Category Archives: OMB: Education and Inspiration

Handout for Mental Health Professionals by Rebecca Davis Merritt, Ph.D.

Handout for Mental Health Professionals by Rebecca Davis Merritt, Ph.D.

 

One Mom’s Battle Handout for Therapists by Rebecca Davis Merritt, Ph.D.

To download this as a printable handout, click here )

Why were you Given this Handout?

If you are a therapist or psychologist and your client or client’s parent has given you this handout, it means that they believe the other parent has a Cluster B personality disorder which negatively affects the child(ren) you are treating. Of course, if that other parent is not your client, you have no way to assess or diagnose whether they are, in fact, antisocial, narcissistic, borderline, or histrionic. Erring on the side of caution, it can be useful to raise and test hypotheses about such a possibility because the way you best help a minor client is different when a parent consistently shows impaired empathy and limited impulse control with their offspring.

Who Authored this Handout?

I, Rebecca Davis Merritt, am a retired academic clinical psychologist who supervised clinical psychology pre-doctoral students in a Cluster B specialty clinic and who now serves as president of One Mom’s Battle, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that helps parents of both genders mired in high-conflict family court cases. Most drawn out, complicated, hostile, high-conflict family court cases have a common denominator; a parent with a Cluster B personality disorder. Though these parents profess to love their children immensely and thrive in their court performances, claiming they would do anything to help the children, closer examination usually illuminates a parent engaging in emotional abuse, power plays and controlling behavior. They are simultaneously robbing their children of financial security through unnecessary, continuous court hearings and failure to meet court ordered financial obligations like child support. Even worse, these parents manipulate their own children to meet their own emotional needs while ignoring the children’s emotional requirements and well-being.

Why Does it Matter if I Label a Parent Cluster B?

Therapists are often unaware that the smiling, charming, socially-at-ease parent may be a chameleon who outside the therapy context is threatening the child with what family secrets must never be revealed, encouraging the children to distrust the therapist, or punishing the child if s/he communicates honestly in sessions. This type of parent insidiously blocks true treatment gains with goal of ending any treatment which threatens to expose their true nature and manipulatively (and often successfully) casts negative impressions of healthy parent.

The child and healthy parent live in fear (domestic violence by proxy) wanting to reach out to the therapist for help but fearing the repercussions if they do. Will the therapist accuse healthy parent of gatekeeping or Parental Alienation (a term we do not advocate) and see them as the problem (badmouthing the other parent) if therapist believes the charming manipulative parent? Will the unhealthy parent be told of the child’s distress resulting in painful repercussions? Will a “family systems approach” therapist hold child and healthy parent equally responsible for Cluster B’s hurtful words and actions?

Many therapists assume parents love their children and do not wish to emotionally or physically harm them. With Cluster B personality disordered individual involved, one should not start therapy with this assumption. One needs to start therapy, testing the hypothesis about whether the child views both parents as safe and loving, recognizing that most children even in abusive parental relationships, desperately love and want to protect their parents. To do this you need to generate hypothesis testing questions at the beginning stages of therapy but also at stages further along in treatment as frightened children may not disclose initially, but if they come to trust you, may disclose latter in therapy.

Examples of such questions are:

  • Do you feel safe with your mom? Do you feel safe with your dad?
  • Have you ever been bullied?
  • Has your mom ever bullied you?
  • Has your dad ever bullied you?
  • Has anyone ever tried to make you believe something you know is not true?
  • Has anyone asked you to keep secrets you do not want to keep?
  • Has anyone asked you to lie in therapy, not talk about certain topics,or asked you to not tell the whole truth?
  • Have you ever worried you would be seriously harmed or injured bysomething your parent or someone else did?
  • What is the one behavior you wish your dad would stop doing?
  • What is the one behavior you wish your mom would stop doing?
  • What is the one thing you wish your mom would start doing?
  • What is the one thing you wish your dad would start doing?

Knowing your client will allow you to tailor more case specific questions that give you necessary information about the child’s view of each parent and their trustworthiness. Asking basic safety questions is also important (have you been kicked, hit by fists, choked, locked outside, left alone in car for long periods of time, threatened by gun or knife or, do you fear for your life?).

What to do if you suspect Cluster B Parental Pathology and/or Domestic Violence in your Child Client’s Life?

Do your best to create a positive therapeutic environment. Children in these types of environments need safe, consistent and trustworthy adults in their lives. You may never fully realize the positive impact you can have by providing a safe place for child to both vent and learn how to create and maintain healthy boundaries with an unhealthy parent. Teaching such children that they do NOT carry the responsibility of catering to an adult’s emotional needs (and that it is the adult’s responsibility to attend to the child’s emotional and physical needs) is ground-breaking and positive. Helping such children learn to recognize emotional manipulation, set healthy boundaries and refuse to succumb to the manipulations can spare them a lifetime of vulnerability to other emotional vampires. Teaching children that their role is to be a child and not to carry unhealthy parent’s messages back to healthy parent or to you is invaluable. Giving them the voice to say, “I don’t want you to say mean things about mom/dad,” is helping them to set healthy boundaries. Teaching them to know their personal truth and recognize gaslighting so they do not collaborate in questioning their own sanity, memories, and life experiences is vital. If you do not understand gaslighting, please familiarize yourself.

As a therapist, you cannot just tell a child to ignore it or to forgive their abuser. Children have to understand why a parent is lying to them, what the intent of gaslighting is (to control them by making them doubt their perceptions and reality or distrust their healthy parent), and how to safely challenge (in one’s self statements) the gaslighting content. They cannot do this on their own and need for you to recognize gaslighting and give them the tools to fight this brainwashing. You may need to develop a safety plan with your client. Cluster B personality disordered individuals often anticipate who the child(ren) may reach out to and may also gaslight those resources. Safety plans themselves are not always straightforward. In a case that I am familiar with, children begged next door neighbor to call police and their request was refused based upon the tales the unhealthy parent had told them about these young, vulnerable children.

Educate yourself about Cluster B pathology to understand and appreciate that offspring of Cluster B parents experience complex traumatic environments causing reverberating long-term effects unless someone like you helps them better cope and, ideally, intervenes to contain or limit the Cluster B’s impact on the child. The work you are doing is invaluable and it is imperative that you educate yourself thoroughly on Cluster B personality disordered parents.

Two good resources pertaining to adverse events are:

The emotional abuse committed by Cluster B personalities is domestic violence. The consequence of such abuse exerts at least as much harm as actual physical abuse. A skilled and strategically planned intervention in the life of a child who is being negatively affected by a Cluster B personality disordered parent can help that child become resilient while limiting the current and future risk factors. Thus, it is very important that you develop the willingness to hypothesis test when dealing with a minor client caught in a high-conflict custody battle. Do not assume that all parents do their best.

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One Mom’s Battle is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. Our mission at One Mom’s Battle is to increase awareness of Cluster B personality disorders (Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Antisocial Personality Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder) and their impact upon shared parenting and the Family Court System which includes Judges, CPS workers, Guardian ad Litems (GAL), Parenting Coordinators (PC), therapists and attorneys. Education on Cluster B disorders will allow these professionals to truly act in the best interest of the children. Please consider a donation to help with our efforts.

History of One Mom’s Battle: In 2011, One Mom’s Battle began with one mother (Tina Swithin) navigating the choppy waters of a high-conflict divorce in the Family Court System. Since then, it has turned into a grassroots movement reaching the far corners of the Earth with chapter all over the world. In 2014, One Mom’s Battle achieved non-profit status which will allow the group to take their mission to the next level. Tina’s books, Divorcing a Narcissist and The Narc Decoder: Understanding the Language of the Narcissist can be found on Amazon.

Cluster B Custody Battles and Gaslighting

Cluster B Custody Battles and Gaslighting

by Rebecca Davis Merritt (OMB President) and Jennifer (OMB VP)

If you and your children are experiencing Domestic Violence by Proxy chances are your children are being gaslighted.  A Cluster B gaslights the children by portraying you as an uncaring, negligent, untrustworthy parent when you are none of these things. Gaslighting is a form of mental and emotional abuse and signs include:

  • Information is often twisted and spun against you or falsely reported by the Cluster B to your children
  • Your children find themselves second guessing their initial response to gaslighting parent, having difficulty distinguishing between reality versus the Cluster B’s story-telling false reality.
  • Your children feel compelled to defend the Cluster B parent by creating excuses or justifying lies, manipulations, and abuse by the Cluster B. They become secretive and may become an in-house spy for the Cluster B smuggling out documents or property trying to win affection and praise from the Cluster B. They are unable to respect appropriate boundaries due to the successful manipulation by Cluster B.
  • You experience secondary gaslighting based on your children’s behaviors wondering if you are the problem and if you should just give up, let the children move in with Cluster B or always let him or her have their way to diminish conflict (note: neither are effective coping strategies).
  • The Cluster B is slowly eroding your parental bond with the children. You do not want to badmouth their other parent to the children but you want them to feel safe and secure not just with you but with their thoughts, feelings, and memories.
  • How can you help your children resist gaslighting, be authentic, and set appropriate boundaries with Cluster B parent? The answers depend on the developmental stage of the child and it is best if the healthy parent can begin this anti-gaslighting training while the child is young. If your child is a teen, looks up to Cluster B parent and craves their interest and attention there is very little you can do beyond providing external resources like individual therapy.  Any time you try to counter the disinformation the teen received, you, in their eyes, confirm the negative messages Cluster B had given them about you being unfairly disposed to criticizing or attacking their other parent.  Even parents who have done anti-gaslighting training from early ages can find the teen years very tricky especially if you are the primary custodial parent. Teens see you as the rule setting no fun parent while the other parent may be seen as the “Disneyland” parent with no rules, much freedom, and fun. One of the best messages you can give your child regardless of their age is to promise you will never lie to them. Say it to them and keep your word. You may have to say, “I cannot talk to you about that now,” but always be truthful. This will help them very much in coping with a Cluster B because they will see a distinct difference in parents as Cluster Bs lie so often the children eventually will recognize it.

Assuming you have younger children how can you implement strong and healthy, anti-gaslighting training while not badmouthing the other parent? Here are some tips:

Teach your children how to set and protect their own personal boundaries. Children should learn about all boundaries, not just with the Cluster B. In return, respect your children’s boundaries. For example teaching young children to object to others touching their bathing suit covered parts of bodies helps them set an appropriate boundary, learning who is and is not trustworthy. and having the right to use their voices. Teaching them to immediately tell you if any adult ever asks them to not tell you a secret teaches them healthy boundaries. Cloud and Townsend have a book about boundaries to use with your children, one for teens, and one for you.

Teach your children how to be assertive and use their voice and voice their boundaries. Teach them to say no when they feel uncomfortable. Teach them that the word, “no” means “no”.

Teach your children about children being kids not adults. It is not their job to take care of adults. It is adults job to take care of them. If Cluster B tries to place child in the middle of parenting issues, do all you can to remove them from the discussion and make it clear to child it is an adult issue. When an adult conversation comes up, tell them the conversation is a grown up issue. Stress that it is not a child issue and therefore should not be discussed with you. Teach them if anyone brings up adult issues with them to state, “I am a kid. Don’t talk to me about adult things”

Talk with your children about respecting other people’s boundaries, empathy and what it means to be kind to others. OMB strongly recommends the Bucket Books by Carol McCloud. ‘Have you Filled a Bucket Today? A Guide to Daily Happiness for Kids’ is a great resource for younger children and ‘Growing UP with a Bucket Full of Happiness’ is a great book for older children (7+). You need to read these books to younger children at least once a week, develop a shared language from this book. Teach your children to be bucket fillers. Also focus on bucket dippers as this is what their cluster B parent is, a bullying, unkind, bucket dipper who breaches boundaries. You do not label their unhealthy parent, you do not say like dad or mom but you give your child the ability to recognize and label unkind behaviors as being the “fault” of the perpetrator and not the victim.  Simultaneously, model kind behaviors to the child via volunteer activities. Volunteer in your community, at churches, homeless shelters, donate items/clothes.  Keep toiletry items, bottled water, protein bars in a ziplock bag in your car to give to homeless people.

Teach your children about manipulation through commenting on it when you see it in commercials (what is this toy commercial trying to make you feel and think?) or in movies (Frozen is a great example but there are many). The older children eventually ask why do some people almost always act like bucket dippers and manipulate others? In my house we learn about Cluster B personality disorders, those people who have profound deficits in empathy, understanding how others feel and caring about their feelings with an extreme need to control others by lying, manipulating, refusing to follow rules, and holding others responsible for making them comfortable, meeting their needs, even expecting children to take care of adults. We do not label Cluster B parent as Cluster B but teach the children to recognize Cluster B patterns of behavior in books and movies. You do not have to introduce the term Cluster B but you have to give your children the knowledge of its behavioral constellation so they recognize such types of people and can engage in self-protective coping including boundary management. Hopefully this knowledge helps not just with their unhealthy parent but in their future dating, friendship, and partnership decisions.

Get your child a therapist who understands domestic violence (the pattern of coercive control of Cluster B is DV) and Cluster B personality disorders, who does not subscribe to family systems approaches (rules out many social workers and marriage and family therapists), does not provides reunification therapy implementing PA or PAS “theories”, or who refuses to provide the court their perspective. In general look for a Ph.D therapist when you can but carefully screen. If you have a good DV program in your area ask them for referral names (lawyers and therapists) and see if they have educational support groups appropriate for your children.

Never tell your children the Cluster B parent loves them. You don’t tell them the Cluster B does not love them but the love of a Cluster B parent hurts and you do not want to do anything to encourage child to accept those behaviors as normal or loving. It is likely you will need to say, “I don’t know why mommy/daddy did that. You will have to ask him/her and decide for yourself if that is how you want to parent your children if you become a parent. Never make excuses or try to normalize abusive or neglectful parenting choices of a Cluster B.

Build your own support system, a tribe who understands Cluster B and can help you cope.

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One Mom’s Battle is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. Our mission at One Mom’s Battle is to increase awareness of Cluster B personality disorders (Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Antisocial Personality Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder) and their impact upon shared parenting and the Family Court System which includes Judges, CPS workers, Guardian ad Litems (GAL), Parenting Coordinators (PC), therapists and attorneys. Education on Cluster B disorders will allow these professionals to truly act in the best interest of the children. Please consider a donation to help with our efforts.

History of One Mom’s Battle: In 2011, One Mom’s Battle began with one mother (Tina Swithin) navigating the choppy waters of a high-conflict divorce in the Family Court System. Since then, it has turned into a grassroots movement reaching the far corners of the Earth with chapter all over the world. In 2014, One Mom’s Battle achieved non-profit status which will allow the group to take their mission to the next level. Tina’s books, Divorcing a Narcissist and The Narc Decoder: Understanding the Language of the Narcissist can be found on Amazon.

Domestic Violence by Proxy

Domestic Violence by Proxy

A Message from OMB’s President (Rebecca Davis Merritt) and Vice President (Jennifer) about Domestic Violence by Proxy:

You have probably seen OMB’s informational poster about why we advocate not using the term or “theory” of Parental Alienation. We post it once a month encouraging our readers to understand that the controlling behaviors of Cluster B parents in trying to place a wedge between the children and healthy parent is Domestic Violence by Proxy. The emotional abuse of a Cluster B is domestic Violence (DV).

When a Cluster B personality disordered individual enters the family court system they wage war upon the healthy parent. They may have been absent parents never attending school, medical or dental appointments but suddenly they attend everything, preening as the doting father or mother and may push for custody. Custody is seen as a prize. The goal is to hurt the healthy primary parent and save money via child support calculations. As part of that push they groom children to see their healthy parent as untrustworthy and self-centered (projection), with divorce or separation their fault while portraying the Cluster B parent as wounded and needing the children to shower him or her with love and affection. Children often respond to this gaslighting by siding with the abusive parent.

The Cluster B parent often blames the healthy parent for his or her own actions, claiming parental alienation (PA). If the children distrust Cluster B parent based upon a history of abusive behaviors, this estrangement is labeled as PA. The healthy parent, unfortunately, is at serious risk of losing custody  in family court. Men who physically batter their former partner are much more likely to gain custody than the healthy parent.  Courts have been taught that women claiming DV in family court are usually lying and using this false claim to secure custody. Even when DV claims are accepted, courts falsely believe DV only affects direct victim and that abusers can be good parents to their children. Once Cluster Bs have the children away from the healthy parent, they use manipulation and other forms of abuse to convince the children that their other parent never loved them and are untrustworthy.

Alina Patterson (2003) first defined Domestic Violence by Proxy or DV Proxy. DV Proxy is a pattern of behavior where a parent with a history of using domestic violence, or intimidation uses the child (as a substitute) when s/he does not have access to the former partner. Continuing the cycle of domestic violence, the cycle of Domestic Violence by Proxy starts when the victim leaves the abuser and the abuser learns the easiest way to continue to harm and control the former partner is through controlling access to the children.

Once the abuser has control of the children they are able to continue stalking, harassing and abusing the former partner even when the abuser has no direct access. DV can manifest in ways such as threats to the children if they display a close relationship with the former partner, destroying the children’s favorite possessions given by the former partner and emotional abuse. Children are often coached to make false allegations about the parent.

DV by proxy is very deliberate and planned. The abusers know what they are doing and chose their controlling, coercive, and illegal behaviors. The behaviors are usually surrounded by threats and fears and often include “battery, destruction of property, locking children in rooms to prevent them from calling parents, falsifying documents, along with other similar overt behaviors.” As the leadership council suggests, “Calling this behavior “parental alienation” is not strong enough to convey the criminal pattern of terroristic behaviors employed by batterers.”

Unlike Gardner’s discredited PAS theory, the behaviors associated with DV by proxy are visible. Gardner stated the behaviors by the “alienating parent” were unconscious or unseen. This is one of the scarier components in Gardner’s theory because you cannot defend yourself against unseen things. Many healthy parents have found themselves trying to defend themselves against these unseen behaviors.

Family court professionals often fail to understand the presence and implications of both domestic violence and Cluster B psychopathology. Thus family court usually encourages unfettered access of the children to abusers. Family court judges and lawyers often work to punish healthy parents reporting bona fide abuse. Yet, they often seem to believe the victim stories told by abusers. Court officials often seem slow to recognize how family court itself can be abusive, particularly protracted, repeated, unnecessary court hearings used by the abuser to drain the financial and emotional resources of the healthy parent. Children may be placed with the abuser while the healthy parent is discredited through accusations of mental illness or PA. Other professionals involved including GALs, evaluators, therapists, etc. often take on responsibilities that are beyond their skill level. Antisocial and or Narcissistic personality disordered parents with good impression management skills are adept at “conning people, or gaining sympathy, and can win the trust and support of a family court professional while turning that same person against their ex-partner.”

The main goal of the abuser is s/he will end up with complete control over the children and will use this power over his former partner, “who tried to escape the power and control of the once abusive marriage.” They do not care if the children are harmed as long as their former partner is hurt and they feel they have won. It is imperative that the healthy parent and attorney understands how to use DV by proxy to counter and claims of parental alienation.

The following links may also be helpful:

http://www.thelizlibrary.org/liz/Hoult-PASarticlechildrenslawjournal.pdf

https://www.leadershipcouncil.org/1/pas/dv.html

http://www.dvleap.org/Programs/CustodyAbuseProject/PASCaseOverview.as

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One Mom’s Battle is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. Our mission at One Mom’s Battle is to increase awareness of Cluster B personality disorders (Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Antisocial Personality Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder) and their impact upon shared parenting and the Family Court System which includes Judges, CPS workers, Guardian ad Litems (GAL), Parenting Coordinators (PC), therapists and attorneys. Education on Cluster B disorders will allow these professionals to truly act in the best interest of the children. Please consider a donation to help with our efforts.

History of One Mom’s Battle: In 2011, One Mom’s Battle began with one mother (Tina Swithin) navigating the choppy waters of a high-conflict divorce in the Family Court System. Since then, it has turned into a grassroots movement reaching the far corners of the Earth with chapter all over the world. In 2014, One Mom’s Battle achieved non-profit status which will allow the group to take their mission to the next level. Tina’s books, Divorcing a Narcissist and The Narc Decoder: Understanding the Language of the Narcissist can be found on Amazon.

One Mom’s Battle: Giving Tuesday

One Mom’s Battle: Giving Tuesday

giving-tuesdayHi OMB’ers!

It’s #GivingTuesday and we need your help!

What is Giving Tuesday? Giving Tuesday is celebrated on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving and the widely recognized shopping events Black Friday and Cyber Monday. #GivingTuesday kicks off the charitable season, when many focus on their holiday and end-of-year giving.

One Mom’s Battle has new leadership and grand plans for 2017 — we need your help. Please consider a donation to help our efforts to educate the Family Court professionals on high-conflict divorces and Cluster B personality disorders. Our mission began with one mom (Tina Swithin) and has since become a world-wide support network for mothers and fathers who are fighting to protect their children from Cluster B disordered individuals (Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Antisocial Personality Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder.)

Please consider an end of the year donation on this #GivingTuesday. One Mom’s Battle is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization and our tax ID # is: 47-1118171

To donate, click here

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One Mom’s Battle is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. Our mission at One Mom’s Battle is to increase awareness of Cluster B personality disorders (Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Antisocial Personality Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder) and their impact upon shared parenting and the Family Court System which includes Judges, CPS workers, Guardian ad Litems (GAL), Parenting Coordinators (PC), therapists and attorneys. Education on Cluster B disorders will allow these professionals to truly act in the best interest of the children. Please consider a donation to help with our efforts.

History of One Mom’s Battle: In 2011, One Mom’s Battle began with one mother (Tina Swithin) navigating the choppy waters of a high-conflict divorce in the Family Court System. Since then, it has turned into a grassroots movement reaching the far corners of the Earth with chapters all over the world. In 2014, One Mom’s Battle achieved non-profit status which will allow the group to take their mission to the next level.

Divorcing a Narcissist: Tina Swithin’s books are available online at Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

Divorcing a Narcissist: When I am weak, then I am strong

Divorcing a Narcissist: When I am weak, then I am strong

purpose sarahBy Sarah, an OMB Administrator 

As I reflect back on my very long journey to leaving my ex for good, one moment stands out in my mind lately. I met an old friend for dinner one evening. She was going through a difficult divorce and as I listened to her talk about her experience, I admired the strength it took for her to walk away and never look back.

I also remember feeling very jealous.

Why was she strong enough to leave and I wasn’t? I hated myself for my weakness.

I told her about the latest drama with my then husband; it was a particularly difficult time. She very calmly said to me, “You don’t have to live like this.” It was so simple but so true.

I thought about how having children complicated things and how I couldn’t support myself financially but these things were just excuses and stall tactics. I was scared and still hopeful that if I suffered through the difficult times, my marriage would eventually hit a smooth patch.

In time, I realized that the purpose of my life wasn’t to suffer.

I also realized that I was, in fact, strong enough to leave. My children gave me the courage to leave and never look back. My ex gave me the drive to start on a new career path and to succeed.

I think on this journey we all have our own pace and that we need to be kind to ourselves. Even taking small steps helped to build up my strength and resolve. When things seem difficult and overwhelming, I try to reflect back on my weaker moments to see just how far I’ve come.

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“Like” One Mom’s Battle on Facebook or “follow” on Twitter.

The Lemonade Club, Tina Swithin’s private forum is now live! Seeking a place to share, connect and find help during your custody battle with a narcissist?  TLC is the answer and is now accepting applications – the group will be limited to the first 250 approved applicants.

Seeking insight, encouragement and advice while divorcing a narcissist? Tina Swithin’s books, Divorcing a Narcissist: One Mom’s Battle” and her new book “Divorcing a Narcissist: Advice from the Battlefield” are available on Amazon or through Barnes & Noble. Learn how to set boundaries, navigate your way through the divorce and see the narcissist for who he/she really is. You will learn to forgive yourself and you will begin to heal. 

Seeking a Divorce Coach to guide you through your custody battle? Visit Tina Swithin’s website or her personal Facebook page where she shares daily inspiration and gratitude.

Domestic Violence and a Broken Family Court System

Domestic Violence and a Broken Family Court System

OMB Broken Systemby Anonymous 

I don’t know where my son is.

I mean, I sort of know.  I am reasonably certain that he is in one geographical area.  I believe that he is with his father, maybe his grandma.

I haven’t spoken to him in over a week.

He is 5.

I recently went through some major losses in court.  I spent a year and a half being dragged along like a dead cat on a leash.  He blew off mediation – add three months.  He blew off a readiness conference – add two months.  He blew off his own trial, and then cried about making a mistake and was granted another one – Add four months.  I got to pay for an attorney to do everything twice.

He won everything.

Three years ago he tried to kill me.  The responding police officer found me to be completely hysterical, so when my abuser lied and said I’d tried to kill myself, they carted me off to a mental hospital.  This decision shaped everything that came after it.  The hospital realized pretty quickly that I didn’t need to be there.  I was released 40 hours into a 72 hour hold, (essentially unheard of in mental health care.)  I wasn’t trying to kill myself.  I was being abused by a psychopath.  They told me that as long as I could find somewhere to go that wasn’t home with my abuser, they would release me.  Another 2 hours and a friend picked me up.

Social services came.  It wasn’t the first time they decided to put my son in foster care.  He had just turned 2.  They told me it was my fault.  They had spent so much money forcing me to go to DV classes.  They could not understand why this had happened, AGAIN.

“Why didn’t you leave?”

He took my car keys.

And my shoes.

“Why didn’t you change the locks?”

Because making symbolic gestures to psychopaths is dangerous.

“Why didn’t you call the police?”

I DID CALL THE POLICE.  They made everything worse.

“Why didn’t you get a restraining order?”

I tried. I was turned down because there were no criminal convictions.

“Why didn’t you protect your son?”

I did.  And I would have done a much better job if one single human being in my county (California) thought I was worth protecting, too.

The police officer that came three years ago didn’t arrest him.  Didn’t even write a report.  So victim’s services and the district attorney can’t help me.  (Private citizens can’t “press charges” where I live – you may make a report to the police and the police make the report to the DA if they think it’s “worth it.”) The standard of evidence for my particular judge to consider domestic violence as relevant to a custody proceeding is a criminal conviction of domestic violence in criminal court.  Since the police officer didn’t write my report as anything other than “crazy girl goes to hospital,” there are no avenues for me to pursue.  That one police officer got it wrong, and as a result, my domestic violence is not considered relevant to my custody proceeding.

I have had other courts acknowledge what happened to me.  We have been through dependency court on two separate occasions. During my first dependency case, I was told to stop calling the police during fights, because it was evidence that my family wasn’t making progress.  When I was beaten during that case and fled with my child to a hotel, the supervisor at CPS told me to immediately return my baby – it was his father’s parenting time.  I told him what had happened, and he gave me two options:  give my baby back to the man who had just beaten me, or give my baby to the supervisor, and he would find an adoptive family for my baby since my family obviously couldn’t hold it together.

I sent my baby back to my abuser.  I didn’t call the police.  Two months later, that supervisor wrote a report saying that everything was fine – there had been no more police reports, so that meant there wasn’t anymore domestic violence.  I was blown away.

That first case had lots of “services” attached to it.  Anger management, victim’s counseling, parenting classes.  On more than one occasion, I arrived to a victim’s support group to be told that the instructor was busy and we were going to watch an Adam Sandler movie.  Participation in these services was mandatory to have my child returned – and I was driving 30 minutes each way to watch an Adam Sandler movie.  Not even a new one; that movie had been out for years.  I could have stayed home and watched it on Netflix, but watching it in a group setting meant that I was being obedient and respectful to the court.

The second case was full of disappointment.  They’d sent me to so many Adam Sandler classes, they just couldn’t understand why everything wasn’t better.  Everything was my fault.  I should have asked for help.  I should have gotten a restraining order.  I should have called the police.  I should have, I should have, I should have.  Not once in that entire case did anyone look at that man and say “YOU should not have tried to strangle the mother of your child.”

Fast forward several years, and here I am, in the exact same boat.  The people who understand and acknowledge my abuse continue to set the stage so that I am penalized for asking for help, and then make sure that I am penalized if I don’t ask for help. Contact with the new girlfriend suggests nothing’s changed. He is preying on, abusing, stalking other women the same way he did to me.  But it doesn’t matter, because, say it with me now, “THERE ARE NO CRIMINAL CONVICTIONS.

I lost it in court a few weeks ago.

I was handed a verdict that didn’t go in my favor.  All of the safety I’d built for years evaporated, and I panicked.  I asked a completely different judge for a restraining order.  As a punishment, I am now on supervised visits with my own son.  My ex is now the gatekeeper for contact with my child, so talking to him is being dangled in front of me like a carrot on a stick.  I got to Skype with him a few weeks ago.  He cried the loudest sobs I’ve ever heard.  My heart breaks for him.  And then breaks again to hear his father tell him that “if mommy would obey me, this wouldn’t happen.”

Criminal convictions cannot continue to be the bar to which we hold domestic violence victims.  My son’s case is heard in juvenile court, where a lower standard of evidence is used to determine whether or not he is safe.  I am over the age of 18, so I am not awarded the same courtesy.  If I cannot prove beyond any doubt that this man hurt me behind closed doors three years ago, I can just shut up and go away.  I do not matter.  That man hurt me with no witnesses, and I was ashamed enough of my bruises that I didn’t take pictures.  I wasn’t struck with the need to take selfies at those particular moments.  I just wanted to crawl under a rock and die.  I should have taken pictures.  I wasn’t thinking about court.  I was thinking about making the hitting stop.  If you have absolutely zero understanding of domestic violence issues, I suppose you could come to the conclusion that I wasn’t trying to get help.

I lived in an incredibly poor county when I was abused.  I learned afterwards that most DV victims don’t bother calling the police in that city.  There is just no point.  They won’t help you.  It makes me sad to know that so many women are coming to this conclusion.

We can do better.

As a group of people who claim to have the best interests of children at heart, we have to begin to group victims together with this priority in mind.  Helping a child through a crisis is a pointless waste of time and money if you’re going to put him right back in that crisis when you walk away.  We have to find a way to keep children safe with some priority on permanency, and where I live, that still comes second to patriarchal property rights.

All family violence cases should be heard in dependency court.  I am never going to be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt what happened to me.  I can, and have, submit to forensic interviews with educated professionals who can, and have, come to the conclusion that I was horrifically abused and currently experiencing trauma.  When we chose to ignore professionals, and cling to the bad decisions of first responders, we are willfully choosing to keep our children in unsafe environments.  Skilled and trained professionals NEED to have a say in complicated psychological issues – they are our best chance of identifying true problems and true solutions.

Our family court system is beyond broken.  Leave a comment under this article on our OMB Facebook page if you would agree that we need legislation to have family violence and abuse issues handled differently than random attacks and property disputes.

What would your solutions be?

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“Like” One Mom’s Battle on Facebook or “follow” on Twitter.

The Lemonade Club, Tina Swithin’s private forum is now live! Seeking a place to share, connect and find help during your custody battle with a narcissist?  TLC is the answer and is now accepting applications – the group will be limited to the first 250 approved applicants.

Seeking insight, encouragement and advice while divorcing a narcissist? Tina Swithin’s books, Divorcing a Narcissist: One Mom’s Battle” and her new book “Divorcing a Narcissist: Advice from the Battlefield” are available on Amazon or through Barnes & Noble. Learn how to set boundaries, navigate your way through the divorce and see the narcissist for who he/she really is. You will learn to forgive yourself and you will begin to heal. 

Seeking a Divorce Coach to guide you through your custody battle? Visit Tina Swithin’s website or her personal Facebook page where she shares daily inspiration and gratitude.

Communicating with a Narcissist

Communicating with a Narcissist

Communicating with a Narcissistby Tina Swithin

I was recently asked to chime in on a Huffington Post article titled, “6 Ways to Maintain Your Sanity while Parenting with a Narcissist.” Maintaining your sanity while parenting, co-parenting or parallel parenting with someone who suffers from a Cluster B disorder is an experience that few can comprehend.

My submitted response was cut down significantly so I thought I’d share my two cents in full:

Taking control of communication while co-parenting (or parallel parenting) with a narcissist is absolutely critical to your emotional well-being. Since the narcissist is no longer able to control you in the relationship, they need to obtain their “narcissistic feed” in other ways. The desire for a narcissistic feed is similar to a drug addicts’ need for his or her next fix and their appetite can be insatiable. For the narcissist, keeping you engaged, whether good or bad, is their driving force.

Learning to communicate with a narcissist is just like learning another language. First, you will want to limit all non-emergency communication to emails and I often advise clients to create a separate email account for communication with the narcissist. Better yet, Our Family Wizard or Talking Parents are both programs designed specifically for couples in high-conflict custody battles or shared parenting situations. Narcissists are known for their lengthy emails and something as simple as a pair of mismatched socks on your toddler can open the door to a barrage of attacks about your parenting.

The first step is to decode the email which is generally chock-full of projection and just enough lies to make your head spin. Over time and as you take your power back, you will even find humor in decoding the narcissist’s emails. As a way to shed light on the painful verbal assaults that I would receive from my ex-husband, I invented the Narc Decoder which scrubs down the projection, lies, attacks and ulterior motives that are typically found in a narcissist’s email. Learning to understand the communication style of the narcissist is similar to learning a foreign language but once you understand it, you will experience greater peace and sometimes, even a good laugh.

Next, it is important to “gray rock” your communication style. Because the narcissist wants to evoke emotion (good or bad) from you, it will be imperative that you refrain from any and all emotion. The Gray Rock technique teaches us that communication should be short, monotonous, business-like and boring. When communicating with a narcissist, less is always more. Your goal is for the narcissist to begin looking elsewhere to receive their narcissistic feed. Sift through the email communication and only respond to the items that are relevant to co-parenting. If you must write a lengthy response, send it to your mother or best friend as a way to vent but do not send it to the narcissist. Do not engage your ex on the topic of your toddler’s mismatched socks. If there are untruthful attacks on your parenting that are more serious than mismatched socks, my favorite go-to response is simple but direct, “Your attempt to portray me in a negative light is noted.” Co-parenting or parallel parenting with a narcissist can be emotionally exhausting which is why it is so important to implement strategies that allow you to take your power back.

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“Like” One Mom’s Battle on Facebook or “follow” on Twitter.

The Lemonade Club, Tina Swithin’s private forum is now live! Seeking a place to share, connect and find help during your custody battle with a narcissist?  TLC is the answer and is now accepting applications – the group will be limited to the first 250 approved applicants.

Seeking insight, encouragement and advice while divorcing a narcissist? Tina Swithin’s books, Divorcing a Narcissist: One Mom’s Battle” and her new book “Divorcing a Narcissist: Advice from the Battlefield” are available on Amazon or through Barnes & Noble. Learn how to set boundaries, navigate your way through the divorce and see the narcissist for who he/she really is. You will learn to forgive yourself and you will begin to heal. 

Seeking a Divorce Coach to guide you through your custody battle? Visit Tina Swithin’s website or her personal Facebook page where she shares daily inspiration and gratitude.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder and Raising Healthy Children

Narcissistic Personality Disorder and Raising Healthy Children

OMB Healthy Childrenby Rebecca Davis-Merritt

Remember your journey with the Cluster B in your life: the lies, manipulation, wooing, broken promises, his/her victim status but how at first you fell in love with the charisma and apparent ability to look into your soul. You may have thought s/he was your soul mate. Now your eyes and thoughts are unclouded. You see the Cluster B in a non-distorted way but your children are caught up in the Cluster B world during their parenting time. How do you help protect your children by teaching them to recognize manipulation, to set healthy boundaries, but not badmouth their other parent (recommended reading: Divorce Poison)? You have to arm your children to make it to adulthood relatively unscathed from their love for and contact with a Cluster B parent.

Ideally your children will have an excellent therapist who understands domestic violence (the emotional abuse and extreme need for power and control of a Cluster B is DV, although not all DV agencies understand this. See the Duluth Model of DV power wheel). Many DV agencies have support groups for children that teach them to recognize pathological need for power and control and how to protect themselves from abusers. Hopefully they have a very healthy other parent in you who understands the pathology of Cluster B, resists their efforts to antagonize, bait, and agitate you, is able to “grey rock it” by not showing emotion to Cluster B, communicating only via email or Our Family Wizard, Two House, Talking Parents, etc, and who teaches the children empathy in various ways. Start by reading aloud a Bucket Book (Amazon) to children 3-9. This costs around $10 and is a powerful tool for parents and children. The child learns about bucket fillers (kind people) and bucket dippers (angry,controlling, bullies). They learn the relationship between kindness and thoughtfulness and feeling safe and happy or the relationship between meanness and feeling unsafe and unhappy. Parents can help children understand how empathy is related to people choosing to respect others’ feelings and lack of empathy is not caring and often deliberately hurting others.

Many OMB parents teach their children that empathy is important by volunteer activities serving the vulnerable or by having zip lock packs of food, water, and grooming supplies in the car to give to homeless individuals. Even TV and movies can be a teaching tool. Frozen depicts a Cluster B who is charming, wooed his way into Anna’s heart  but turns out to be a lying scoundrel. This provides a good discussion about how first impressions do not matter as much as longterm behaviors and how we always need to date someone a long time observing them in many environments and situations before giving our heart to them. It can also lead to a discussion of the qualities important in a husband/father or wife/mother. Healthy parents have to seize every teachable moment to arm their children in a protective manner. They also have to learn how to deprogram their children without bad mouthing their other parent when the children return from parenting time in demoralized, angry, or confused states.

TV and movies have many examples of when a boundary set by a person is violated by another. Help your children recognize such boundary intrusions. The first step in children learning to set boundaries is the belief they have the right to safely do so. Safely means the boundary will be acknowledged and respected, not ignored, made fun of, etc. Children need much practice with their healthy parent in understanding everyone sets boundaries but not all people have the same types of boundaries. Eventually the child will understand boundaries, realize they have the right for appropriate boundaries to be respected. At this time they can then, especially if familiar with bucket book philosophy, learn that there are people who refuse to honor other people’s boundaries. They are bucket dippers and they intentionally violate others’ boundaries because it makes them feel powerful. They like to bully and boss others. At this point children learn the difference in trustworthy and untrustworthy people. Unfortunately for children with Cluster B parents, their parent is often the latter.

It is very scary for a child to set a healthy boundary with a Cluster B parent. It might be saying, “stop talking about mom/dad that way.” Setting the boundary will likely result in punishment and a Cluster B tantrum designed to bully the child into feeling sorry for or fearing the Cluster B. Yet it is important that the child feels empowered to set healthy boundaries and to do so when motivated. Otherwise the child grows up catering to pathology and avoiding confrontation often picking their own life partner to recreate such dynamics. It is also okay for children to know what boundary they wish to set but to acknowledge it would not be safe for them to do it with their Cluster B parent. This is not avoidance but self-protection. This information needs to be shared with therapist, GAL, etc. It is up to the healthy parent to give their children the cognitive tools  to understand empathy, lack of empathy, excessive need of power and control, manipulation (tv commercials are great examples), and boundaries. If you respect your child, allow appropriate boundaries, and model empathy and kindness you are cultivating the best environment for your children to flourish, withstand a Cluster B parent without developing pathological narcissistic, manipulative features themselves. Examine yourself. Have you done enough self improvement to be the kind of parent who can provide this environment for your child? If not find your own therapist, join your own DV support group, join an OMB state chapter and participate in meetings, check out OMB’s suggested reading list and start educating yourself more intensively.

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“Like” One Mom’s Battle on Facebook or “follow” on Twitter.

The Lemonade Club, Tina Swithin’s private forum is now live! Seeking a place to share, connect and find help during your custody battle with a narcissist?  TLC is the answer and is now accepting applications – the group will be limited to the first 250 approved applicants.

Seeking insight, encouragement and advice while divorcing a narcissist? Tina Swithin’s books, Divorcing a Narcissist: One Mom’s Battle” and her new book “Divorcing a Narcissist: Advice from the Battlefield” are available on Amazon or through Barnes & Noble. Learn how to set boundaries, navigate your way through the divorce and see the narcissist for who he/she really is. You will learn to forgive yourself and you will begin to heal. 

Seeking a Divorce Coach to guide you through your custody battle? Visit Tina Swithin’s website or her personal Facebook page where she shares daily inspiration and gratitude.