This year again, many thousands of children will spend Christmas without their father. They are not allowed to see their fathers and some are not even allowed to give presents. Mostly it is the fathers who are affected, but sometimes mothers are also banned from their children’s lives. How can this happen in a country where the “best interests of the child” seem to be so important?
Because you belong to me
“I hate him […] I don’t want to see my father again, ever! I wish he were dead.”
This is what 8-year-old Anni says at the beginning of the film “Weil Du mir gehörst” (“Because you belong to me”) during her questioning before the family court (broadcast date: Monday, 6.12.2021 0:50 hrs, SWR). A year before, everything was still different: Anni spent every other weekend with her separated father and his new family. She loved him dearly and also looked forward to their holidays together. The mother, however, in her pain of separation, increasingly begins to manipulate Anni and restrict contact with the father. Supported by her parents – Anni’s grandparents – and later her lawyer, she feels she is in the right and believes she is doing the best for her child. Anni is torn apart more and more inside.
The plot of the film is fictional, but authentically reflects what numerous affected children, fathers and also mothers have to suffer.
“Because you belong to me”
SWR television, Monday, 6.12.2021 0:50 a.m. (receivable in Kiel via DVBT-2, satellite TV and digital TV)
Streaming provider, see https://www.werstreamt.es/film/details/2174369/weil-du-mir-gehoerst/
Because You Belong to Me – The Talk to the Film
Recording from 12.02.2020
“The term parental alienation describes a phenomenon in which a child – usually one whose parents are in the process of a conflictual separation or divorce – becomes strongly attached to one parent and rejects a relationship with the other parent without legitimate justification.”
(Lorandos, Bernet and Sauber: Parental Alienation: The Handbook for Mental Health and Legal Professionals, 2013).
This phenomenon does not only affect a few individual cases. According to a study from 2019, around 120,000 underage children are affected by the divorce of their parents in the Federal Republic of Germany every year. If we add the approximately 80,000 children of unmarried couples who are separated, this amounts to 200,000 children in Germany every year, 10 % to 15 % of whom then experience an estrangement from one parent. This means that every year 20,000 to 30,000 children lose contact with a beloved parent (mostly with the father, in exceptions with the mother). In connection with this, contact with the grandparents and, if applicable, other relatives of the respective parent also breaks off in most cases.
The possibilities of perfidious manipulation of the children by the alienating parent are very diverse, as exemplified in the film “Because you belong to me”. In the struggle for custody, access and residence rights, fathers are often even accused of sexual abuse of the children. For example, Prof. Siegfried Willutzki, former family judge and chairman of the Family Court Conference, stated as early as 1994 that the accusation of sexual abuse was made in 40 % of custody and access cases. Of these, about 95 % turned out to be false. For the accused father, however, this usually means that he is not allowed to contact his child/children until the matter has been clarified in court and by an expert. A time in which his children are further alienated from him.
Alienating behaviour does not always have to be conscious to the alienating parent. In many cases, grandparents, siblings or friends of the parent can also fuel the situation and thus encourage the alienating behaviour. There can be many reasons for the manipulation of children. These include fear of loss, fear of having to see the former partner or the pain of separation combined with feelings of revenge and many other reasons.
Psychological abuse through parent-child alienation must end! – Action alliance “Enough tears! (“Genug Tränen)”
In November 2021, the open action alliance “Enough tears! – Children need both parents” entered the public phase. It aims to raise social awareness of the issue through posters, social media, events and media coverage. The founding partners demand that parent-child alienation be perceived and recognised as a form of psychological abuse of children in need of protection, as it is in other countries.
The action alliance was initiated by “Väteraufbruch für Kinder e.V.”, the “Bundesinitiative Großeltern” and “Papa Mama Auch – Verband für Getrennterziehen”. These are all organisations that have decades of experience with the issue. On the campaign website you can find more information material and also sign the petition of the alliance.
Further information for affected fathers and mothers
Väteraufbruch für Kinder e. V. (VAfK)
VAfK national association: https://www.vaeteraufbruch.de
Nationwide telephone hotline: 01805-120 120
The service is available free of charge to fathers and mothers, but also to grandparents and children. Only the telephone charges of the respective network providers apply.
Papa Mama Auch e. V.
Federal Grandparents Initiative
Association of Single Mothers and Fathers
Regional Association Schleswig-Holstein e.V.
Information website of the project group “Parent-Child Alienation” of the VAfK