Monday, April 26, 2010

~ The Fine Art of Institutional Grooming ~

Institutional Grooming Defined and Explained

A lot of people will have heard of the term "grooming", but most will think of the term only as it is used in the context of child sexual abuse. What many people do not consider, is that grooming is an art that is practiced by most perpetrators of any kind of abuse, and, I believe, particularly by perpetrators of family violence.

It is not only a perpetrator's victims that are groomed (which would be considered emotional abuse), but the victims' family and friends, the perpetrator's own family and friends, and even public servants and medical professionals (in which case it is purposeful manipulation). The grooming of doctors, nurses, mental health carers, family support workers and other public servants is called "Institutional Grooming" and the perpetrator does it for the purpose of self-preservation.

The targets of Institutional Groomers may include their victim's General Practitioner, psychiatrist, psychologist, child health nurse, pediatrician, carers at a Family Day Care Facility, school teachers, counselors or therapists. The public servants targeted may be social workers, case workers, investigative officers or police officers employed by government departments such as the Department For Child Protection, the Police's Family Protection Unit and the Department for Community Development. When done with enough finesse to be successful, institutional grooming ensures that any complaints alleged about the perpetrator are either disregarded outright, doubted and therefore not investigated thoroughly, or if acted upon, subsequently dismissed in a court of law.

Why would a perpetrator go to such lengths to manipulate people other than their victims? Because when their victims, the victims' family and friends, and the public service networks intended to support their victims are groomed successfully, the investment of all that hard work does not go to waste - the victims are then still available to continue to abuse.


Some Thought Provoking Insights into a Victim's Reality

The scary thing about successful institutional grooming is that it substantially increases the harm done to the victims, not only because the abuse they face continues for longer, but because they lose their trust and faith in the world around them, in their family and friends, in the professional people who are meant to protect them, and most tragically, in themselves.

The things that are said and done to hurt and manipulate a victim only occur behind closed doors, and it can be very hard to remember exactly what was said or done, where, in which order and at what time, when your world feels like it is caving in. An abuser will jump on this uncertainty to highlight a victim's supposed insanity or make them seem dishonest, and to shift the focus away from his/her own appalling behavior.

Once a victim's memories of the abuse, the words said, things done and feelings felt during that abuse, have been twisted and distorted to deny, justify or excuse that abuse, one can understand why the victim begins to feel unsure about what really happened. Combine this with the common symptoms of complete and partial memory blocking and/or memory substitution in victims suffering from even mild cases of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and one can see how it can all combine to compound a victim’s confusion and distress, and deter them from objecting or trying to report it the next time it happens. One can also see how these factors can pervert the course of Justice.


Grooming by Perpetrators of Family Violence and Child Abuse

In the context of family violence, institutional grooming is done to discredit the non- perpetrating parent (who is often also a victim), and the effects of successful institutional grooming in these circumstances are almost always tragic. In best case scenarios, it can ensure debilitating emotional trauma and devastating long term consequences as the perpetrator is free to continue their abuse of both the child(ren) and the abused parent. In worst case scenarios, the results can be overwhelming, and may include horrific physical abuse, soul destroying sexual abuse or even premature death of the victim(s). The death of such victim(s) may be due to suicide, manslaughter, murder-suicide or violent murder. The most prevalent and obvious consequence however, is once again perversion of the course of Justice, and the undeniable failure of the Legal System's purpose.


Damned If You Do & Damned If You Don't

For clarification, consider this generalized example: If a mother seeks help with protecting her children in a situation where emotional and physical abuse of both herself and her children has already occurred, and/or where there has been inappropriate sexual talk and behavior in front of her children (that may or may not be sexual grooming), and the children have displayed signs that indicate possible sexual abuse (that may or may not have happened, and may or may not happen in the future), but where the perpetrator is skilled at the art of institutional grooming, that mother will often then be subjected to accusations of parental alienation and of perpetuating feelings of fear in her children. Instead of being taken seriously, she finds herself having to defend her actions and her parenting skills, and sometimes may even find herself being the one accused of abusing her children.

If she seeks legal advice, she is advised not to make an application to the Family Court because it is likely that any application will result in 50/50 shared care of the kids. Further more, she is informed that under current Family Law, if she makes any allegations of abuse that cannot be proven, she risks being found guilty of parental alienation and quite possibly faces losing her children to the perpetrator in the likely event that interim orders would award him full residency, and allow her only a couple of hours of supervised contact per fortnight, while her children are sent to live with their alleged abuser. She may also be required to pay the legal costs for both parties.

On the other hand, if she does not do anything about seeking help from the authorities, either because she has circumstantial evidence but no substantiated proof, and no other witnesses to testify on her behalf (her own testimony would be considered hearsay, and therefore discounted), or perhaps because she has been doubted and/or counter-accused before, then at some point in the future she may find herself being found guilty of neglecting her duty of care to her children, and face the prospect of losing her kids to foster care.


What Justice?

While I have no doubt that there are indeed parents out there who do not put the best interests of their children first, and who are in fact guilty of alienating their children against the other parent and perhaps even of fabricating false allegations of abuse, whether for revenge or some other reason, surely they must be the minority? Wouldn't the majority of parents want to put their kids first?

Further more, I ask this question: What about the mother who, in spite of her own abuse, subjugation and degradation, somehow finds the strength to trust her own intuition, and manages to intervene before her children become the victims of more serious physical abuse or devastating sexual abuse. Instead of being supported and respected for the strength she has shown in the face of her adversity, she is instead victimized, subdued and humiliated to an even greater extent. Where is the justice for mothers such as she? Instead she becomes a victim of the system, and so do her children. What happened to breaking the Cycle of Abuse?


A Society-Sized Cycle?

Has anybody even stopped to think that perhaps the term "cycle of abuse" now describes a far greater cycle of perpetual dysfunction than simply the personal relationships between perpetrators and their victims, a cycle that in fact occurs and continues on a much larger scale - one that encompasses modern society as a whole? I mean, who is more likely to be a liar? A victim or their perpetrator?

Obviously there are exceptions to every rule, but in most cases, what would a victim get out of being a liar? Any parent who has suffered as a victim of family violence, then chosen to speak out against their family's abuser, and then been consistent in their commitment to the ongoing and endless process of attending appointments with social workers, lawyers, medical professionals, psychologists, counselors, art therapy and group therapy sessions (for both themselves and their children), would agree that the financial costs, physical energy requirements, mental strain and emotional drain of post traumatic abuse times could simply not be worth it.

Proactive parents who choose to engage in such an involved process, due to their genuine desire to heal their family's wounds, to protect their children from further harm, and to ensure a positive, healthy change in their life circumstances, will have often maintained such efforts for months before the matter is brought before the court, and they will have to maintain their efforts for many months or even years after the court makes final orders, even if orders are reasonably suitable.

In stark contrast, perpetrators who engage in such therapy will almost always only do so after being questioned about allegations of abuse, or in the weeks and days leading up to a court hearing. They only do so to preserve their false reputations, and their energetic last minute efforts will seldom last more than a few weeks past the need to be seen as the "poor victim" of a "vengeful" or "jealous" partner, rather than be exposed as the selfish, unrepentant perpetrators of abuse that they are.


Morality and Proactive Logic versus Passive Ignorance

I think that the Family Law Courts and some government departments are missing the whole point of what is in the best interests of the child. I am not saying that a perpetrator should be guilty until proven innocent, or punished without sufficient proof, but what is wrong with protecting our kids BEFORE they become victims? Why should the only evidence taken seriously enough to warrant supervised contact be substantiated proof of past abuse? Surely prevention is better than a cure?

They cannot say that the cost of supervised contact would be too great if they compare it to the long term costs of abuse to our society, considering how many victims of child abuse go on to have life long psychological problems, alcohol and other substance abuse issues, often grow up to become abusers themselves, or in some cases resort to suicide.


Considerations of a Responsible Government

The purpose of Family Law should be the protection of our children, who are not yet capable of making their own choices, rather than any irrationally perceived justice for those adults who have chosen not to take responsibility for the destructive effects of their abusive behavior, or the unjust persecution of those adults who are trying to shoulder responsibility for both their own and the abusive parents actions, by trying to fight a losing battle that must be fought if they are to honor the duty of care they have to their children.

It is essential that any reforms implemented as a result of the review of the 2006 Family Law Amendments (and any future changes) ensure there are no violations of the first and foremost Rights of our Children - their right to be protected from harm, and to live with out fear, in the warm, safe embrace of unconditional love.

Surely the Government can see the necessity of making well informed decisions regarding the specifics of any changes. Hopefully those responsible for making these decisions will question the effectiveness of a Justice System that only takes into account substantiated proof (scientific fact?) when making judgments that are guided by Laws which have been based on inductively reasoned generalizations drawn from the observation of limited numbers of specific instances (philosophical opinion?). Even the existence of the many heated debates over Australian Shared Parenting Laws highlights the fact that those generalizations were a misrepresentation of the prevailing truth.

The Laws that govern the Family Court System need to be decided by using deductive reasoning to draw valid, logical conclusions from the overwhelmingly substantial amount of relevant empirical evidence available, and most people would agree that those facts can be easily found in the historically prevalent and devastating long term effects observed in children who have witnessed and/or experienced any kind of abuse.

The proven reliability of empirical knowledge obtained by making specific, logical and valid deductions based on vast numbers of instances that demonstrate very clear and consistent long term trends is surely what is required to ensure that the changes made to Family Laws are effective. It is essential that once amended, Family Laws consistently achieve their purpose of effectively guiding judgments in those cases where in there is a need to protect children from a risk of probable future abuse but where most often there is no proof other than circumstantial evidence, victim testimony and professional opinion based on hearsay. It is the only viable path to follow if we are to build a Family Law System in which Justice will actually serve in the best interests of the child.

Once all that is achieved, time will confirm the truth and future generations will prosper from the positive, healthy, and wide spread evolution of our society. Their enlightenment will ensure that the wondrous gift of human morality will finally manifest in every aspect of society, propelling mankind into the peaceful bliss of a Golden Age filled with warmth, love and Light!

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