Back on July 23rd, I wrote a piece here about Ken Thompson. He’s the Australian father who had taken early retirement from his job as Commisioner of the fire brigades in New South Wales to look for his son Andrew, who was then three. Not quite three years ago, Thompson’s ex-wife, Melinda Stratton had kidnapped Andrew and disappeared somewhere in Europe. Thompson went to Europe, bought a bicycle and, as of July, had cycled some 3,500 kilometers in search of Andrew and to publicize his quest.
Well, as of Thursday the 9th, Ken Thompson can stop cycling; Andrew has been found by Dutch authorities. Read about it here (Fathers 4 Equality, 9/9/10). It seems Stratton tried to enroll him in school in Amsterdam, but Andrew’s passport had expired. That led the school principal to conduct a security search which told him that Andrew had been kidnapped and there were some 180 Interpol alerts out for him. As of this writing, Thompson is on his way to reunite with his young son for the first time in almost three years.
A family Friend, Robin Bowles, told the Sydney Morning Herald, “Ken’s ecstatic, emotional, relieved, overjoyed and still in a total state of shock,” Ms Bowles said.
“It is no secret there were fears for both Melinda’s and Andrew’s safety and the longer time went on, the fear grew deeper within Ken that maybe he’d never see his son again. He wants to see him. He can’t wait a moment longer.”
Australian police issued a warrant for Stratton’s arrest shortly after she fled the country with Andrew, but, as of now, there’s no word about whether she’ll face trial.
A growing body of psychological literature describes parental kidnapping as child abuse. Here’s an overview by Nancy Faulkner, Ph.D. It’s 11 years old, so a fair amount has been added to our understanding of the psychological impact of parental kidnapping on children, but it’s still provides a good understanding of the issues.
For example, the fact that the abducting parent is forced to live in hiding, often moving from place to place, deprives the child of all sources of safety and security except for the parent. The other parent is not available and neither are grandparents, other extended family, schoolmates, friends, neighbors. All of that was true of Andrew’s peripatetic existence with his mother.
According to Rand, an abducting parent views the child’s needs as secondary to the parental agenda which is to provoke, agitate, control, attack or psychologically torture the other parent. “It should come as no surprise, then, that post-divorce parental abduction is considered a serious form of child abuse” (Rand, 1997).
It is generally accepted that children are emotionally impacted by divorce. Children of troubled abductor parents bear an even greater burden. “The needs of the troubled parent override the developmental needs of the child, with the result that the child becomes psychologically depleted and their own emotional and social progress is crippled” (Rand, 1997). Since the problem of parental child abduction is known to occur in divided parents rather than in united and intact families, the inordinate emotional burdens compound abduction trauma.
Faulkner’s piece makes for worthwhile reading. There’s obviously far more there than I can describe here, but suffice it to say that Andrew Thompson has spent about half of his young life on the run with his mother. His deprivation by her of all the people he knows who could offer him nurturing and protection was indeed one continual act of child abuse. Ken Thompson must proceed cautiously. He may have his son back in the physical sense, but it will be a while before the real, emotionally-whole Andrew will be restored to him.
But we share his joy at being reunited with his son.