exist. And who not only believe that the expressed wishes and feelings of children should drive outcomes but that those wishes and feelings are fixed and unchangeable.

Does anyone, like me, wonder what those same practitioners think when they see the judgement of Mrs Justice Pauffley this week?

Or what pracitioners who routinely advise parentectomy would say when they see a child who adamantly refused to see a parent one day, skip happily into the arms of that parent the next?

Children lie and people who work with separated families should know that they lie and why.

And to deny that is tantamount in my view, to colluding with a system which enables the scrambling of young minds and emotional torture.  It is giving them responsibilities they are too young to bear at a time in their lives when they are vulnerable and doing their very best to cope. And sometimes lying is the only way these children can cope.

And as practitioners charged with the care of these vulnerable children, our responsibility is to see beyond political ideology and past the prevailing orthodoxy and be courageous enough to see it, name it and do something about it.

Because if the adults take responsibility then children don’t have to.