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Alienation smacks of Stockholm Syndrome

01:00 AM EDT on Friday, July 21, 2006

Lawyer Jeffery Leving and men's advocate Glenn Sacks have rushed here from California to rally the troops in support of the so-called Parental Alienation Syndrome ("Protect children from alienation," Commentary, July 8). Their effort illustrates the way adversarial litigation feeds on troubled families.

They ignore the guideline just published by the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges that Parental Alienation Syndrome "should be ruled inadmissible and/or stricken from the evaluation report." They disregard the definitive analysis that discredits Parental Alienation Syndrome, in the current issue of Children's Legal Rights Journal.

Leving and Sacks try to dismiss me as a "women's advocate." But I have also written in this newspaper about a superb father who lost children and home, allegedly owing to collusion among lawyers and judges at Rhode Island Family Court.

They allege that Amy Neustein's "now adult daughter, Sherry Orbach, publicly refuted her mother's claim [that the girl had reported being sexually abused by her father]." Photographs suggest another story. The smiling 6-year-old became a different child after the Brooklyn, N.Y., Family Court kept concerned experts from testifying, and awarded her father sole custody. By the age of 8, Sherry appeared dazed and emaciated, and lurid in scarlet lipstick and nail polish.

Leving and Sacks say nothing about Dr. Richard Gardner, who devised "Parental Alienation Syndrome" and who lobbied to abolish mandatory reporting of child abuse.

People held hostage at any age soon identify with their abusers; like Sherry Orbach, they will say or do whatever is required. Yes, they are being alienated, but not by "Parental Alienation Syndrome." Their scientifically predictable behavior is called the Stockholm Syndrome.

It's time the Rhode Island General Assembly held Family Court accountable for the alienation it blames on victims of abuse.



Anne Grant is a retired minister working at Mathewson Street United Methodist Church's Parenting Project.

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