Category Archives: Rebecca Davis Merritt

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.  Joan Meier is an important anti-PA or PAS voice. She is an attorney who understands the power and control dynamics of DV. She is a smart researcher and she understands the quagmire of family courts. If one needed and could afford a DV expert to testify, she would be the one.

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.aspx

http://www.dvleap.org/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=dUauj0V-0Fs%3d&tabid=181

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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.

President of One Mom’s Battle: Rebecca Davis Merritt

President of One Mom’s Battle: Rebecca Davis Merritt

 

rebeccaby Rebecca Davis Merritt

I am a retired clinical psychologist academician, mother and grandmother to many. I was fortunate and did not marry a Cluster B; my husband and I will celebrate our 48th anniversary early next year. Yet my life included many Cluster B people – my family doctor convicted for murdering at least one of his sons, a couple of ex-son and daughter-in-laws. I taught at Purdue University where I ran a practicum titled, “The Pervasive Problem Solving Clinic.” Pervasive Problem Solving was my euphemism for Cluster B people’s needs. I taught graduate students in our Clinical Psychology doctoral graduate program how to diagnose and treat people with Cluster B personality disorders as well as how to help their partners, children, and family manage their roles with Cluster Bs in the healthiest, least damaged, manner possible. I earned the reputation as the Cluster B whisperer.

Long before I knew about Tina’s work or OMB, I helped my daughter who did unfortunately marry a Cluster B person. You know the story – mom sees red flags, daughter thinks mom is overly protective, wrong, and Cluster B is “misunderstood”. I remember trying to decide if I should treat her as I would any other person I came across in my professional life and warn her, knowing she would relay my concerns to him and make it even more likely her dad and I would be cut out of her and our grandson’s life or remain silent. I chose warning and as expected, we were removed from our loved ones’ lives for quite some time. It just did not feel ethical to have the knowledge (both her dad and I knew at the first meeting of the fiancé) and not indicate concern. We gave her a safety plan and emergency money so when the honeymoon period was over she had a means of escape. Of course when that time came she felt blindsided by the cruelty, lies, gaslighting, and manipulations of the Cluster B and shell shocked by the family court system where it was not simple to protect her children and self.

She and I were both naïve about family court as are most before they have their own journeys. Once we figured out that truth, justice, and best meeting the children’s needs was not necessarily our family court’s top priorities, we did much better at managing the family court system. Isn’t that sad? It is the same message I try to share with newbies trapped in this high conflict family court system with Cluster B ex partners. It seems jaded, perhaps it is, but it is the best way to navigate family court. One must have a long term strategy and not take personally the most personally affecting adverse decisions that can be made in family court to survive and hopefully prevail in these battles. Our mantra is every text, every email, every communication is strategy based assuming that the judge will be reading every communication. In our case, this eventually worked out to protect the children because over time most Cluster Bs will reveal their true natures and the court will eventually get a fuller picture to use in rendering decisions. We just have to hope and do all we can to ensure that the children’s souls are not crushed irretrievably during the decision making process over the many year’s duration.

My daughter was near the end of the worst of her legal fight to protect her babies when I discovered Tina’s blog. We had reestablished our relationships in the family and I had tried to teach her about Cluster Bs, how to not indulge in negative emotions toward him, how to strategize, and how to heal. She was brave, goodhearted, and resilient. I started at the beginning of Tina’s blog and read backwards. After about 4-5 entries, I emailed my daughter the web address for a specific blog. She read it and like me felt like we had discovered a fellow warrior who understood what we had gone through and who was brave enough to let the world know what family court with a Cluster B entailed. I read the entire blog, then purchased Tina’s book. Meanwhile my daughter and her new (non-Cluster B) spouse started reading too and donating to OMB.

I then discovered the Facebook page and consumed it, eventually beginning to post comments to people struggling with understanding how to place boundaries and strategize with Cluster Bs.  At some point Tina asked me to become an administrator on the OMB Facebook page. I accepted and the rest is history. We work well together. I wrote a foreword to her second book which we suggest members use as a handout to give to attorneys, DV agency staff, CPS staff, and to parent evaluators, GALS, PCs, etc.  Tina worked to make OMB a nonprofit 501C; we created a board of directors for our nonprofit.  She was president and I was vice president for the past year.  Now at this point in her life, Tina is ready to step back from administrative work on the board and for the next two years I will serve as president.

Tina will not disappear and we will continue to collaborate in our plans for OMB (aided by Michele and Jennifer as well as many invaluable OMB chapter leaders and other volunteers).  In another blog post I will elaborate on our vision for 2017 but in this one I just wanted to introduce myself.  I know it can be unsettling to feel like we are losing Tina – but we are not losing Tina.  I promise.  While most of you do not know me, I have been working behind the scenes helping many and I plan to continue doing my best to help individuals, helpers, court personnel, and state/national organizations that can best assist our members.

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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 over 100-chapters in five different countries. In 2014, One Mom’s Battle achieved non-profit status which will allow the group to take their mission to the next level.