Call to Advocacy
If you are not familiar with families who are involved in PAS cases, you may not believe
that these types of egregious acts occur. While listening to the stories of women and children, I have felt overwhelmed and dumbfounded because the deck seems to be stacked
against truth and justice. Ironically, the horrific abuses that occur in the marital relationship
are comparable to the systematic oppression that is sanctioned by the state through the family courts after divorce. The legal system and its officers create kangaroo courts in which
civil liberties and human rights are arbitrarily violated (Waller, Waller, & Shin, 2001).
There is no oversight and accountability for judges, lawyers, and mental health professionals who collude with the batterers and abusers.
The need for a nationwide policy that bans PAS from family courts is long overdue. In
2006, the National Organization of Women moved toward this goal by denouncing PAS and
resolving that any professional whose mission involves the protection of the rights of
women and children denounce its use as unethical, unconstitutional, and dangerous. Social
workers and other social justice advocates who are compelled to take action should, therefore, educate themselves about the perils of PAS and validate the experiences of, and create safe spaces, for victims of this oppression to speak their truth. Furthermore, there must
be a concerted effort to challenge the agents of the family courts and mental health professionals to stop perpetuating the abuse and violence against women and children. This is a
call for advocacy and social change. Silence by social workers and other change agents
maintains the status quo and emboldens the proponents of PAS. The abuse demonstrated in
the Baldwin–Basinger case only scratches the surface of what happens in the lives of families of all ethnic and socioeconomic levels across the United States. Outcry, critique, and
debate must be linked to accountability, empowerment, and action to achieve social justice.
To be clear, PAS is not a legitimate diagnosis and should not be admitted into the courts.
Overwhelmingly, it is used against mothers to raise suspicions of their psychosis and unfitness as parents. Users of this strategy do not seek custody for the safety and welfare of children. Instead, their sole mission is to create a legal shield of protection and silence and an
unobstructed pathway to continue their abuses of power. When PAS is used as a legal strategy in divorce cases, families are negatively affected; the women are demonized, and the
children are at a grave risk of further abuse.
Dr. Andrae Brown, Lewis and Clark College