In the last track, we discussed the Yo-Yo Syndrome
and the use of clustering.
This track will discuss how children can be used as silent weapons between violent partners as part of the Yo-Yo
Syndrome and how they become the unintended victims of domestic violence.
you are well aware, by manipulating their children as objects to cause pain and
intimidation in the partner, children can quickly become silent weapons within
a violent family. I have found there are 3 bullets, so to speak, that come from
using children as weapons. These three bullets are: Control, Blame, and Alienation.
Is this what you have observed as well?
Using Children as Weapons: 3 Bullets
I recently treated a family that had been
separated since Alice, the mother, received a Protective Order against her husband,
Nate. In front of the children, Nate had threatened Alice with a kitchen knife.
Since the time of Alice and Nate's separation, their three children, aged 9, 11,
and 12, were being used as silent weapons between the couple.
let's look at the how the children were used as silent weapons to fire Bullet
Like many batterers, Nate threatened to kidnap the children
and seek custody if Alice didn't drop the charges against him and allow him to
move back home. Are you currently treating a child who is aware he or she is being
used in a custody threat?
Bullet #2: Blame
In addition to using children to
fire the Bullet of Control, as you know, children can also be used as silent weapons
to fire Bullet #2: Blame. When Jenny, age 11, asked her father why he wasn't
at home anymore, Nate took the opportunity to make her believe her mother was
to blame. Nate answered her by saying, "Jenny, I don't live at home
because mommy doesn't love me anymore. And mommy called the police and said that
I hit her even though I never did." Are you treating a child who is caught
in the blame game between his or her parents?
Bullet #3: Alientation
By using children
to fire the bullet of Blame, children can easily be set up for Bullet #3: Alientation. Nate found ways to make spending time with him more appealing than time with their
mother. He bought a video game system for Danny, age 12, that he knew Alice couldn't
afford to buy. Think of a child you are currently treating for which the batterer
has alienated his children against their mother by perhaps allowing them to escape
their mother's rules and discipline.
I have found that children
who are turned against their mothers first act very proud for getting in good
with their father. As you know, this is often known as identifying with the aggressor.
However, beneath this mask of pride I, most probably like you, have found the
children to be frightened, confused, and self-hating. Danny, the oldest, was very
aware that his father was trying to buy their affections and alienate him against
Technique: Gestalt Dialogue Perspective
To help children such as Danny and Jenny, I use
a Gestalt Dialogue Perspective technique. The Dialogue portrays an event from
more than one perspective at a time. Danny and Jenny wrote or stated a dialogue
between themselves and a family member, between different parts of themselves,
or between the client at a younger age and the client now. Jenny chose to write
a dialogue between two different parts of herself, "me, when I'm with Dad"
and "me, when I'm with Mom." This written dialogue promoted openness
between Jenny and me, and I found that her responses on paper were more honest
than an actual conversation.
This track has discussed the
three bullets of control and upset, blame, and alienation, and the Dialogue technique
that I have found useful in treating children used as silent weapons. Are you
currently treating a child who is being used as a silent weapon between parents?
If so, what steps are you taking to help the child?
Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Harman, J. J., Kruk, E., & Hines, D. A. (2018). Parental alienating behaviors: An unacknowledged form of family violence. Psychological Bulletin, 144(12), 1275–1299.
Jouriles, E. N., McDonald, R., Vu, N. L., & Sargent, K. S. (2016). Children’s exposure to intimate partner violence: Should sexual coercion be considered? Journal of Family Psychology, 30(4), 503–508.
Kita, S., Hayashi, M., Umeshita, K., Tobe, H., Uehara, N., Matsunaga, M., & Kamibeppu, K. (2020). Intimate partner violence and maternal child abuse: The mediating effects of mothers’ postnatal depression, mother-to-infant bonding failure, and hostile attributions to children’s behaviors. Psychology of Violence, 10(3), 279–289.
Liebschutz, J. M., Buchanan-Howland, K., Chen, C. A., Frank, D. A., Richardson, M. A., Heeren, T. C., Cabral, H. J., & Rose-Jacobs, R. (2018). Childhood Trauma Questionnaire (CTQ) correlations with prospective violence assessment in a longitudinal cohort. Psychological Assessment, 30(6), 841–845.
Renner, L. M., & Boel-Studt, S. (2017). Physical family violence and externalizing and internalizing behaviors among children and adolescents. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 87(4), 474–486.
Westbrook, T. R., & Harden, B. J. (2010). Pathways among exposure to violence, maternal depression, family structure, and child outcomes through parenting: A multigroup analysis. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 80(3), 386–400.
What is a technique used to treat children that are used as silent
weapons? To select and enter your answer go to .