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Posted on June 30, 2011 by Christine Crosby in 

Brainwashing Hannah

Emotional abuse leaves scars that may never heal

Dear Susan,

My daughter and son-in-law are separated, and I am now living with my daughter and granddaughter. I am pleased to say that I have become my granddaughter’s caregiver when my daughter is working. Everyone gets along well, and I take great joy in helping to raise Hannah.

Hannah’s dad, however, is causing turmoil from afar. He has decided that he wants full custody and is on a mission to sabotage Hannah’s relationship with her mom and me. My daughter allows him to bully her, and she is too intimidated to hire an attorney and file for divorce. As long as she does nothing legally, then Tom can get away with brainwashing Hannah and keeping our lives turned upside down.

Whenever Hannah returns from weekend visits with her dad, her demeanor changes and she becomes suspicious and distant toward me.

Besides the constant bad-mouthing, her dad also said that I hated him so much that I once tried to shoot him. Interesting, since I not only don’t own a gun but have never touched one. He is trying to instill fear in her about me, so that she will want to live with him. It takes me about three days to do damage control, and then we have two days of life back to normal before it’s time to do it all over again. I can see the effects of the pressure that is put upon her; there is acting out at school and fearful behavior. This seems like a heavy burden to put upon a 7-year-old.
– Pistol-Packing Grandma Kate

Susan responds: This is a tough one because the most effective intervention is often a legal one. Bullies don’t comply unless there are consequences such as jail, fines or losing what they have. Once a custody and visitation order is in place, not only are the parents required to follow it but there is also enforcement protection when they don’t.

If, for instance, there is proof that one of the parents is practicing alienation tactics against the other parent to the child, then a clause most likely will be included in the order restraining such behavior. Sometimes judges find it necessary to demand the presence of a court-ordered monitor during visits. The judicial sector’s foundation has been built on the protection of the child’s best interests to include all phases of abuse, emotional or physical.

What’s troubling is that emotional abuse is not visible, which makes it harder to track and therefore may not seem quite as real or serious as physical abuse. Brainwashing and parental or grandparent alienation are very real, destructive behaviors used by the abuser. This sets the child right in the middle of the adult conflict, where the child becomes torn and confused because suddenly they are being told who they can love.

A child’s psyche is fragile during the developmental years, and close attention and concern is paramount from caregivers to the social services and legal systems. Emotional abuse is just as serious as physical abuse and what’s more, the scars sometimes never heal.

Christine Crosby

About the author

Christine is the co-founder and editorial director for GRAND Magazine. She is the grandmother of five and great-grandmom (aka Grandmere) to one. She makes her home in St. Petersburg, Florida.

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