Case Study: A mother’s experience of parental alienation

‘She would come back from access and tell me I was fat’

Photograph: Kane Skennar/Getty Images.

Photograph: Kane Skennar/Getty Images.

 

Anne* is divorced from her husband and has not seen her daughter for seven years.

Soon after the separation, she noticed her nine-year-old beginning to complain to her.

“She would come back from access and tell me I was fat,” Anne says.

Her daughter would tell her their pet dogs were “rubbish” and the area they were living in was “full of bad people”. It would take her days to settle back into a routine.

“The indoctrination of my child was going on unknown to me; it was like a nightmare, like something you’d see on the telly.”

She remembers the last day she kissed “the child I reared up to the age of nine”. She was going to spend time with her father over the Easter holidays. Then her daughter phoned to ask if she could stay a little longer.

Anne says her husband brought her daughter to a psychologist and got a report that labelled her a bad mother.

“The psychologist had never met me,” she says.

She sought the help of gardaí to have her daughter returned, but when she came back she was “a different child”.

“She screamed and roared and howled . . . she said she was at risk with me.”

On another occasion her daughter told her that if ever anything happened, she should know she would love her forever.

In court, the father was given custody of their daughter. By the time the case came to the High Court, Anne had gotten an expert of her own. The judge did everything he could to help her, but told her “your daughter does not want to see you”.

Anne says she knows fathers have been getting a raw deal for years, but it is happening to women too.

“Most women are afraid to talk about it because of the stigma; people think you have to have done something. It took a long time for me to realise I was not the only one.”

*Name changed for legal reasons