Prosecuted, But Not Silenced: Courtroom Reform for Sexually Abused Children

Maralee McLean, Child Advocate and Marissa Perrone, BA

Many custody/parenting time cases include allegations of "parental alienation" or "parental alienation syndrome" (PAS), a term coined by Richard Gardner, M.D. that is unsubstantiated in the research literature (Fink, 2010). This discredited and debunked "syndrome" by the American Psychological and American Psychiatric Associations, continues to be used to remove children from custody/parenting time with their protective parent (primarily mothers). The end result is children are abuse emotionally, physically, and sexually by their custodial parent (Stark, 2010). These cases span decades in the family court as bias by judges, uninformed custody evaluators (Saunders, et. al., 2011), and other court-related personnel continue to put children in harm's way with their abusive parent (Chesler, 2011). The protective parent does everything possible to rescue the children from this situation while being mistreated and misrepresented by the players in family court (Goldstein & Hannah, 2010; Goldstein & Liu, 2013). The outcome for these children is an adult life filled with psychotherapy to overcome the trauma of their childhood (Perry, 2005; Shonkoff,, 2012), and the physical impacts that haunt them throughout their lifetime (Felitti & Anda, 1998). The trauma for the protective parent includes lifelong impacts as well (Rivera, Sullivan, Cris, & Zeoli, 2012).