The Feminist Family Law Movement claims that abusive fathers often employ Parental Alienation as a way to wrest custody from protective mothers in family court. They push for reforms which will make it easier to deny fathers shared custody or visitation rights based on unsubstantiated abuse claims. They also push for laws to exclude evidence of Parental Alienation in family law proceedings.
The FFLM has promoted several cause celebre cases in recent years as a way to garner public sympathy and political support for their agenda. I’ve investigated many of these cases and have found the FFLM’s claims about them to be very inaccurate. I detailed several of these, including the high-profile Genia Shockome and Sadia Loeliger cases, in a co-authored column here.
The most recent of the FFLM’s cause celebre cases is the Holly Collins case. Collins fled to Holland with her two children in 1993, claiming that her husband had abused the children and that she needed to flee to protect them. Last year I appeared on a Fox national TV show with Geraldo Rivera and Jennifer Collins, Holly’s 24-year-old daughter who supports her mother’s version of events. Jennifer Collins claims she’s a victim of her father’s false claims of Parental Alienation.
At the time of the TV show, which can be seen here, I thought it might be another fake case, but I also thought it might well be true. As I’ve said and written numerous times, I’ve never doubted that such cases are possible, though they’re not very common. For example, in my co-authored column Protect Children from Alienation (Providence Journal, 7/8/06), I wrote:
[T]here are fathers who have alienated their own children through their abuse or personality defects, and who attempt to shift the blame to their children’s mothers by falsely claiming PAS. Yet parental alienation is a common, well-documented phenomenon. For example, a longitudinal study published by the American Bar Association in 2003 followed 700 “high conflict” divorce cases over a 12 year period and found that elements of PAS were present in the vast majority of the cases studied.
As the Holly Collins case continued to grow in prominence, I decided to investigate it–my detailed, 10,000 word analysis of the case, which cited all of the case’s key court records, documents, etc., can be found here.
Upon investigation it became very apparent that what we were told by Holly, Jennifer, and their allies about the Holly Collins case was very inaccurate. Subsequent to my investigation, Holly and Jennifer Collins and their FFLM allies have endlessly vilified me on the Internet. However, despite the fact that Jennifer has repeatedly written that she has all of the court documents from her mother’s case in her possession, neither Holly nor Jennifer nor their allies have done the obvious–go through the 30 separate problems I detail with Holly’s version of events and attempt to debunk them one by one.
I would add that from the moment I wrote up my analysis of each of these three cases–Loeliger (here), Shockome (here), and Collins (here)–not one of these previously prominent cases has received even a small bit of mainstream media attention.
The new Joyce Murphy case, however, is different. From 10News I-Team Reporter Lauren Reynolds’ La Jolla Mom Says She Kidnapped Daughter To Protect Her:
Joyce Murphy…is a 20-year employee of the University of California, San Diego, and was married to Henry Parson when her daughter was born…as their child grew, Murphy said, her husband’s behavior became disturbing.
“He would wake me up at two o’clock in the morning, tell me about pornography he’d seen and wanted to reenact, and it was pornography about kids.”
She became frightened of his post traumatic stress disorder from his tour in Vietnam, which included a story about raping villagers. She filed for divorce in 2002 when her daughter was 6.
A battle ensued in San Diego County Family Court over custody of the little girl.
Murphy claimed that her daughter was afraid of Parson.
“She would cry if she had to be left with him,” said Murphy.
The young girl told a doctor that when Parson was angry he pushed down on her shoulders and injured her. The doctor reported it to Child Protective Service, which Murphy said termed the incident inconclusive…
Parsons was granted immediate overnight visits.
“And I just broke,” said Murphy. “I thought, either I go to jail or I protect my child. It was like a primal instinct.”
Murphy took her daughter and ran. She was arrested in Florida, brought to San Diego and tossed in jail.
She eventually pleaded no contest to felony kidnapping, accepting the charge without admitting guilt. She was placed on probation…
“And I thought, all I’m trying to do is protect my little girl from someone I know is a danger,” said Murphy.
So she waited and worried for six years, until a call last November. Murphy had to pick up her daughter, because another young girl had bravely come forward, accusing Parson of molesting her. Parson was now the one behind bars…
The criminal complaint charges Parson with hurting three girls, two of them younger than 14 years old. The charges include oral sex with a child, molestation, possessing child porn and using a child to make porn.
A report from the District Attorney’s Office said, “The defendant’s computers and camera were seized … revealed numerous photographs of young girls.”
Using those photographs, an Oceanside police officer was able to identify and speak with one of the girls, which led to more charges against Parson.
Joyce Murphy feels vindicated, but it’s bittersweet.
“I blame the entire family court system,” she said, “because they are not held accountable”…
Joyce Murphy said Family Court’s only good decision in her case was granting her full permanent custody of her daughter after her ex husband was jailed.
Henry Parson’s daughter is not one of the victims alleged in the criminal complaint.
One of the organizations which supports Murphy is Stop Family Violence. We have clashed with them repeatedly over the years, including:
During our successful campaign against PBS’ anti-father documentary Breaking the Silence, Irene Weiser of Stop Family Violence (along with the National Organization for Women) urged supporters to counter our protest by calling PBS in support of the program.
Weiser and NOW’s Marcia Pappas countered my co-authored column NOW at 40: Group’s Opposition to Shared Parenting Contradicts Its Goal of Gender Equality (New York Daily News, 7/27/06) with their op-ed Fathers’ Responsibilities Before Fathers’ Rights.
Stop Family Violence publicly supported Genia Shockome and Holly Collins.
Stop Family Violence, to their credit, did get it right on Joyce Murphy–here’s their write-up.
In Murphy’s recent testimony to California legislators, she said the problem in her case was her ex-husband’s repeated claims of Parental Alienation. The real problem is that, in part because there are so many false accusations and unnecessarily contentious custody cases, courts don’t have the time to properly investigate charges of abuse. Often they simply default against the accused (usually the father). At other times, they suspect the mother’s allegations but don’t thoroughly investigate them, instead defaulting against her claims.
Lorna Alksne, the supervising judge of the San Diego County Family Court, told the reporter writing about the Murphy case that “each judge must juggle between 200 and 300 cases every month. She said the judges read before work, after work and during breaks to be prepared for their full day of hearings.”
What’s needed is a system which properly and impartially investigates claims, so that children like Murphy’s daughter are protected, but women like Shockome and Collins are unable to use false claims to drive their ex-husbands out of their children’s lives.
Organizations like Stop Family Violence could play a positive role here by actively counseling women not to make false claims–claims which can lead courts to suspect or not act on the accusations made by legitimately protective mothers like Joyce Murphy. And one way for Stop Family Violence to start would be to publicly disavow false accusers such as Collins, Loeliger, and Shockome.