THE PARENTAL ALIENATION SYNDROME AND SEX-ABUSE ACCUSATIONS
A false sex-abuse accusation is sometimes seen as a derivative or spin-off of the PAS. Such an accusation may serve as an extremely effective weapon in a child-custody dispute. Obviously, the presence of such false accusations does not preclude the existence of bona fide sex abuse, even in the context of a PAS. Although the sex-abuse factor in the PAS is an important one, I only make minimal reference to it in this book. Rather, I focus primarily on the etiology, development, manifestations, and treatment of the PAS, having elaborated on the sex-abuse factor in previous books (Gardner, 1987a, 1995a) and in a forthcoming volume (Gardner, 1999). So formidable and complex is this component that a separate book was warranted.
In recent years, some examiners have been using the term PAS to refer to a false sex-abuse accusation in the context of a child-custody dispute. In some cases the terms are used synonymously. This is a significant misperception of the PAS. In the majority of cases in which a PAS is present, the sex-abuse accusation is not promulgated. In some cases, however, especially after other exclusionary maneuvers have failed, the sex-abuse accusation will emerge. The sex-abuse accusation, then, is often a spin-off, or derivative, of the PAS but is certainly not synonymous with it. Furthermore, there are divorce situations in which the sex-abuse accusation may arise without a preexisting PAS. Under such circumstances, of course, one must give serious consideration to the possibility that true sex abuse has occurred, especially if the accusation antedated the marital separation. I am in agreement with Mapes (1995), who holds that professionals conducting forensic assessments of alleged sex abuse should be knowledgeable about the PAS as a motivating factor for a false sex-abuse accusation.
Another factor operative in the need to deny the existence of the PAS, and relegate it to the level of being only a "theory," is its relationship to sex-abuse accusations. I mention frequently throughout the course of this book that a sex-abuse accusation is a possible spin-off or derivative of the PAS. My experience has been that the sex-abuse accusation does not appear in the vast majority of PAS cases. There are some, however, who equate the PAS with a sex-abuse accusation, or a false sex-abuse accusation. My experience has been that when a sex-abuse accusation emerges in the context of a PAS--especially after the failure of a series of exclusionary maneuvers--the accusation is far more likely to be false than true. Claiming that a sex-abuse accusation may be false also has potentially been politically risky in recent years and not "politically correct." Those of us who have stood up and made such claims, both within and outside of the realm of the PAS, have subjected ourselves to enormous criticism--often impassioned and irrational. My experience has been that sex-abuse accusations that arise within the context of PAS situations are more likely to be directed toward men than women. Accordingly, in sex-abuse cases in the context of custody disputes I am more likely to testify in support of the man. This somehow proves me "sexist." The fact that I have most often testified in support of women to be designated the primary custodial parent--even when there has been a sex-abuse accusation--does not seem to dispel this myth.
Richard A. Gardner, M.D.