We estimate that at least 1 million Australian children are currently alienated from a parent because of parental alienating behaviours.
Parental alienating behaviours are a parent’s persistent attempts to damage their child’s relationship with the child’s other parent. Parental alienation is not a gendered issue. It can happen to males, females, and those who are gender diverse.
Parental alienating behaviours include, but are not limited to, preventing the child from seeing their other parent; denigrating the other parent in front of the child and/or directly to the child; and making false allegations of abuse against the other parent. It is estimated that false allegations of abuse account for 79% of cases during family court proceedings. False allegations of abuse are acts of aggression with aim of permanently severing the parent-child relationship.
Parental alienating behaviours are family violence and a serious form of child abuse. Alienating parents use emotional manipulation, verbal abuse, physical violence and financial abuse to maintain control over their children and the other parent. Alienating parents use coercive control to create a false world of confusion, fear and contradiction for the child and other parent. Over time, coercively controlling behaviour erodes the child’s and other parent’s sense of self and confidence.
Children and parents who are subjected to these abusive behaviours experience the same trauma reactions as those who have suffered other forms of abuse. Some of the psychological issues for both child and adults are symptoms consistent with complex post-traumatic stress reactions, substance use problems, self-harm behaviours, eating disorders, depression, anxiety, and suicidality.
We are now starting to understand the devastating effect that being exposed to parental alienation can have on vulnerable young children as they grow into adulthood. Adults alienated as children are more likely to fall into similar abusive relationships and be alienated from their own children. They are at greater risk for diagnosed mental health disorders such as post-traumatic stress, anxiety, depression, substance use, and are more likely to contemplate suicide compared to adults who have not experienced parental alienation. The stories are undeniably devastating for these alienated adult children, and they have a similar theme: Why didn’t anyone help me as a child? What will it take for society to realise how damaging parental alienation is? Why is this happening to me again?
The process of unravelling the damage is delicate and slow, with many alienated adult children experiencing grief about the childhood they lost and confusion or anger about the fact that it was taken away by the alienating parent so easily in some cases.
The other (alienated) parent can also suffer multiple issues in addition to psychological distress. They are often left feeling confused, traumatised, suffer self-doubt, fear, and loneliness. Many struggle on their own because their experience is often ignored, denied and/or unacknowledged. Alienating behaviours are designed to isolate the alienated parent from others, which often leaves them suffering alone. Alienated parents experience significant financial losses from ongoing litigation with the alienating parent in attempts to maintain a relationship with their children and defend themselves against false allegations of abuse. The rate of suicide in alienated parents is high with 23% of alienated parents having attempted suicide at least once.
False allegations of abuse are serious parental alienating behaviours. They leave the child believing they have been hurt by a parent when this is not the case. They feel overwhelmed, alone and scared, believing that their other parent is dangerous and unsafe. False allegations isolate the children from family members of the alienated parent. False allegations of abuse damage the child’s and parent’s sense of safety. It also isolates alienated parents from family, friends and the community who are mistakenly led to believe they are a dangerous parent. These divisions can last a lifetime.
The damage caused by parental alienating behaviours and the suffering caused by it is aggravated by the fact that this form of abuse is hidden, ignored, and disbelieved by many. It is not spoken about and is stigmatised. Those affected by it suffer in silence. Any child, parent, stepparent, grandparent, or extended family member can be impacted.
This serious form of abuse and family violence can no longer be ignored. Parental alienation behaviours must be acknowledged in Australia as it is in other parts of the world. We need legislation which not only acknowledges its existence but firmly and clearly legislates against it.
We urge you to consider the impact this may have on those you love, perhaps not today but into the future. Potentially, this might be you or your child, a member of your family or their child, a friend and their child, your close community, or a member of the broader community who have children.
Your signature on this petition is a signature for the future of all children who may become a victim in a parental separation or divorce. We are calling for a legislative change.
Parental Alienation Awareness Day is the 12th October