> No More Secrets And Lies: The Campaign of Denigration and the Warning Signs of Parental Alienation

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Campaign of Denigration and the Warning Signs of Parental Alienation

Each of the manifestations of parental alienation plays an important role in alienating children from their parents. Each has a part in tearing apart the fabric of the family, severing the parent-child bond, and destroying the life parents once had with their child.

Whichever manifestation it is — whether it's the independent thinker phenomenon where the children don't remember ever being told to reject their parent, the absence of guilt they have about the way they treat the alienated parent, the absurd and trivial rationalizations used to reject the alienated parent, or the lack of ambivalence they feel towards the parent who is doing the alienating — each  is responsible for the real and deadly abduction of the mind, body, and soul of your child.

As targeted parents we've seen each of these in the months and years prior to losing our children, beginning with the most conspicuous and pronounced: the campaign of denigration, so named because of its campaign-style approach to discrediting our character in the eyes of our children with its barrage of bad-mouthing, belittling, and other strategies used to convince our children to disown us.

It's called a campaign because it's so much more of an over-the-top defamation of our character than we've experienced up to this point, and because it's so much more lethal to the relationship we once had with our child.

In My Life

We probably didn't notice it at first. We may not have seen this obscene molding-of-mind being pushed onto our children in the years leading up to losing them, but it was there. And now it accounts for the loss we're living with, the severity of that loss, and the slim chance we have of ever reconciling with our children or having a relationship with them again.

I saw all of this happening in my family ever since my ex and I separated over ten years ago, but I didn't think too much about it at the time nor take it too seriously, until it was too late — until I lost my girls. And now looking back I can see how this campaign of denigration played a role in my children's behavior and that of their mother's. And now in retrospect I can detect all those instances where my girls were being taught, little-by-little and over a long period of time, that the right thing for them to do was to hate me.

Sadly for all of us, I failed to grasp the ramifications of this campaign against me: these organized and planned actions for the particular purpose of tearing me down in the eyes of my children and denying them a relationship with their father until it was too late. 

But I can never forget them now.

For instance, I'll never forget one morning when I was taking Grace to school back when she was in the eighth grade. We were on our way to Dakota Meadows after leaving Josie and Mary off at their schools, when she turned to me in the car and said,

"Dad, I don't know what to do about Mom always saying bad things about you. I hate it when she does that."

I knew that whatever her mother was saying about me had to be pretty bad in order for her to tell me about it. None of the girls liked talking about these things, and they seldom fanned the flames of discord between us parents not wanting to cause even more problems in our family.

All the girls knew that we parents weren't supposed to bad-mouth each other; this was the Cardinal rule made explicit to the whole family by our lawyers, and sometimes even judges, immediately after our separation — the intention being that children of divorce should be raised in a loving family free from their parents' animosity and conflict. More than once we were told that the number one rule in divorced families was to never bad-mouth the other parent in front of the children

And we all knew this. 

And the girls especially knew that this type of behavior was unacceptable. They made sure I knew it too and they had no qualms about me so. And so I seldom bad-mouthed their mother in front of them. And if I did I usually apologized:

"You're right girls, I shouldn't be saying those things about your mother. I'm sorry."

I really did this, because I knew it served no purpose other than to allow me to vent anger it it only made things harder for all of us. And so, even at their young ages, my girls knew they could tell me this. 

And I assumed the same thing was true at their mother's house.

But apparently it wasn't. Which was why I was so surprised that day in the car, some five years after our divorce, when Grace turned to me and said,

"Dad, can't you tell her to stop it? Isn't there something you can do?"

"There really isn't Grace," I told her. "I thought you knew that. There's nothing I can do. You know your mother won't listen to me either."

Grace knew I couldn't tell her mother anything, and so her pleading with me that day showed me just how desperate she really was. And sadly, the only thing I could do was offer her a less-than-adequate, half-hearted response:

"Grace, you'll have to tell your mom yourself. I'm sorry."

"But I've tried to tell her," she replied. "l tell her all the time but she won't listen to me. She won't listen to any of us girls — especially me because I'm the youngest — and she keeps saying you're a bad person and a bad father and that we shouldn't like being with you. And I hate it when she says these things about you and I tell her they aren't true and that I wish she would stop. But she never stops and there's nothing I can do to make her stop."

There was nothing either of us could do to make her mother stop bad-mouthing me — to stop this abuse — and I felt badly that I couldn't do more to help my daughter with this very real problem she was living with. I could usually help her with every other problem in her life, especially if it involved people doing things to her, but I couldn't help her with this and there was no one that could. And I felt bad about that.

And so did Grace, because she knew the bad-mouthing wasn't going to stop and that she had no choice but to learn how live with it. And that's just what she did: she learned how to live with it. And it only got worse from that point on.

And so, once again, after resigning herself to the fact that she had to continue living with this constant assault on her father over at her mother's house, she turned to me with a look of fear in her eyes that had me even more frightened, and one more request:

"Whatever you do, Dad, don't tell mom I told you this. Okay?"

"Okay," I replied.

"I mean it, Dad! Promise me you won't say anything to her! Okay? You have to promise me you'll never tell mom I told you any of this! Do you promise?"

"Yes, Grace. I promise. I promise I won't tell her. Why? Why are you so scared about this?"

"Never mind," she replied.

"What will happen if do tell her?"

"Nothing. Just don't do it. Okay?"

"Okay, Grace. I promise. l promise I won't say anything."

She wouldn't tell me (or couldn't tell me) what would happen to her if I said anything, but I had a pretty good idea what it was and why she was so afraid. And I had a pretty good idea why she made me promise to never say anything to her mom. She knew there would be consequences if word ever got back that she had told me what was happening over at her mom's house.

And so I kept my promise. It was the only thing I could do for her. And I never said anything about our conversation, until now. And now it doesn't matter anymore because the bad-mouthing has served it's purpose and severed my relationship with her and her sister. It doesn't matter anymore who I tell. 

And so I'm telling these things because people need to hear them and need to know the secrets that have been killing my family for years. They need to know the private things that have slowly been destroying my family to the point, now, where I have no family left.

I'm telling these things because I want other children to know that they don't have to keep secrets and don't have to lie when they're being mistreated and threatened by anybody, even by their own parents. I want them to know that this is wrong and that they don't deserve to be treated like this — that it's abuse to have to constantly listen to one of their parents talk badly about the other parent  and that they should be able to go to a teacher, a school counselor, or any responsible adult and expect them to do so something to stop it.

And I'm telling this story because I want Grace to read it and remember that conversation we had in our car that morning on the way to school and how much it bothered her that her mom was saying terrible things about me. I want both of my girls to know that they have the right to speak up and demand that the threats and bad-mouthing stop. I also want them to know how much I miss them.

My question to Grace that day in the car was why she didn't tell her mom herself, which she told me the answer to: she was afraid what her mom would do to her. My question to myself was, once again, Who thinks like this?


David Knoerr said...

Thanks for sharing your story John. It is another example of the tearing down of families. I can only hope and pray for breakthroughs for us fathers and children, and mothers in many cases who have had the same things happen. Including me. Thanks also for posting this article on www.EndingParentalAlienation.com.

John Brosnan said...

You're welcome. Thanks for the comment and for hosting my story on your web site. - John

RaeAnn Yinger said...

My kids were hearing bad things (that weren't true) about me even when we were still a family. I see now how the campaign started from the time my kids were born--an extension of my ex's attitude toward me in general. I was a stay-at-home mom who lost three children to Parental Alienation. Two of my children are now grown-up, one out of the house for two years (out of his father's house) and I still have no relationship with him. My kid's father has pulled all the punches to keep my kids from me and it has worked for over six years.

Michael Hartman said...

This is gut-wrenching to watch right in front of you. Same as my story. I attended my son's high school parent night last night (alone because my son will not allow, via his mother's control, my wife to be there). His mother is a class parent and basks in the spotlight of being on the parent association. I watch from the crowd as she is praised for all her good deeds and congratulated by the principal, completely at a loss for words. I have been rendered beaten, as if I speak out, my son will retaliate against me for hurting his mother

John Brosnan said...

That's terrible to hear Michael. So true for so many, though.