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Published on October 14, 2005

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Pat Mitchell
CEO Public Broadcasting System
1320 Braddock Place
Alexandria, VA 22314

October 17, 2005

Dear Ms. Mitchell:

The following professionals and organizations are writing to express their appreciation to PBS for airing the documentary Breaking the Cycle: Children’s Stories, and helping to expose this tragic injustice in America’s family courts.

The reality is that most parents are good parents and the vast majority of custody matters are settled amicably with the mother being awarded custody. However, roughly 10% of custody cases are contested, and as many as 3/4 of contested custody cases involve domestic violence.  In these contested cases 2 out of 3 times the father wins joint or full custody of the children. Research shows that up to 70% of batterers also abuse the children, and that batterers are up to 9 times more likely to molest their children than non-abusers. In addition to the harm caused to the children in these contested custody matters, the fierce, ongoing legal battles with the batterer are themselves abusive – both emotionally draining and extraordinarily expensive, often leaving the mother destitute.

Part of the reason protective parents lose custody in these contested cases arises from the use of a discredited theory called “parental alienation syndrome” (PAS). On its surface, PAS seems to be a credible theory – it alleges that mothers brainwash their children into reporting abuse so that they can retain custody.  However, the theory is deeply flawed; based on extreme gender bias in not believing women or children’s reports of abuse, and has never met the standard of peer review.  Neither the American Psychological Association, nor the American Psychiatric Association recognize PAS; the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Justices has also rejected the flawed thesis and says it should not be invoked when considering custody matters.  Contrary to some opinions, denouncing PAS is not part of a feminist left wing agenda.  Judith Reisman, a stalwart right wing commentator, has denounced PAS as well. 

Unfortunately, while PAS has been roundly discredited in professional arenas, it still holds sway in America’s courtrooms, largely because of misinformed lawyers and judges.  Your airing of Breaking the Silence: Children’s Stories will do a tremendous service helping expose the misinformation regarding PAS and the harm that has befallen countless women and children as a result.

Thank you for airing this important documentary. 

Sincerely,

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