(Note: This article was published together with Personality Disordered Abusers in Family Law Courts . That article focuses on the more general problems encountered in family law disputes involving personality disordered abusers.)
A common opinion of many people suffering harm due to a current or former partner who is a personality disordered abuser is that a psychological evaluation performed for a family law case will describe and label the personality disorder and help protect the victims, including the children and spouse, from the abuser. Disturbingly, this seldom occurs. Instead, what often happens is that the evaluation leads to more conflict and poor outcomes in family law courts that put children and the target parent and their extended family at increased risk of continuing abuse at the hands of the personality disordered abuser and her or his associates.
DSM-IV Axis II Personality Disordered Abusers
DSM-IV is the guide used by mental health care professionals in 2010 to help understand and label (diagnose) mental illnesses. Many of the common types of abusers you find in a family law court suffer from DSM-IV Axis II personality disorders. The most problematic of these are often the cluster B personality disorders known as borderline, narcissistic, antisocial, and histrionic. This is largely because these people are often skilled at credibly portraying themselves as victims and building support networks of people who believe their lies when in fact they are abusers. While there are other types of personality disordered abusers such as those with dissociative identity disorder, dangerous abusers will almost always exhibit characteristics of the borderline, narcissistic, or antisocial personality disorders.
While the causes for people developing these personality disorders are not always entirely clear, often these people were abused as children by one or both parents. Some may be visibly scarred from years of physical and sexual abuse. Most, however, are not so easily identified because their scars lie inside. They may have little or no outwardly visible damage from physical abuse, but their personalities have been severely damaged from being subjected to nearly continuous insults, verbal attacks, emotional invalidation, exposure to adult violence, and other forms of emotional and verbal abuse from one or both of their parents.
The most dangerous personality disordered abusers are those from a subset of these Axis II Cluster B personality disorders. Of these, the “acting out” Borderlines and Narcissists and Antisocials have the most potential to harm others. They are both skilled at manipulating others and tend to have intent to harm others with little, if any, remorse for doing so.
The “acting in” Borderlines and Narcissists and Histrionics tend to hurt themselves more than others. While they can be abusive, it generally is mixed with a lot of self-harm and odd behaviors that are not intended to harm others.
Children and Divorce Tend to Intensify Personality Disorder Behaviors
Those with axis II Cluster B personality disorders often are deeply insecure. This insecurity drives many of their behaviors. They may fear abandonment by their children or spouse, yet view divorce as a way to take control by “owning” the children and “banishing” the spouse from the family home. Often false accusations of domestic violence and child abuse are made to bolster their goals of protecting themselves emotionally by any means possible.
While it is common experience for the vengeful wrath of a Borderline or Narcissist to explode during a divorce, these people nearly always have behaved somewhat similarly for the entire marriage. During a divorce, they may report false or severely distorted accusations of murder threats or even attempted murder, physical abuse, destroying property in displays of physical violence, and other serious accusations that could result in criminal prosecution of their target.
Many of these false accusations are projections. This means that the PDA does these things or is thinking about doing them, but rather than admit to having a problem and dealing with it, the PDA scapegoats the target with false accusations based upon the PDA’s own psychological issues. They are trying to cover up their guilt by making somebody else look bad and calling great attention to it. It is much like the expression “the pot calling the kettle black”, except in this case the pot is black but the kettle is not. The kettle may look black when viewed through a Borderline’s “black and white” television, but normal people with color televisions will realize it is not.
During the marriage, these same people may have been making false accusations of affairs, financial irresponsibility, and other less serious accusations. Often these accusations are based more upon the personality disorder victim’s own shortcomings than any element of truth about the target.
For instance, she herself may be having an affair about which her husband knows nothing or is engaging in drug abuse. She therefore distorts his expressed concerns about her emotional distance and unavailability and what he’s shared about trying to deal with the situation into false accusations of him having an affair or that she’s afraid of him because he’s a violent drug abuser. She will probably spread these lies to dozens of people over a period of months or years, building lie upon lie until the people she is manipulating generally think the husband is a promiscuous and violent drug abuser. Although they have no observations themselves to confirm this and it is not objectively true, they believe it anyway because the wife is so emotionally intense and effective at her manipulation.
Other times, the false accusations are based upon the abuses they suffered as a child. A woman who was sexually abused may accused her husband of sexually abusing their children because she knows it will severely damage him and it emotionally satisfies her to attack and control her husband. To some degree, it may be “retaliation” for sexual abuses committed against her as a child. But it is really more about attaining control via means the abuser knows are effective because she’s used them many times before and seen how well they work. These means usually include false accusations and other tactics that domestic violence activist Erin Pizzey  has labeled family terrorism .
Recognizing Abuse Risks Early
If you see a pattern of exaggerations, blaming, and distortions in your marriage or relationship, you must realize for your own safety that your significant other is highly likely to vastly step up both the number and severity of these statements during the breakup of a relationship and especially during a divorce or child custody battle. Given the way American courts wrongly and habitually take away the rights of the accused without a trial or hearing, you and your children are in severe danger of being separated and badly damaged by false accusations coming from a personality disordered abuser.
If you do not yet have children and believe you may be in a relationship with an abusive Borderline or Narcissist or other PDA, get out of the relationship as soon as you can safely do so. In the meantime, stop engaging in sexual activities with the person. The risks of having children with such a partner are dire. Bringing children into such a relationship is like lighting off fireworks in a room full of explosives. PDAs are often triggered into much worse behaviors by having children. Not only will you be badly hurt, but your children and likely also your extended family will be, too.
Typical Harm to Victims of the PDA
If you are living with a PDA and get a divorce, you are likely to be subjected to very serious false accusations. You are likely to be kicked out of your home and banned from seeing your children. Your personal property and records will probably taken and withheld from you. You may have identity theft and other privacy and financial crimes committed against you, then the PDA may try to claim you signed documents that she or he altered or forged to break the law. You will likely be falsely accused of domestic violence.
You will probably be accused of child abuse if you have children. Even if you do not have children, you may find yourself falsely accused of child abuse if you spend time around children of people who are aligned with the PDA. Many of these cases escalate to false accusations of child sexual abuse and sexual assault.
You are likely to be detained or arrested by police, have your home invaded and property taken by CPS social workers or police investigating the false allegations.
This is hardly a complete list. What I can state from personal experience and that of friends who have endured similar disasters is that you probably can’t predict what will happen next because it may become truly bizarre. The certainty is that you will be living in fear of what the PDA will do next to your family and you.
Given that some or all of these things occur to you, you would understandably regard the PDA in your life as a danger to you and your family. Yet if you assert this, there are foolish incompetent judges who will disparage you for your belief, particularly if you believe this about a female PDA. They cannot comprehend the living nightmare these people make for their victims and think that it is perfectly acceptable and routine conduct for them to be making false accusations that result in the persecution of their targets.
Such judges believe that it is wholly unacceptable to publicly state what is happening and why and that the targets should let themselves be attacked and harassed repeatedly for years with no defense or recourse unless perhaps they are willing to spend profusely to litigate, keeping judges and lawyers fully employed. But even when a target parent or their extended family has the finances to litigate, the courts will not usually defend victims of a PDA.
If you are being attacked by a female PDA, you are in particularly dire straights as many people including these incompetent judges have trouble understanding that a female can be as or more violent and criminal than a male and that this is common in personality disordered abusive females. While typically it is males who bear the worst brunt of abuse from female PDAs, women can be targets, too. For instance, I recall reading accounts of an abused lesbian woman who was terrorized by her ex-partner who was a female PDA that she believed suffered from Borderline Personality Disorder.
The double standard that exists for knowingly making false criminal allegations versus alleging a personality disorder in good faith with reasonable evidence to support it is truly bizarre and a prime example of how distorted and destructive family law courts have become.
A personality disorder is not a crime and may be a treatable psychological condition. It does not result in the persecution of the person with the disorder. Unlike the people they have victimized with their false abuse and criminal allegations, they are not banned from their homes and contact with their children or put on domestic violence and child abuser black lists that stigmatize them, impair their ability to work, and leave them wondering if it is even safe to step foot in public.
By contrast, alleging that somebody has committed sexual assault, child abuse, domestic violence, and many other false allegations made in family law cases potentially subjects the accused to criminal prosecution. Even when there is no criminal prosecution, the accused is still treated as a criminal simply by accusation because of the unjust behaviors of family law courts. Such serious false allegations usually result in the accused being treated as a criminal, being kicked out of the home, banned from seeing the children, having a restraining order placed upon them, and being put on law enforcement black lists as spousal beaters and child abusers. All of this continues for months or years without proof, hearing, or trial.
American courts today regard this unconstitutional abuse as acceptable and routine conduct. This may be because it protects the political reputations of judges who would rather persecute 1000 innocent people than fail to protect one person from a real abuser and have that disclosed during an election. However, it is well established that none of these measures constitutes any real protection against violence.
There are countless examples of people on whom a restraining order was slapped who then later attacked the protected party. Some of them did so because they were truly violent or believed they are above the law. Others may have never been violent but were so outraged by the endless abuses against them that they came to believe that they will always be treated as criminals unless they can make the abuser stop. They may have tried to make the abuse stop by publicly disclosing what the PDA is doing, writing some nasty emails, or leaving a voicemail complaining about the abuse and asking it to stop. Every one of these things is likely to result in the persecution, arrest, and possible prosecution of the victim who is once against victimzed by the PDA, this time with the government pulling the proverbial trigger to blast yet another hole in their lives.
Psychological Evaluations Often Flawed
Even those who have spent a small fortune, even $50,000 or more, on one or more psychological evaluations with top-rated psychologists are likely find that evident personality disorders were not labeled or addressed adequately. Often the mentally healthier parents, the target parents, are dinged for their reactions to unrelenting abuse as if they are the abusers. This sets the stage for the partner who is primarily the victim of abuse to be treated as if he or she is the abuser. This can even happen if they have disclosed their beliefs that the abusive parent is suffering from a personality disorder and backed it up with plentiful examples of behaviors and sources to obtain verification of the long-standing destructiveness of the suspected personality disordered abuser.
There are a wide variety of reasons why psychological evaluations fail at identifying personality disorders and putting in protections to help stop the abuse. I’ll discuss several of the reasons next.
Failure to Make and Appropriately Consider Investigative Contacts
Sometimes evaluators refuse to contact family members of the suspected personality disorder victim who could confirm the person’s pattern of abusive behaviors going back into childhood. Other times, they contact the personality disorder victim’s sources and are fed extensive misinformation including outright lies about matters small and large. The evaluators cannot determine the truth easily.
There is often no little to no objective evidence of what happened. What evidence does exist can be spun or altered by many means including modification of documents, recordings, videos, and photographs, forgeries, and staging.
Staging is common with personality disordered abusers. They will attack or provoke the target, then record what the target does in response, then spin this as a claim they are the victims of abuse. For example, the abuser may verbally berate, threaten, and intimidate the target then record the understandably upset response. Then this recorded response may be used to convince many other people the victim is the abuser and the abuser is the victim.
A common means of staging is to play passive/aggressive games with the target parent using actions that cannot be well documented. For instance, the PDA may jerk around the exchange schedule unpredictably, request alterations, then refuse to respond to communications about the request. She may then “change her mind” at the last possible minute and then blame the target parent for being uncooperative and not communicating.
The target parent may eventually respond with a hostile email, voicemail, or letter that when you consider what the PDA has been doing it seems actually tame. But the PDA will then take these written or recorded responses and spread them around to people she wishes to influence along with stories about the target parent being an abusive bully. People will believe her lies readily because she appears to be backing them up with evidence and has told so many similar stories for months or years. Yet there is no doubt somebody who knows the full scope of what she has done would consider her the abuser.
Spreading lies and distortions so that the target parent may hear of some of them but cannot prove anything easily is another technique to push the buttons of the target parent to make them appear irrationally hostile to people who do not understand what the abuser is doing. Basically anything that the abuser can do to solicit a hostile reaction from the target can be twisted into a means to falsely demonstrate that the target is the abuser and the abuser is the victim.
People often think that photographs do not lie, but abusers can use them to lie easily. Here I give a vastly simplified example of portions of a real family law dispute involving manipulated and misrepresented photographs while omitting any identifying details. Yet the abuser in this story is still likely to attack somebody over this factually accurate information being stated in public even though the only people who would be able to recognize this story are the people she has abused or manipulated. Even then, they would have no confidence that it is about her because these kinds of skillful manipulations and false allegations are typical of PDAs.
A parent portraying herself as a victim of a violent and dangerous husband shows you a picture of her husband standing taking photographs with a long telephoto lens. She claims he’s hiding in the bushes and stalking her and hides outside her home and does this, too. She spreads these pictures around to police, CPS, her psychologist, the children’s therapist, churches, and other places (possibly including teachers, doctors, friends, family, husband’s coworkers, etc.) to portray her husband, whom she is divorcing, as a stalker who hides in bushes to photograph and harass her. She convinces you that he’s a monster as this is about the fourth or fifth example of his hateful and bizarre behavior that she’s mentioned to you and now she has real photographs to demonstrate what he is doing. You’ve never discussed it with him and have never met him, but she’s been complaining about him for years so you believe her stories.
Reality in this case, however, was far different from what you were told to believe.
The husband was a target parent. The wife was a masterful manipulator with malicious intent.
The husband and his psychologist, after examining her writings, court declarations, testimony, and a psychological evaluation, to this day continue to believe she suffers from one or more axis II personality disorders. There are other mental health professionals who have worked with both the wife and husband who think similarly of her. Her childhood history of self-disclosed physical, verbal, emotional, and sexual abuse is consistent with that of many personality disorder victims. There is plenty of sound objective reason to believe that she likely is a personality disordered abuser, yet the psychological evaluator on the case specifically denied that she suffers from the personality disorder considered most likely by the husband.
The wife’s psychologist is unable to see through her charade because she is very effective at controlling information flow and portraying herself as a victim. The wife’s psychologist has probably never seen the court reports and findings that she is not credible, that she falsely accused the father of domestic violence, falsely accused him of child sexual abuse, and coached their children to back up her stories. She is able to influence the psychological evaluator to deny her client has a personality disorder. She is probably unaware of the multiple other mental health professionals who think otherwise but cannot, given their professional conduct rules and concerns about subjecting themselves to the wife’s attacks, say much about their opinion of the wife.
In the pictures the wife spread to manipulate others to be sympathetic to her and to despise her husband, the husband was shooting pictures of a custody exchange in progress from about 100 yards away by using a high magnification lens on a digital SLR camera. These custody exchanges were very difficult because the wife violated restraining orders, entered his car without permission, acted aggressively hostile, caused the children to cry at exchanges because of her emotional problems, tried to delay and interfere with the husband’s time with the kids, and violated court orders repeatedly. The children’s therapist suggested that photographing the exchanges in this manner might both protect the parties being falsely accused and not be so intrusive as to unduly alarm the wife.
The wife’s most common violations at the time were to either refuse to leave the exchange site (a public park) after dropping the children off with a third party exchanger and to act as if she was leaving and then return before the husband and children left the park. Besides this being a violation of court instructions designed to make custody exchanges peaceful and easy for the children, this was a problem because she continually represented that the husband was dangerous and she was afraid of him and continued to file false police reports and make other false allegations against him. Several months earlier, she falsely accused the husband of domestic violence and duped the court into kicking him out of their home and banning him from seeing their children. Later, after she falsely accused him of child sexual abuse, he was repeatedly restricted to supervised visitations and no contact periods, sometimes for weeks and other times for periods of more than a year, because of her old and new false allegations against him.
The wife’s typical response to a court order she doesn’t like is to make yet another false allegation or to refuse to cooperate with the court orders and to do so in a way that attempts to incite a reaction from the husband. For instance, making last-minute changes to exchange locations and times to make it likely the husband would show up in the wrong place or at the wrong time was a frequent tactic she used to harass him.
The husband wanted her to go away after turning the children over to a “third party exchanger” before he arrived in the park to pick up the children like the court instructed her to do because he didn’t want to be anywhere near her as it could enable her to make more false accusations against him. He and his family were threatened with arrest because of her past false accusations that later turned out to be lies upon investigation. She insisted upon using a “third party exchanger” that was somebody who was a closely aligned friend of hers, contrary both to what she represented to the husband and also contrary to the intent of the court to keep the custody exchanger neutral and agreeable to both parents. Thus this person could not be trusted, either. Even though she had been given court guidelines on how to perform custody exchanges, she often ignored them.
The husband and his relatives believed that having him keep a distance from the exchanges would help keep him safe from false allegations and that they were much less likely to be successfully targeted by the wife using her false allegations. Thus they often participated in these exchanges by taking over the supervision of the kids from the “third party exchanger” to get the wife to leave before the husband would approach the site.
The husband believed that photographing the exchanges would help keep them all safe from the wife’s false accusations, not understanding how she would use what he was doing legally and in compliance with court orders to incite many people to dislike and distrust him and his relatives.
The wife had somebody hide in bushes at the park and secretly take pictures of her husband. She did not reveal to anybody that the court orders specifically authorized the husband’s photographs with intent of keeping the exchanges cooperative and in compliance with court orders.
The photos she spread around were very blurry due to poor photography, possibly including digital zoom that creates very blurry pictures, so people were likely to believe what she claimed because it was hard to interpret the photos due to their flaws.
However, somebody who knows the site, unlike the people to whom the wife showed the pictures, would recognize that the husband was standing along a public street beyond a fence surrounding the public park. In the photographs she spread around accompanied by her dishonest stories, vehicles and houses are directly behind him, as is the public road, making it easy for somebody familiar with the site to identify approximately where he was standing. He was in plain view from the street and from the park and was not hiding at all.
She did not reveal that the police department had examined the court orders and was aware of the husband taking these photographs and suggested to him good locations from which he could take them. Nor did she convey that such photographs of a public location are by their very nature not illegal, even without those court orders. Instead, she portrayed her husband as a stalker who was obsessed with her. Yet he was acting according to law and court orders and was in fear for his freedom, reputation, and safety because of her abusive behaviors.
The court years later made findings that the wife’s accusations of domestic violence and child sexual abuse were false, but gave her sole physical and legal custody because she was supposedly doing a good job as a parent, the husband was despised, maligned, and lied about by many people because of the wife’s successful manipulations of them and him, and he hadn’t seen the children much in years because of her false allegations and the court’s slow and incompetent handling of them.
The judge in the case also had a personal axe to grind with the husband. The judge didn’t like the husband’s public criticism of the judge’s own misconduct and police and CPS misconduct in the case including violations of federal and state laws. Thus the judge was further biased to side with the wife and disregarded nearly everything stated by the psychological evaluator. The judge appears to have attempted to hide the motivation for bias by ruling certain of the wife’s court submissions that disclosed the husband’s criticisms of the court as inadmissible. In the judge’s view, retaliation is thus possible without an appeals court being able to toss out the verdict because an appeals court cannot consider what the judge heard and saw that was declared inadmissible. Yet to an outside party aware of all of this, it is difficult to view the judge’s actions and decisions as anything but seriously biased and flawed.
You can see how this wife has lied by misportraying poor quality photographs, failing to mention pertinent information, and overall misrepresenting nearly everything about the situation. Yet she was very convincing and managed to gain or reinforce the errant beliefs of dozens of allies from this deceit alone. None of her allies know that the court later found her to have falsely accused the husband of domestic violence and child sexual abuse because she hides that information from them.
Personality disordered abusers are expert at convincing others of their versions of reality. They know how to plant the seeds of misinformation and water them with more lies over periods of years, even decades, to grow hatred for their targets and cultivate alliances with the dupes they target to gain support for their agenda of control via hate and terror.
There is no way a psychological evaluator can realistically conduct a psychological evaluation on each and every contact, so they are often left with uncertainty about the honest, alignment, and motivations of the contacts. They may decide to just go with the perceptions that seem most common. Obviously this risks aligning with a maliciously manipulative parent who has been spreading distortions about the other parent. Since they tend to be very good at this, there may be literally hundreds of people they have convinced to hate their targets via manipulation and far fewer people who have an objective and accurate view of what is occurring. It’s tyranny by majority vote, stamped and certified by a poor psychological evaluator and in many cases an even worse judge.
Evaluators Believe Diagnosing Axis II PDs Will Create More Animosity
This is likely to sound very strange, but I’ve heard it from multiple sources so believe it is common. An evaluator who believes that a parent suffers from an axis II personality disorder will seldom mention this. They believe such a label is stigmatizing and may create more animosity. So even when they know it is likely accurate, they will avoid applying such a label.
One experienced evaluator told me that in multiple decades of doing custody and psychological evaluations, the evaluator has only applied the label “Borderline Personality Disorder” once. Yet the evaluator believes that such axis II personality disorders are very common in family law disputes.
Some evaluators may even go so far as to deny the accuracy of a personality disorder label if it is applied by the target parent in an attempt to deal with the destruction caused by the PDA. They may deny it even when the evidence presented by the target parent supports it and the target parent has good-faith reasons to believe it, especially after being told that it is likely the case by other mental health professionals. This conduct by an evaluator is very problematic and in my view grossly irresponsible. Essentially, the evaluator perpetuates a deception in order to avoid angering the PDA, even though it will severely undermine the credibility of the target parent and is likely to result in further harm to the children and family.
It would be far more responsible for an evaluator to state that the target parent may be unintentionally worsening the conflict by applying a personality disorder label, but that trying to name something is a fundamental concept and that the name, although subjective, may be accurate. For this reason, the evaluator is not going to make a diagnosis but also will not deny there is basis for the target parent’s attempt at a diagnosis. Yes, that does sound like a lot of beating around the bush, but at least it doesn’t come off sounding to an incompetent judge like the target parent is not credible and the PDA is A-OK.
Diagnostic Labels Are Fuzzy, So Evaluators Won’t Apply Them
The precise labels for axis II personality disorders are very fuzzy. Whether a person has BPD or NPD can be a matter of great debate as many of the same behaviors satisfy both conditions. The same is true for Antisocial and Histrionic Personality Disorders, too.
Many evaluators take the easy way out and refuse to apply a label rather than listing multiple labels that may fit. Possibly some are not willing to admit how imprecise and subjective psychology is, but I think it has more to do with the realization that as many symptoms fit multiple DSM-IV disorders it is hard to apply a label with any certainty that it cannot be successfully challenged. If the label is challenged successfully, then the evaluator’s credibility may be called into question. Thus the evaluators have incentive to apply no labels whatsoever as it is difficult to challenge a lack of a diagnostic label.
The problem with failing to apply some diagnostic labels is that it makes it very hard to discuss what is going wrong and how to deal with it. It is like trying to discuss “cancer” in some generic sense and not being able to discuss what kind of cancer, where it is, whether it has metastasized, and so forth. Without that diagnostic information that is easily summed up into a phrase such as “stage 2 prostate cancer”, it is difficult to even start to discuss what kind of treatment to pursue.
Thus in my view, the failure to apply diagnostic labels for axis II personality disorders that is so common in psychological evaluations contributes to the inability to get effective treatments for parties who need it. It also directly contributes to the failure of courts to put in place protective measures to allow the personality disordered parent to maintain contact with the kids without turning their lives and the lives of other family members into a living hell.
Psychologists Often Fail to Tell the Whole Truth
The end result of a conflict with a PDA is often that the PDA looks credible and the victim looks like a nutcase. Psychologists who have worked with people subjected to years of abuse know that it has deep and lasting effects on the victims and can cause them to exhibit hostile emotional reactions to the abuser when they are subjected to continuing abusive conduct. They may point out to the victim that they are suffering from mood-influenced thinking and at the same time citing how virtually anybody attacked likewise would be having similar reactions. Such reactions may be called out as maladaptive as opposing a PDA tends to generate even more attacks. However, they also know that responding to the aggression defensively does not mean the victim is an abuser. They may be mentally ill, the same way that a soldier who witnesses his friends slaughtered mercilessly may experience mental illness in the form of anxiety, depression, and even PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). Yet they did not cause this illness, the abuser did. The courts, CPS, and police may have also contributed significantly to psychologically traumatizing the target parent.
Yet these same psychologists are often unable or unwilling to help in a court setting. Many of them may fervently believe the PDA is suffering from an axis II personality disorder and the victim is unsurprisingly having difficulty dealing with the endless abuse. But when called to testify, they will often refuse to express their opinions because they believe that they cannot state their beliefs and appear professionally objective without repeatedly meeting with the PDA. This may be the case even if they have seen and read the PDA’s writings, court filings, and court testimony and it is clear to them the PDA is dishonest and manipulative. So the perceived rules of professional conduct for psychologists result in the PDA not being called on the carpet for evident abuses. The targets end up looking nutty to the many poorly trained or biased judges who do not understand how and why psychologists are behaving this way.
Such judges may even overrule the recommendations of psychological evaluators who understood the PDA is personality disordered and outlined methods to deal with the problem but refused to label the PDA as such because of a belief that it will simply make the PDA even more angry, potentially at them, too. Given the vindictiveness that PDAs tend to display towards those who don’t do as they say, a psychologist or evaluator may rightly be concerned about being draged into a lawsuit or license disciplinary action because of retaliation by a PDA if they label the PDA as having a personality disorder.
There is an inherent conflict of interest in that mental health professionals are at risk of retaliation if they state their professional beliefs about what is happening in a case involving a PDA. In one case of which I am aware, a mental health professional went on record with opinions of a problem parent’s behaviors including false accusations of attempted murder and other behaviors typical of a PDA. The PDA attacked the license of the mental health professional as retaliation, triggering a disciplinary investigation. Mental health professionals who have worked with PDAs know that they are potentially going to be targets if they say or do anything that displeases a PDA, even if it was legal and appropriate. The psychological and financial cost of defending oneself from such unjustified attack can be substantial, so they are hesitant to tell the truth because of the potential personal cost.
In the end, it is in many people’s interests to not attack the PDA’s deceptions and manipulations and reveal them for what they are. It is safer to side with the PDA against the target to at least some degree to avoid being drawn into the line of fire. Many psychologists, including those doing custody and psychological evaluations, will readily participate in this deceptive charade because they believe it is safer for them personally to do so.
Target Who Labels Abuser As Having A Personality Disorder Invites Ridicule
Shockingly, the very act of a target parent labeling the abuser as likely having a personality disorder will often be used as an excuse to subject the target to further mistreatment by the evaluator and family law court. For instance, the target may be ridiculed for having opinions on the abuser’s mental health without having a degree in psychology. This ridicule is often extended to question the target’s entire credibility about everything in the dispute. Even if the target can prove with evidence many of the statements he or she has made, many family law judges are bottom of the bucket in skills and experience and are readily duped by a masterful manipulator to such a degree that they may refuse to even examine evidence supporting the target’s assertions.
The judges who engage in this foolishness are grossly uninformed about the psychology of personality disorders. Even trained Ph.D. level psychologists can take years to reach an accurate diagnosis of a patient. This is in part because they lack objective and accurate information about the personality disorder patient who is likely to lack any real understanding of their role in starting and continuing conflicts. Personality disorder abusers often truly believe that they are victims, probably because most of them were once victims of abuse by one or both of their parents. Target parents often have very objective and accurate information on the abuser’s behaviors because they have lived with the abuser and know exactly how they behave.
While even target parents are often duped by the abusers into believing lies, it is much less likely they will have an inaccurate perception about how the abuser acts inside the family. While living with such an abuser is miserable, they are in very good position to assess the mental health of the abuser. Target parents who have spent some time in therapy with the abuser and learned about the mental health problems they appear to have may be far more capable of determining the nature of the abuser’s mental health problems than most psychologists who lack training in personality disorders and/or the direct observations of the abuser’s family behaviors.
Judges who ignore this and believe a mental health professional who does not diagnose a personality disorder is correct are grossly ignorant of the realities of the difficulty of diagnosing an abuser’s personality disorder and the many reasons why evaluators avoid applying such diagnostic labels even if they believe they are accurate. These mental health professionals have seriously impaired ability to determine what is really going on because they lack the personal insight into the abuser’s conduct over many years and the direct observation of the bizarre behaviors of a personality disordered abuser as they function inside the family, the situation in which the abuser is most likely to show her or his true colors. Personality disordered abusers are often adept at portraying themselves as innocent victims to people outside the family and they spend considerable energy doing so to build social support networks, “armies of minions” as I like to call them, which they can manipulate to achieve their goals of controlling the people around them and especially controlling and harming their targets.
Poor Evaluations and Poor Judges Lead to More Abuse
Not only is the court punishing the target of abuse unjust, it further increases the severity and duration of the disaster being experienced by the family. The refusal to deal appropriately with those afflicted by personality disorders and their abusive behaviors is part of the reason why psychological evaluations and custody evaluations as they are performed today are often highly destructive wastes of money that perpetuate and exacerbate conflict.
In many, perhaps most, cases involving PDAs, the courts reward the abusers for their abuse. The government sides with the abusers and becomes a participant in the abuse of children and target parents. Poor family law judges are among the worst child abusers. They frequently place children with the abusive parent, put wrongful and harmful restrictions on the contact with the target parent, and are directly responsible for abuses that continue to be inflicted upon the children and the target parent.
Judges may ridicule a target parent for believing he or she is a target of persecution. Even when judges acknowledges that the target parents were falsely accused of domestic violence, child abuse, or other crimes, they often disregard this and act as if false accusations are acceptable conduct for a family law case because they see so many of these false accusations in their courts. But if the target parent tried to defuse or respond to the attacks on them and did anything that looks odd or unusual to people who do not understand the level of abuse being inflicted, the target parent can expect a poorly educated family law judge to attack, denigrate, and punish them for their actions, even if those actions were legal.
Psychological evaluators who should be helping judges to understand that a person being repeatedly abused is eventually likely to fight back often fail to do their jobs in this area. This is a major flaw of many psychological evaluations. They portray the victim’s response as maladaptive and destructive when they also need to be pointing out how it is not unusual for an abused party who is being lied about and attacked to want to set the record straight and to defend themselves. They also need to be explaining to judges that it is very difficult for a person who has not experienced these types of abuses and false accusations to understand how much damage they cause.
Judges who cannot understand that victims of abuse who attempt to defend themselves are not inherently being abusive should not be serving in family law courts. They are responsible for causing a huge amount of damage to children and families. Despite this, they often continue to directly assist child abusers for years or decades. The public needs methods to remove these judges from office, but unfortunately this is far easier said than done. Voters who have not been through the nightmares caused by a personality disordered abuser generally cannot comprehend the complexity of the deceit, lies, and manipulations. They will often mistakenly think that a judge is being appropriately punitive when in fact the judge is being punitive to the wrong party. Correcting this may require a massive education and public awareness campaign to inform the average citizen of how personality disordered abusers function, how common they are, and why often the person they perceive as the abuser may in fact be the victim of abuse.
A take-no-prisoners condemnation of psychiatric experts being waved into the witness box, this account trashes psychiatry in general as a quack profession. Hagen (a psychology professor) assails most of the diagnostic tools of the field in her text, which roams among court cases whose outcome hinged on the testimony of mental-health experts. Her fundamental contention is that psychiatry is a junk science whose theories when extended to matters of legal culpability go against common sense. Indeed, Hagen assumes the posture of that legendary legalism, the “reasonable person,” and her prose is peppered with exclamations and rhetorical questions like “Who could believe that?” which might annoy as many readers as it might convince about whatever points are in question. Among them are such topically current items as battered-wife syndrome, recovered memory claims, post-traumatic stress syndrome, and urban psychosis claims. The average person could easily encounter in divorce and child custody litigation the situations Hagen vigorously complains of, so her energetic attack could gain considerable attention. Gilbert Taylor