Freedom has traditionally investigated and exposed violations of human rights in mental healing and other sectors of society. One recent area of abuse is the victimization of mothers and children with a new psychiatric label. Here Freedom presents the results of its investigation into the problem.
magine you are a parent trying to protect your child from all the temptations and potential disasters of a society too often marked by violence, drugs, perversion and crime.
Then imagine that your child is taken away from you – the spotlight turns on you and you are accused of lies, delusion or worse. Imagine being falsely accused of sexually abusing your own child when nothing could be further from the truth.
Unthinkable? Think again.
Increasing instances of injustice and violations of human rights have been reported under a new psychiatric label: “parental alienation syndrome.”
Evidence Barred, Case Closed
This “disorder” was “discovered” by a New Jersey psychiatrist, Richard Gardner. As he himself will admit, however, it is a theory, based on no scientific evidence. Yet the effects of its application in the courts have been catastrophic.
Take the case of Linda Tabarez, a California mother. In 1994, she filed for divorce. A month later, her daughter, Nicole, confided in her that she was being sexually abused. The alleged perpetrator was her father – the man Linda Tabarez was divorcing.
Linda filed reports with Child Protective Services and had Nicole examined by physicians for signs of sexual abuse, which were positive. She brought these findings into the ongoing divorce case to gain custody of Nicole and to protect her daughter from further abuse.
The family was ordered to see a psychologist. Linda readily agreed, believing that the court-appointed “expert,” Herbert Weissman, would perform an impartial review of the evidence she had already gathered.
At a meeting in Weissman’s office, Nicole and her father went into a separate room, leaving Linda sitting by herself. Through the closed door, Linda could hear her daughter protesting about going into the bathroom with her father.
Linda then fell into a trap that, as she described it, had been cleverly set by the psychologist to cause her to “react.” Hearing her daughter’s objections at being forced to be alone with her father, Linda burst into the room, nearly knocking over Weissman, who had been listening at the door for the mother’s “reaction.”
Even though Linda’s action was apparently triggered by the manipulation of a mother’s natural protective instincts, Weissman saw it differently. He diagnosed her as “mentally disturbed” and suffering from “parental alienation syndrome.” She was barred from submitting the evidence that Nicole had been abused and lost custody of her daughter.
Stripped of Custody and Visitation Rights
Katherine Andrews, a mother of two, was awarded custody of her children at the time of her divorce. Her ex-husband later sued and became primary custodian of the children after a court ruled he could better provide for them because he earned more money.
Two years later, however, both of Katherine’s children reported sexual abuse by their father, spurring the mother to take steps to regain custody, and to seek justice against the ex-husband.
Katherine first documented what her children said. She had them talk to the authorities and went through the proper legal channels to report the abuse. Both law enforcement officers and Child Protective Services officials substantiated the children’s claims. With facts in hand, Katherine then attempted to gain custody and to have her ex-husband brought to justice.
The court appointed a mental health “expert,” Ann Friemel, to determine whether the ex-husband was guilty of child molestation. The ex-husband paid for this “evaluation,” which relied on the theories of psychiatrist Gardner.
Ignoring evidence of sexual abuse, Friemel dismissed the idea of child molestation and claimed that Katherine suffered from “parental alienation syndrome.” As a result of this labeling, Katherine was prevented from presenting to the court the evidence of sexual abuse she had so carefully collected and was stripped of all custody and visitation rights permanently.
“No One Is Listening”
H. Joan Pennington, executive director of the National Center for Protective Parents, dismisses this new psychiatric label and condemns the lose-either-way situation in which it places mothers.
“In reality,” she says, “what mothers are evincing is a normal reaction to a horrible event: first, disbelief; then, anger; and then a demand for accountability. But no one is listening. No matter how a mother responds to hearing that a person she loved and trusted has violated their child, she will be blamed in some way for having done something wrong.
“If she believes her child but cannot prove the abuse in court, she will be punished by losing custody. If it is found that the child was molested and the mother did not take action, she will lose custody because of her failure to protect the child, which is actionable under child welfare law.”
The label is the latest in an ever-growing pile of psychiatric tags that can be placed on virtually anyone.
Indeed, browsing through psychiatry’s bible, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM), could convince anyone that any problem in life is nothing more than a mental illness. If a child has trouble with figures, he’s got mental illness number 315.1 – “Mathematics Disorder.” If he wrote a bad essay for English class, according to the psychiatrists, he suffers from 315.2 – “Disorder of Written Expression.” If he doesn’t read as well as his classmates, it’s 315 – “Reading Disorder.”
And if he balks at taking out the trash, he’s got ODD – “Oppositional Defiance Disorder” – 313.8.
Even drinking more than two or three cups of coffee qualifies as a mental illness – “Caffeine Intoxication,” number 305.90 – as is “Caffeine-Induced Sleep Disorder.”
While psychiatrists have failed to prove the existence of these maladies, this detail has not prevented the list of “illnesses” from growing each year. In 1952, the DSM contained 112 mental disorders, up from seven in 1880.
In 1968, the updated manual listed 163 mental disorders, including a category of “Behavior Disorders of Childhood and Adolescence.” These new ailments – each of which could be considered a “handicap” – appeared shortly after psychiatry procured federal funding for treating handicapped children. Commentary in the DSM revealed that the listed “disorders” had not been established by scientific evidence but by a committee which voted on whether they existed. Later versions of the DSM used this same “scientific” criterion – “electing” new disorders.
When the latest version of the DSM was published in 1994, the number of disorders jumped to 374. While the manual lists all of these maladies, it admits that no definition specifies precise boundaries for the concept of a “mental disorder.”
Dr. Herb Kutchins, professor of social work at California State University, notes that even tomboys can be classified with gender-related personality disorders, while college students can be labeled alcoholics.
Psychiatrist Al Paredes rejects the DSM as a “masterpiece of political maneuvering” and not a scientific manual at all.
As Dr. Fred A. Baughman Jr., a California pediatric neurologist, states, “The invention of diseases satisfied medical-economic needs. Additional income for growing numbers of psychologists and psychiatrists is generated.”
These labels provide the fraudulent underpinnings for the multibillion-dollar psychiatric industry.
Despite the fact that such mental “illnesses” grow like mushrooms on a damp forest floor, Richard Gardner has yet to have “parental alienation syndrome” endorsed by his normally eager brethren. But that technicality has not deterred him from jumping on the cash bandwagon, charging $250 per hour for “work” he does in the office, $200 per hour for travel time and $500 per hour for courtroom testimony. There’s a $2,500 retainer to boot.
And others are quick to join in. In one recent California “parental alienation syndrome” case, for example, the psychologist involved reaped $63,000.
One of Gardner’s more notorious cases involved two physicists, Marc and Zitta Friedlander, involved in a custody struggle over their two sons. Gardner supported Marc Friedlander’s claims for custody.
While the battle was raging, Marc took things out of the court and into his own hands–literally–by accosting Zitta as she walked to her car after work. He shot her 13 times.
Supported by Gardner, Friedlander then claimed he was insane at the time of the murder. The jury didn’t buy it and convicted him.
In another case, Joyce Wallace, a physician, sued Gardner, stating he had claimed to be a therapist who would help Wallace and her ex-husband get along better, when Gardner had actually been paid by the ex-husband to perform a custody evaluation. While Gardner denied any wrongdoing, Wallace collected $25,000 in settlement.
In an August 1996 ruling, a New York judge debunked Gardner’s theory, stating, “there was no competent medical proof (or for that matter even any evidence) at trial that such a ‘syndrome’ is a recognized diagnosis in the psychiatric field.” A California attorney put it more bluntly, describing it as “a bit of flimflam.”
Nevertheless, a growing trail of ruined lives has followed the use of “parental alienation syndrome” and other psychiatric labels, which at best add only heat and confusion to custody situations that are already emotionally supercharged. All too often, they add further injustice and victimize those who have already been wronged.
According to National Center for Protective Parents director Joan H. Pennington, “A pattern has emerged in thousands of cases across the country, revealing flagrant gender bias against mothers in incest cases and leaving parental child abduction, suicide and murder in its wake.”
Other cases are under scrutiny by Freedom and by the Church of Scientology’s Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR), established in 1969 to investigate and expose psychiatric violations of human rights.
“Parental alienation syndrome is another fraudulent diagnosis from the psychiatric industry, which is looking to garner as much money as possible despite the devastating consequences to children,” said Peter Dockx of CCHR. “The results from the increasing use of this diagnosis in family courts in California and elsewhere is causing untold harm to children and robbing mothers of their sons and daughters.”
CCHR has documented that whenever psychiatry enters the scene, whether it be in schools, courts or some other sphere, suffering and violations of human rights ensue. Since psychiatry insinuated itself into the criminal courts, Dockx noted, the quality of justice has declined and society has become more dangerous. Today, family courts are being perverted and undermined.
“The way to curb the further erosion of the justice system and to prevent destruction of children’s lives,” Dockx said, “is to demand an end to the fraudulent use of psychiatric labels and to get rid of psychiatry in the courts.”
What You Can Do
For more information about the harm caused by psychiatry in the justice system and what can be done about it, order your free copy of Psychiatry: Eradicating Justice from the Citizens Commission on Human Rights at (800) 869-2247 or (323) 467-4242.
If you know of abuses as described in this article, contact Freedom at (323) 960-3500 or the Citizens Commission on Human Rights.