Brainwashed by My Parents

A Mother's Loss

"My daughters had made allegations of sexual abuse against their father, and the court just automatically went with the custody evaluator's opinion that this was parental alienation syndrome," Karen explains. "He didn't investigate the abuse, he didn't read the police reports, he didn't read the medical reports, he didn't read the psychological reports."

"Did you believe that your children were, in fact, sexually abused by your ex-husband?" Dr. Phil asks.

"Yes, there was medical evidence," Karen replies. "You can't go into a court of law and suppress all the evidence and then turn around and say, ‘It didn't happen.'"

"Once they decided that this had not taken place, they came down on you for alienating your children," Dr. Phil observes.


"You say that your ex-husband has turned your daughters against you and that you are the victim of parental alienation," Mel says.

"No, I didn't say that," Karen says. 

"I read your story. Have your daughters been turned against you by your ex-husband?" Mel asks.


"So you are the victim of what it is we're talking about," Mel surmises.

"No. This is where you have to differentiate. If you're talking about abused children, there's a different psychological dynamic that goes on with abused children who are isolated with their perpetrators. They form what is called a ‘trauma bond' with the perpetrator," Karen says.

"Your daughters will have nothing to do with you, and I'm asking whether you think that they've been turned against you by an ex-husband which would be, in my mind, the classic definition of parental alienation," Mel says.

"Parental alienation syndrome, it doesn't meet standards of evidence. It doesn't belong in a court of law," Karen maintains.

The third biggest mistake parents make during a divorce is using a child to gain information or to manipulate a situation with their ex-spouse. "Children are not to be interrogated. They are not to be the one from whom you find out who your ex is dating. This is not the way you use children," Dr. Phil warns. "You can put lipstick on a pig, but it's still a pig. If you've got somebody who is mistreating a child and causing them to be torn away from the other parent, that is a bad thing from day one, minute one."

"I agree it's bad to put children in the middle of this war zone," Liz says.

Dr. Phil addresses Ken. "Is it the truth that you've lost this fight? Is it too late in the game for you to pull it back?" he asks.

"I believe it is," Ken says.


Nineteen-year-old Demi has been watching the show from Kansas, and she joins the discussion via Sight Speed. Her parents went through a devastating divorce, and Demi fears her younger sister will be caught in the middle.

"You had a video that you made to me on YouTube, correct?" Dr. Phil asks.

"Yeah," Demi replies.

"Your father went on there, and he saw that video apparently, and he wrote the following. He said, ‘Hi, my name is Demi. I moved in with my dad in January 2003.' So he was writing this as though he were you, right?" Dr. Phil inquires.

"Yes, he was being a bit sarcastic," she answers.

"Here's what it says: ‘My evil dad took me to counseling, regular dental checkups, took care of my orthodontics, taught me to drive, took care of my depression, and then I wrecked his van, totaled my Grand Prix, then ran my Acura RSX into the wall of a gas station. When my grandmother died, I refused to go to the funeral. Now I will show my gratitude by calling him evil, and be a little puppet for my mentally ill mommy,'" Dr. Phil finishes.

He turns to Liz. "If her dad wrote that, would that meet your standard of not being a good thing?" he asks tongue-in-cheek.

"He's a jerk, but that doesn't mean he's a parental alienator. There's a difference," she replies.

"Do you think men will allege this to try to reduce their child support or get out of obligations?" Dr. Phil asks.

"I think some men do seek more custody time, because it's financially rewarding," she responds.

Dr. Phil says the fourth mistake divorcing parents make is transferring hurt feelings and frustrations onto a child. "I think that is a really bad, bad thing," he says.