transgenerational trauma in the form of alienation of children and the epigenetic legacy

Today in the House of Lords, Baroness Meyer withdrew her Amendment to the Domestic Abuse Bill after a lengthy and considered debate about the issue of alienation of children in divorce and separation.

My experiencing of listening to this was that at last, the seriousness of alienation of children after divorce and separation, is being recognised more widely for the serious issue of child abuse that it is. I was particularly heartened to hear Baron Winston speak about the scientific evidence which supports the reality of the harm that alienation does to children. This is the reason why those of us who do this work, continue to do it in the face of such serious attack. We know that it is child abuse, we know that it is hidden and we know that if it is not addressed it will lead to epigenetic changes which cause harm down the generations.

Whilst Baroness Meyer may feel disappointed in the outcome of her campaign in this particular bill, she has given careful and diligent attention to the issue she has worked tirelessly to raise to public consciousness over the past nineteen years. Whilst the words parental alienation may not be in the domestic abuse bill, the reality that so many in the House of Lords have been able to see beyond the toxic rhetoric which has infected this debate over recent weeks, is a breath of fresh air.

Alienation of children is, as Robert Winston told us, a hidden form of child abuse.

That acknowledgement alone, will protect many children for generations to come and Baroness Meyer is to be thanked for creating the opportunity for that reality to be known.

Watch Baron Winston on Parliamentary TV:

Baron Winston on Parliamentary TV speaking about alienation of children – 8 March 2021

8 comments

  1. Though many will be outraged by this outcome, and will undoubtedly disagree with me. As a rejected parent, I believe that PA not making it into legislation is a blessing, in disguise. Just imagine how hard proving something to the criminal standard would be where so little headway is made on a simple balance of probabilities. The authority in Re S (common law) is enough. Provided the judiciary undertake training in understanding what coercive control and gaslighting is in relation to children.
    The law is already clear coercive control. No need to relabel into something that causes so many gender debates detracting from the reality faced by children.

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    1. I agree Rob although the airing of the subject in the House of Lords was refreshing and the clarity with which Baroness Meyer spoke was heartening. I was particularly heartened by her reference to the London Victims Commissioner, whose conduct in office simply has to be called into question. The way that she has treated alienated parents both fathers and mothers, is shocking.

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  2. Most definitely,

    Asda, need extra shelf stackers on the night shift; that should be right up Ms Waxman’s street. I’ll send her and application form so in the event she needs a new direction in life, she’ll be covered.

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  3. I don’t really understand how this helps? The courts are mostly ineffective in dealing with alienation. They allow cases to be dragged out for years doing more harm than good. It’s shocking how little understanding the court system has. It doesn’t feel like progress to me?

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    1. The lower courts are very much behind Donna but the work is now underway to provide evidence based and accredited training through the different channels which impact on the FC. In the midst of what has been the most toxic campaign to discredit the concept of alienation of children and all who work with it, this from Professor Winston, a well respected scientist, shows the reality of what alienation and what it does and why we must continue our work to raise consciousness of this and how to prevent and treat it. Small significant steps on a journey which will, in my view, end in our arrival at recognition of alienation as the serious form of child abuse Professor Winston says it is. K

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      1. Living in Scotland the legal framework is different, however the same issues prevail in the courts here, the apathy towards this serious issue is alarming, as is the lack of knowledge in the legal professionals here, we have the Children’s Reporter, however they are driven by the mantra “the rights of the child are paramount” as are the sheriff’s who listen to the children who are displaying alienating behavior and then do as the child has requested thereby reinforcing their alienating views. Is the work you refer to around delivering evidence based and accredited training applying in Scotland as well? I’ve signed up for your seminar and course to gain as much insight as possible and will read your book, however, are you aware of any similar activities around PA in the Scottish legal system or indeed any organisations similar to yours in Scotland who are raising this issue I can get in touch with for advice/guidance?

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  4. Hi Donna,
    I’m not 100% sure why you say this isn’t helpful. That said I think I understand!
    If you look at the UK constitution you’ll see there are 3 branches of government: Executive; legislative and judicial. This is the separation of powers which prevents the uk becoming a dictatorship. Anyway just because the Executive and the legislature make a law the judiciary must interpret that law in order to enforce it (the other two branches can’t tell the courts what to do only guide) PA isn’t exclusively recognised in the uk hence the majority of cases are rebutted with references to Dr Gardener and the sturge and glassa report.
    Therefore, depending on the judges interpretation of the law notwithstanding the concept of a largely unrecognised term that, has no official definition, there can be no justice, such a judgment wouldn’t be safe. The judiciary is independent, if ‘independence’ is taken literally and given each case is dealt with on its own merits even case law, (Re S) gives no level of certainty in family law. By outlawing PA, all other references such as cohesive control (which is understood) become redundant as PA would be a stand alone form of abuse. Right now, PA is nothing more than a pejorative term which, when used by a targeted parent before an uneducated judge, the door opens for the court room becoming the scene of a gender debate. K has written about this many times.
    It’s worth noting the militant feminist movement has influenced all of the 3 branches of government evidenced by its various representations and the subsequent policy’s made.(research the papers in connection with the PD12J rewrite conducted by Cobb J).
    Whilst we know what PA is and while the term PA is resisted, it can dealt within the terms and definitions of DVA which are understood. Effectively drawing it all back to what it actually is rather than relabelling DVA as PA.
    The question for those outraged by the government’s decision is ‘do we really need to reinvent the wheel where the current round one works’?
    When we argue PA that’s when problems occur. Adding it to legislation will only make the process harder, until the powerful lobby groups except PA it’s more favourable to battle on their terms because then they have no comeback because it’s their rules ‘if you will’.

    Please Excuse typos.

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  5. Well said Rob!

    By even simple definitions it is necessary to prove multiple behaviours to prove that a parent is alienating. On the other hand the DA bill, in the statutory guidance, lists individual alienating behaviours as abusive and any one of these could cause significant harm.

    So, which one is the best outcome? Having a pet term in the bill, which no one can agree upon and has been used as a refuge by abusers, OR, listing individual behaviours, which case law has found to have caused sufficient harm to warrant changing the residence of a child? If anyone does not believe me then take a look at two recent cases. Re: L (A child) EWHC 867 (Fam). In the first couple of lines the judgment declares that the parental behaviour, ‘…falls short of attracting the labels “intractable hostility” or “parental alienation”. the residence of a 9 year old lad was changed from the midlands to Northern Ireland. The case turned upon the issue of emotional harm caused to the lad by a hostile mother and an even more hostile maternal grandmother. At most it involved the proof of just a couple of parental behaviours which ALONE were sufficient to warrant changing residence whereas obsessing about PA could have failed to clear the bar. Re S relays a similar message. Focus upon behaviours which are themselves harmful and abusive. There is simply no need to give parents the additional burden of proving multiple behaviours when proving one can be sufficient to galvanise the court into action to protect a child.

    It is difficult enough proving single behaviours. Introducing terminology that requires proof of multiple behaviours is plainly daft if your principal aim is to protect children. Surely the best approach is the simplest and most effective.

    However, let us not forget that Re L was in the high court. Below this level the courts are a lottery. The Children Act is great for lazy judges and flabby reasoning but change is long overdue. It is a basic tenet of the rule of law that justice must be based upon rules and not discretion. However, under the Children Act, the lower courts have too few rules and constraints, excessive amounts of discretion and insufficient intellect to cope with virtually unbridled power.

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