Recently, I observed the trial for a child-custody case involving a good friend. It was a vivid and scarring experience. But it was also an education on the ease with which people with personality disorders can subvert and manipulate a formal court proceeding. Both parties claimed that the other party was mentally ill and abusive, but my friend was not the one with the personality disorder. He is a domestic abuse victim, and his ex-wife is a diagnosed psychopath.
The case had spanned more than five years and had careened through multiple states, looking, to an untrained observer, like a barroom brawl in which both participants were throwing punches equally and just couldn’t stop fighting.
This judge didn’t want to hear about anything that had happened prior to the case landing in her jurisdiction. This was unfortunate, as she surely had many questions as to how things had gotten to this point: that a father had been denied seeing even a photograph of his seven-year old son since the boy was a toddler.
As most rational and sane people know, that’s not how it works. One parent does not get to withhold contact and parenting time from the other like that. Even felons in prison have the right to see and speak to their children regularly.
Yet, shockingly, this woman – a self-admitted clinically-diagnosed psychopath – had somehow managed to surround herself with enablers and negative advocates who viewed her horrific behavior as being completely justified; even admirable. This mob of people included school and daycare workers, doctor’s staff, her coworkers and boss, and even local law enforcement.
Had these people merely supported this “single mom” who claimed to be a victim of vague abuse allegations, that would have been one thing; but these people were actively interfering with my friend’s right to access his son’s school and healthcare records. This was a critical point, as he was alleging medical child abuse. In some instances, these supporters even withheld, destroyed, or falsified documents. Disturbingly, the majority of them were women.
The ability for a perpetrator to gather a mob against a single target, to help cover for their illegal and immoral actions is an important phenomenon to understand. It crosses into many areas of society, including politics, as we’ve recently witnessed.
In court, in typical gas-lighting fashion, the opposing lawyer did her best to try to make a witness sound crazy for believing that there even was a mob of people behind her psychopathic client; the irony being that she had shown up to court without a single family member or even one witness to call. When the witness held firm on her position, it prompted a very interesting question.
The lawyer asked her how this mob had been gathered, if my friend, the child’s father, was guilty of nothing. The lawyer smirked when she asked it. People don’t just line up to support someone based on nothing. More smirking. “How did she form a ‘mob’ behind her?”
The witness described just how she had done it:
The mother took one little scrap of paper that somehow seemed to validate her position as “victim” of something. Likely it was the court decision that stated that the father’s visits with their son were to be supervised. But she omitted the information that the supervision was for the father’s safety.
She took this scrap of paper, “SUPERVISED VISITS,” and showed it to their kid’s daycare. Maybe that person tried to be neutral and had questions to ask, but the mother begged and pleaded, possibly pretended to cry, getting louder and more urgent until the caregiver gave up and “agreed” with her. Then the mother got that person to put something in the child’s record that says “don’t talk to child’s father or give him any information.”
The mother then took that record to the doctor’s office and repeated her performance for the workers there, but more aggressively; because at this point she had someone else who has validated what she said. She wore that second person out until they entered something similar into the child’s medical file. She repeated this until she was comfortable with the size of the group of supporters she had; after the first few, it likely became easier and easier, like a cartoon snowball rolling downhill, getting bigger and bigger.
People are mostly well-intentioned, and their instinct to protect children is very strong. They hear a vague story from a desperate-acting person, especially a woman; they see their scraps of paper that look very official; they look at the people lined up behind the person and they think, “Well, all these people can’t be wrong can they? There must be something really bad about this person that they’re all against.”
This is a pretty straightforward and easily understood roadmap for getting your target out of your hair. It keeps that target busy for quite a while, desperately trying to get record keepers to even answer the phone, let alone forward the files to which he is legally entitled.
And thusly, even the most dim-witted of personality disordered people can wrangle up a decent-sized mob behind them, if they know what sympathies to play off of, or how to sound convincingly victimized by their target.
In this particular mother’s case, she probably shopped around for the most “man-hating” looking woman at the front desk of the doctor’s office, for instance. If she was incorrect in her assumptions, she tried again with someone else until her little act got the desired result.
Unfortunately, the first office worker that she tried to ply with her story probably didn’t give it any further thought; but had she, she would have been able to save her coworker from becoming an accomplice to a crime.
This is of utmost importance: it’s how the actual mafia works also. Once you’ve helped someone commit a crime, you’re bound to that person and unlikely to come clean. Your fates are tied together.
And once the law finally does start catching up with the correct person, the abuser goes back around to all the members of their mob and make sure they understand that they have been accomplices in a crime and that they need to dispose of the very thing they put in the file, to begin with. It’s at this point, the mob members realize they never saw a certified restraining order, an official court document, or anything, really, except a performance.
The ability to recognize when someone is attempting to use you as pawn to further their illegal position is an important one, and this is especially true when a child’s and parent’s rights are involved.
A parent who constantly and vigorously circulates a story of a bad or abusive ex; provides no real documentation of the supposed actions; yet expects favors that would normally go against office procedure or rational thinking, should be suspected immediately of trying to use you or your agency to facilitate their violation of the other parent’s rights.
There’s really no other reason that a child’s pediatric file, for instance, should be stuffed with 200 pages of court documents, multiple third-generation copies of restraining order applications, and nurse’s notes like “mother says that father is bi-polar and doesn’t want to see their son.”
It’s unfathomable and tragic that anyone would fall for this, but they do, on a daily basis.
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