February 23, 2017 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization
Back in 2000, Dr. Nancy Faulkner reprised the information on parental child abduction here. She made it clear that the state of the science was that parental child abduction is child abuse. Indeed, the title of her piece was “Parental Child Abduction is Child Abuse.”
"Because of the harmful effects on children, parental kidnapping has been characterized as a form of child abuse" reports Patricia Hoff, Legal Director for the Parental Abduction Training and Dissemination Project, American Bar Association on Children and the Law. Hoff explains:
"Abducted children suffer emotionally and sometimes physically at the hands of abductor-parents. Many children are told the other parent is dead or no longer loves them. Uprooted from family and friends, abducted children often are given new names by their abductor-parents and instructed not to reveal their real names or where they lived before." (Hoff, 1997)
Much of her paper strikingly echoes court findings in the Suzanne DeWalt case.
The State also presented evidence… reflecting that Dewalt continually took precautions to avoid discovery and capture in Mexico, including adopting pseudonyms for both herself and J.M.D., moving as many as nine times, and taking evasive action when encountering law enforcement…
Upon his return, J.M.D., Michael testified, continued to insist that his name was “John Johnson” until Michael convinced him otherwise by showing him his birth certificate.
[T]he abductor may flee to another country, completely shutting down any hopes of involvement by child protective services in the country of origin. The most pervasive scenario is that the abducting parent goes into hiding, or moves beyond the jurisdiction of governing law.
Suzanne Dewalt of course did exactly that.
These kidnappings are very cleverly plotted and planned and often involve the assistance of family members.
Suzanne planned the abduction far in advance of the family court trial and involved not only her parents (who were subsequently charged and convicted of criminal wrongdoing due to their involvement in the kidnapping), but neighbors and other acquaintances as well. She choreographed the abduction down to the minute the judge issued his order giving sole custody to Michael, at which point, she fled the courtroom with her father, met her accomplices who had the boy and headed for Mexico.
Huntington and others believe that inherent in the act of kidnapping and concealment are negative consequences for the child victims. It is Huntington’s contention that one of the most concerning factors is that the parent has fled and "is out of reach of law and child protection agencies." To escape discovery the abductor parent is hiding out, — "so who knows what is happening with child!" (Huntington, 1982).
Again, that very thing happened to Jeremy DeWalt. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals noted:
Dewalt’s email correspondence recounts an episode in which she “covered up” J.M.D. and pretended to be asleep when Mexican federal police searched for a “nino” on a bus they were riding. In another instance, Dewalt claimed that she and J.M.D. temporarily abandoned their possessions and went into “hiding” with a friendly pastor after police had knocked on their door at 1:30 a.m. In regard to both encounters, Dewalt expressed fear that she would be apprehended.
Meanwhile, Laurie Udesky might have taken note of the references in Faulkner’s article to Parental Alienation. Essentially, part and parcel of parental alienation of a child is the abducting parent’s alienation of that child from the left-behind parent.
With growing concerns for abducted children, some experts have coined terms like "Parental Alienation" to describe the potential negative impact on child victims…
"Physical kidnapping situations leave children extremely susceptible to indoctrination against a target parent. Often the operating strategy is to frighten the child into believing that the only way to exist is to escape some ambiguous harm that is to be inflicted upon the parent, child or both of them by the target parent" (Clawar & Rivlin, p. 115).
Moreover, again according to the facts adduced at the family court and in Suzanne’s criminal trial, it appears that her attempts to alienate Jeremy from Michael didn’t begin with her abduction.
Michael testified that Dewalt had a history of being extremely contentious regarding custody arrangements, especially his summer extended visitations, and had disrupted J.M.D.’s prior visits with frequent calls that left the child “curled up on the floor crying” and exclaiming that he hated Michael and his relatives.
Finally, the court-appointed psychiatrist who testified at the child custody hearing, Dr. Maureen Adair, testified as follows, according to the Court of Criminal Appeals:
Dr. Adair opined that she found no objective evidence that J.M.D. had been sexually abused and that psychiatric testing she performed on both parents revealed that Dewalt had difficulty in her perception of reality, along with elevated scales of narcissism and self-centeredness.
Faulkner reported other experts as identifying six risk factors for potential parental abductors. Among them are “suspicious and distrustful due to a belief that abuse has occurred,” and “feel disenfranchised from the legal system.” Suzanne of course fit both of those categories. Plus, “[a]ccording to Rand, an abducting parent views the child’s needs as secondary to the parental agenda…” That viewing of the child’s needs as secondary is a major component of the narcissism to which Adair testified.
Did Jeremy have friends in Mexico? Did he go to school? It’s hard to imagine he did either, given that the pair moved nine times in less than three years. If he didn’t, that’s a good example of Suzanne’s placing his needs second to hers. And of course her three-year refusal to permit him having a relationship with his father is the same. That too made it into Faulkner’s summary of the scientific literature on parental child abduction. She noted that psychological maltreatment of a child by a parent can include rejection of “[t]he child’s legitimate need for a relationship with both parents…”
In short, Suzanne DeWalt saw herself as a “protective” mother. Ironically, that led her to abuse her child. Hers would have been a fine counterpoint to the cases Udesky included in her article. It demonstrates how a woman who seems to have sincerely believed her claims and that she was protecting her son was simply incorrect and that her failure to perceive (or accept) the reality of the situation meant real trauma for the boy.
Such a case could have provided the type of balance that’s so entirely lacking in Udesky’s article. Needless to say, there are countless others. But Udesky’s goal wasn’t to inform readers, nor was it to provide a balanced view of alienation claims in child custody cases. Her purpose was to cast doubt on fathers, to solely present them as abusers and mothers as “protective.” The point of course was to further marginalize fathers in child custody cases, as if that’s not done enough already.
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