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Most scams, such as sub-prime mortgages and email scams, victimize adults. But custody scams victimize children. When government fails to protect children it throws open the doors to private contractors—lawyers and clinicians—who enrich themselves at the expense of children. (More about this child and the mother who tried to protect her appears below.)

Monday, January 14, 2008

Alienation smacks of Stockholm Syndrome

This letter to the editor by Anne Grant appeared in the Providence Journal 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.

About the mother and child pictured at the top

On February 21, 1992, Rhode Island Family Court's Chief Judge Jeremiah Jeremiah gave this two-year-old to the sole custody and possession of her father despite his history of domestic violence and failure to pay child support. The father, a police officer, brought false charges against his ex-wife, first saying she was a drug addict. (Twenty-two random tests proved she was not.) Then he had her arrested for bank fraud, then for filing a false report, then for sexual abuse, then for kidnapping. None of his charges stuck.

The child remained with her father and stepmother until 2003, when, at 14, she finally realized that her mother had not been a drug addict. The teenager persuaded Judge Stephen Capineri to let her return to her mother. There she began working on the painful issues of lifelong coercion and deception--a tangled knot of guilt and rage. Most painful has been her father’s continuing refusal to let her visit two dearly loved half-sisters, whom she has not seen since 2003.

She is one of countless children in Rhode Island subjected to severe emotional and physical trauma by Family Court when it helps abusive parents to maintain control over their families after divorce. When she turned 18 in 2007, she gave the Parenting Project permission to publish her picture on behalf of all children who have been held hostage by Rhode Island custody scams.

We are using this blog to provide links to stories that will help concerned people, including government officials, become aware of this form of child abuse and legal abuse. We must work together to improve the courts' ability to recognize the signs of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in victims of domestic abuse who are trying to protect their children.

PLEASE NOTE: If you are looking for the story of the removal of "Molly and Sara," please visit

About the Author and the Cause

Parenting Project is a volunteer community service begun in 1996 at Mathewson Street United Methodist Church, Providence, RI, to focus on the needs of children at risk in Family Court custody cases. Our goal is to make Rhode Island's child protective system more effective, transparent, and accountable.

The Parenting Project coordinator, Anne Grant, a retired minister and former executive director of Rhode Island's largest shelter for battered women and their children, researches and writes about official actions that endanger children and the parents who try to protect them. She wrote a chapter on Rhode Island in Domestic Violence, Abuse, and Child Custody: Legal Strategies and Policy Issues, ed. Mo Therese Hannah, PhD, and Barry Goldstein, JD (Civic Research Institute, 2010).

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Find out more about the crisis in custody courts here: provides forensic resources to end violence against women

about domestic violence in hague custody cases:

more about domestic violence in law enforcement: