When child abduction prevention advocates, such as those that are a part of the I CARE Foundation, raise our voices and try to raise awareness of international parental child abduction, I think many of us are not only trying to prevent a child’s severe abuse from occurring, but what we are trying to do is prevent the murder of an innocent child.
Patricia Hoff, now with the United States Department of State’s Office of Children’s Issues, and who oversees the State Department’s Hague Convention Attorney Network has been a long-standing and tremendous child advocate who has clearly dedicated her life to helping children: I cannot say strongly enough that children all over the world have benefited from Ms. Hoff’s indefatigable dedication to making a positive difference in their lives and pushing back the mountain of child abduction. Previous to her role at the United States Department of State, Ms. Hoff was the Legal Director for the Parental Abduction Training and Dissemination Project sponsored by the American Bar Association on Children and Law.
In the much heralded report titled International Parental Child Abduction is Child Abuse written by Nancy Faulkner, Ph. D. that was presented to the United Nations Rights On The Child (Special Session, 1999), the report begins with Ms. Hoff’s statement that, “Because of the harmful effects on children, parental kidnapping has been characterized as a form of child abuse.” Dr. Faulkner also share Ms. Hoff’s statement that, “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.”
But is there a correlation between parental alienation, international parental child abduction, and murder of a child by a parent (Filicide)?
Yes. All that needs to be done is view the long arch of severe act of child abuse a topic none of us ever what to think about: the reality that hundreds of children each year in the United States and Canada are murdered by one of their parents. One of the main reasons why innocent lives are taking? Family disputes, including separation and divorce.
In fact, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) reports on their website that a report cited by Marlene Dalley Ph.D. (2000) indicates that of all the child murders that occurred at the hands of a parent “the findings of a two-year research project indicates that over 5% of all children murdered in Canada were related to a custody dispute. Additionally, the findings showed that 23% of the killing incidents were influenced by divorce and separation stressors and mental instability.”
Did you notice the words “mental instability?”
Going back to the Faulkner report, Dr. Dorothy Huntington, who was one of the leading advocates warning how abduction is severe abuse, and who published the article Parental Kidnapping: A New Form of Child Abuse states that, “child stealing is child abuse . . . in child stealing the children are used as both objects and weapons in the struggle between the parents which leads to the brutalization of the children psychologically, specifically destroying their sense of trust in the world around them.”
So, do parents who abuse their children and who kidnap them abroad, stealing their identity and sense of self have the capacity of taking their life?
Clearly. And it has happened too many times.
In late 1993, the Criminal Division of the Washington State Attorney General’s Office undertook a 3-1/2 year research project, partially funded by the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, to study the investigation of child abduction murder cases. Their study was updated in 2006.
In this first research project, published in 1997, researchers reviewed more than 600 child abduction murder cases across the United States, then interviewed the investigating detectives. The 2006 updated report the Attorney General’s Office released included 175 additional solved cases. One of the glaring findings in this study is that in 44% of the cases studied, the victims and killers were strangers, but in 42 percent of the cases, the victims and killers were friends or acquaintances and about 14% of the cases studied involved parents or intimates killing the child.
The Denver Post published an article about parental child killing a few years ago. The article cited Dr. Phillip Resnick, director of forensic psychiatry at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland who stated, “Historically, one out of 33 homicides is a parent killing a child younger than 18.” Dr. Resnick, who conducted a study on filicide in 2005 states “Filicide is the deliberate act of a parent killing his or her own child, is the third-leading cause of death in American children ages 5 to 14.”
The Denver Post reports, “Researchers estimate 250 to 300 children are murdered by their parents each year in the U.S.
The Denver Post’s statistics are reflected in FBI Uniform Crime Reports indicating the murder of sons and daughters accounted for 3.1 percent of the 90,869 homicides in the U.S. from 1995 through 2000.
Now in a highly publicized report on the United States Department of State’s website written by the highly respected Honorable Judges William Rigler (Dec.2012) and Howard L. Wieder, “Parental kidnapping is the abduction and/or concealment of a child without the consent of the other parent child snatching, child stealing, and child abduction are synonymous with parental kidnapping. Id. at 364 n. 13.. Parental kidnapping one of the worst forms of child abuse.McKeon, “International Parental Kidnapping; A New Law, A New Solution,” 30 Fam. L.Q. 235, 244 (1996); see, Note, “Access Rights: A Necessary Corollary to Custody Rights Under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction,” 21 Fordham Int’l L.J. 308, 318 & n.64 (1997). The mere threat of child abduction is also a form of patent abuse. People v. Beach , 194 Cal. App. 3d 955, 240 Cal. Rptr. 50 (1987).”
The State Department report continues, “When non-custodial parents resort to kidnapping, they believe they are acting in the best interests of their children. Although a minority of parental kidnappers may actually save their children by taking them out of the reach of the other parent, the motives of most parents who steal their children are not at all altruistic. Parents find a myriad of reasons or self-justification for stealing a child from another parent. Some abductors will find fault with the other parent for nonsensical transgressions; others will steal a child for revenge.”
Did you notice the keyword, “revenge?”
The Honorable Judge Rigler and Judge Weider’s report further states,“A representative of Child Find said at a congressional hearing on missing children: “Searching parents worry and wonder, constantly tormented by this act. It is revenge far sweeter and longer lived then a beating or even murder, for it never ends. “Note, “Children as Pawns in Their Parents’ Fight for Control: The Failure of the United States to Protect Against International Child Abduction,” 21 Women’s Rts L. Rep. 129, 132 (2000).
Again the keyword here is “revenge.”
But what if the act of revenge fails and a child is going to be returned back to the targeted parent? What type of “revenge” will be served?
Remember, the narcissistic and sociopathic behavior of an abductor removes all rational thinking.
Back to the Honorable Judge Rigler and Wieder report, the judges state,”A kidnapping parent may also be controlled by feelings of frustration and inadequacy and thus, may want the children to reassure his or her worth. Often, children who are abducted are placed in the role of the other spouse and receive the emotional and, sometimes, physical abuse meant for the non-abducting parent. Moreover, because the children are stolen in a fit of anger or revenge, the abductors eventually realize that they do not want the child once their anger has subsided.”
The reality of international parental child abduction is, as cited by Judge Rigler and Wieder that, “Although most parents who steal their children attempt to justify their actions as the only way to ensure the best interests of the child, the child’s best interests are usually not considered. In fact, the best interest of the child mandates that parents ask themselves what the consequences of the abduction will be on the child. If parents had the foresight and emotional empathy of the impact of lying to a child across time and deriding the custodial parent, then they would not do it.”
Clearly, in the vast majority of cases of international parental child abduction, we are dealing with severe instability, narcissism, and sociopathic behavior.
New York attorney Joel Walter, who is a board of director member of the I CARE Foundation, and who has a long and extensive history that stretches nearly 40 years of fighting to protect children and their rights, including protecting children from international child abduction, added, “Who suffers because of a kidnapper’s uncontrollable rage and desire to hurt the other parent? The innocent child does! Once removed from their home, the child becomes a hostage who is put into more danger than being alienated from their other parent and family, being forced to live the life as a fugitive, having their identity stripped away – no, there is much more at risk than all of this: there is the risk that filicide – the murder of a child at the hands of one of their parents – will occur. And this is the reality that we all keep in the forefront of our thoughts: child abductors have demonstrated their cleverness and willingness to scheme and break the law as exhibited by their criminal act of kidnapping, the vast majority of abductors kidnap their child because they have lost control of their emotions and use the child as a pawn for revenge against the other parent and are willing to go to nearly any length to cause pain and suffering to their target, even if it is at the expense of their own child, and conceivably, as has been demonstrated in various forms and ways as exhibited by the number of filicide cases, a parental child abductor could murder their own child as the ultimate act of revenge – especially when a child’s return to their country of original jurisdiction has been ordered or is imminent. This is a very serious issue.”
What Mr. Walter points out, I think, more than anything else is what all international parental child abduction prevention advocates are fighting to stop.
It might not be openly talked about – especially when you consider the majority of activist who vocalize their concern about international child kidnapping are parents still searching – but this issue is for many, their gravest concern.
And with the United States possibly facing between 100,000 and 125,000 international parental child abductions over the next 10 years, and Canada facing anywhere from 15,000 to 20,000 children who will actually be kidnapped abroad – this issue is worth screaming about!
As an author, child advocate, and parent, and in my capacity as the Founding Director of the I CARE Foundation, every time the foundation gets involved in a child abduction case, my stomach twists and turns and rolls into a knot because of the grave concern I have for all children who are parentally kidnapped.
So I remind each of you who read this to remember that you are only three degrees of separation from knowing someone who is a target of international parental child abduction. Please support all initiatives created to prevent international parental child abduction.
Thank you –
Peter Thomas Senese
The I CARE Foundation
Author Of The Critically Acclaimed
Chasing The Cyclone (100% Author Proceeds donated to the I CARE Foundation)