Frequently Asked Questions from Children of Abusers
When this site went viral, a few questions started popping up.
Where are the estranged fathers?
Good question. The members say their husbands are just as hurt as they are, but the husbands are more likely to "walk it off," to get angry at their children and dismiss them; the men are reluctant to open themselves up to the pain and helplessness of grief. ("Men get mad, women get sad.") Men are also less likely to handle their problems by talking about them, and much less likely to present themselves as vulnerable in online forums, a tendency that gets stronger with each previous generation.
All of that is predictable. What's less obvious is the effect of divorce. Toxic people have higher divorce rates, and in previous generations the children usually went with the mother, so by the time the children were old enough to estrange, the father was often out of the picture. A lot of the fathers in forum members' accounts are actually stepfathers, who often aren't as attached to the children as the mother is, are bothered by the estrangement mainly because of how it affects their wife, and may be used to going through their wife when dealing with their adult stepchildren. Meanwhile, the biological father may be playing Fun Dad and getting all the kids' love and attention; or he may have another family and be detached from his first family...
...Or he may be bitter, blame the estrangement on his ex-wife, claim parental alienation, and become a Men's Rights activist (MRA). robot-hugs, a commenter on MetaFilter, said, "I did work for 5 years in high conflict divorce, and I can absolutely attest to the weird intersection between parental estrangement, parental alienation syndrome, high conflict family divorce, NPD [Narcissistic Personality Disorder], and MRAs. It's like this unholy clusterfuck of overlapping pathologies."
While there is often some kind of biasing of children in high conflict divorces, the vast majority of people who claimed PAS [Parental Alienation Syndrome] were actually emotionally poisoning their own relationship with their children. Even when you pointed out areas where they were acting unreasonably or were emotionally harming their children, they would always be able to blame the other parent (i remember a guy who made his kids strip on the porch because he didn't want mom's clothes in his house - 'mom's fault').
The ability for these individuals to self-delusion was incredible[....] For these people, PAS was another tool to offset responsibility and acknowledgement of their children as individuals instead of possessions to be fought over.
MRA forums are a festering pit of awful and toxic that I'm not going to touch with an 11-foot pole. If anyone else cares to try a comparison study, I'd be happy to link it here.
What happens to the non-abusive people who wander onto these forums?
I'm curious what happens to the non-abusive people that wander onto these forums, either because they're non-abusive but estranged parents or the occasional person just tilting at windmills trying to be reasonable. The article mentions they typically don't hang around, but what happens first? Do they try to talk sense into the regular posters? Do they get banned? Do they enter and then back away slowly?
I'm not sure. I focused on the long-term members, so the more ephemeral members didn't register with me. It's a flaw in the research.
But I can say what I noticed in the periphery of my vision, which is: The forums aren't inundated with people trying to talk sense into the regulars. There are a few regulars, even mods, who seem to be there mostly to talk their fellow estranged parents down, but I believe they arrived as standard-issue members and slowly matured into less toxic ways of thinking. Occasionally a member pulls the classic "I can't stay here, you all are mean, I don't feel safe" flounce, but it usually ends with them transferring to another estranged parents' forum. (Most of the forums I watched are on the same site and share members, with different forums taking a more positive, more militant, or more religious approach to estrangement.) And occasionally a parent shows up who has a more reflective bent and talks about his or her contribution to the estrangement, but the regulars discourage this—"You did the best you could, now forgive yourself and focus on your child's part"—and the parent either learns to toe the party line, or quietly goes away.
That's what I suspect happens to non-abusers and non-enablers: They quietly go away.
But in the end, I think normal parents just don't find the forums.
The analyses on this page are my own opinions and should not be construed as medical advice or statements of absolute fact.