This letter was received by Congressman Smith’s office during the week of the introduction of H.R.1940, the Sean and David Goldman International Child Abduction, Prevention and Return Act.
Dear Congressman Smith:
By now you are aware that Japan has agreed to sign the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of Child Abduction (the Hague treaty). By now you are also aware that while Japan has “agreed” that it will sign the treaty, it does not seem to have any intention to actually honor it. This fact can be gleaned from Japanese press articles and Parliamentary sessions that extol the virtues of several “exceptions” the Japanese plan to implement upon their joining of the Hague.
The ambiguity of these loopholes reveals that Japan’s accession to the Hague will be, at best, a misrepresentation of the country’s true intentions and, at worst, an outright fraud.
U.S. Department of State disregards the welfare of abducted children
On May 24, 2011 while sitting as Chairman for the Africa, Global Health, and Human Rights Subcommittee, you remarked that parentally abducted children lose half of their identity and half of their culture and “are at risk of serious emotional and psychological problems [including] anxiety, nightmares, mood swings, sleep disturbances, aggressive behavior, resentment, guilt and [fear]” and that these struggles continue on into adulthood.
Despite the litany of childhood problems you detailed in your speech, I deeply fear that the U.S. Department of State (“State Department”) has failed to research, or even acknowledge, the harm that can befall a child who has been parentally abducted.
For years, several organizations, including the American Bar Association and the U.S. Department of Justice, have maintained that parents with narcissistic personality disorder and/or sociopathic personality traits are more likely to kidnap their children than those who are emotionally “healthy”. While countless researchers have examined the long-lasting consequences of being raised in these circumstances, it appears that the State Department has chosen to ignore this research in its entirety.
In 2011, the State Department Office of Children’s Issues met with parents of children who have been abducted to Japan. At this meeting there was a guest speaker—a child welfare “expert” hired by the State Department to convince a group of grieving and traumatized parents that they should not worry about their children so much because abducted children are “resilient”. Aside from the fact that this “expert” seemed to completely ignore all of the research that led to the implementation of the International Parental Kidnapping Crime Act and the Hague treaty in the first place, the State Department’s flagrant disregard for the pain and emotional damage that these children suffer was unconscionable—to say nothing of the feelings of the parents who were seated in that room while having to listen to that discussion. It is reminiscent of the radiation scandal where the poisoned victims were told that the version of chromium they were exposed to was actually “good for them”. It is positively unthinkable.
Living with an emotionally unhealthy parent
Children who are raised with an emotionally unstable parent do not reach adulthood unscathed. Indeed, children who have been parentally kidnapped are often raised in an emotionally abnormal environment without the benefit of a healthy parent to counter-balance the abductor’s erratic or destructive behavior. Several researchers have examined the emotional fallout experienced by children who have been raised with parents who suffer from narcissistic or borderline personality disorder, and they have found that the impact of this damage is both deep and long-lasting.
Narcissistic personality disorder
Several publications have described that narcissism is a personality trait that increases the risk of parental abduction. Narcissists often rationalize their violation of court orders and feel no remorse if they bend the rules to benefit themselves.1
A child of a narcissist can suffer severely because narcissists have “limited or no ability” to recognize their children as separate individuals with free will and needs of their own.2 Children who are raised by a narcissistic parent often feel extremely lonely and isolated because the parent can, to the outside world, appear to be self-confident and self-controlled, but in private can unleash a battery of constant criticisms and have difficulty controlling their anger.3 Eleanor Payson, a licensed family therapist, describes this nightmare as “a private one that can only be stopped by outside validation”.4 A child raised by a narcissistic parent must grow up quickly, repressing his or her true feelings in order to serve the narcissist’s needs.5
Borderline personality disorder
Bill Eddy is an attorney, mediator and clinical social worker. He is an expert in child custody issues that arise when someone divorces a spouse with narcissistic personality disorder or borderline personality disorder. He explains that parents with borderline personality disorder often “desire the elimination of the other parent as much as possible”.6 Researchers have found that a borderline parent will often use “I’ll never speak to you again” as a primary method of solving interpersonal conflict, and the child will thereafter feel forced to agree with his parent’s opinion, even if his opinion or recollection is not the same.7 These parents “enmesh” themselves with their children8 and rather than being allowed to feel, the borderline parent convinces the children how they are supposed to feel.9
In Eddy’s experience, parents who kidnap their children are unwilling to share parenting with the other parent and “decide they were above the law”. 10 The risk of abduction is exacerbated by a borderline’s impulsivity and the fact that they feel superior to a court’s orders.11
Borderline parents hold their children captive to onslaughts of verbal abuse followed by the silent treatment. They criticize and belittle their children, causing the children to suffer great confusion, pain and silent anger.12 Life with a borderline parent can bring “constant chaos” and is typified by the borderline’s verbal abuse, unpredictability, denying the child’s perception of events, the need to dominate, threatening to get her own way, making abusive comments and setting unrealistic expectations.13 Denying the feelings and needs of others and trying to get the child to engage in illogical arguments only exacerbates the pain, loneliness and confusion.14 While it is impossible to discover exactly how many international abductions have been committed by narcissistic or borderline personality disordered individuals, this research cannot and should not be ignored.
The State Department is obstructing justice and minimizing a federal felony crime
Through their complicity, the State Department is unnecessarily prolonging the pain of these abducted children and their parents. The State Department needs to acknowledge that crimes have been committed by these Japanese nationals and that the Japanese government has done nothing to rectify the situation.
The Justice Department has acknowledged that parental abduction is damaging and that “the worst damage is imperceptible to the eye, occurring deep within the child, leaving traces that last a lifetime”.15 The State Department should be admonished for using taxpayer money to pay a child welfare “expert” to cajole left-behind parents to think that parental abduction is not such a bad thing after all because kids are “resilient”, and to offer up such fiction in front of the F.B.I, the very agency that should be assisting these bereaved and aching parents in the recovery of their children. The State Department needs to be severely questioned as to why it is devoting its efforts to obstructing justice rather than fighting for it.
Thank you for your time and attention.
Amy J. Savoie, Ph.D.
1 Payson, Eleanor D., M.S.W. 2002. The Wizard of Oz and other Narcissists.
Royal Oak, Michigan: Julian Day Publications, p. 19.
2 Payson, p. 30.
3 Payson, pp. 16, 30.
4 Payson, p. 16.
5 Payson, p. 66.
6 Eddy, Bill, LCSW, JD and Randi Kreger. 2011. Splitting: Protecting Yourself
while Divorcing Someone with Borderline or Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
Oakland, California: New Harbinger Publications, Inc., p. 263.
7 Roth, Kimberlee and Freda B. Friedman, Ph.D., LCSW. 2003. Surviving a
Borderline Parent: How to Heal Your Childhood Wounds & Build Trust,
Boundaries, and Self-Esteem. Oakland, California: New Harbinger
Publications, p. 120.
8 Eddy, p. 249.
9 Roth, p. 121.
10 Eddy, p. 248.
11 Eddy, p. 249.
12 Lawson, Christine Ann. 2000. Understanding the Borderline Mother: Helping
Her Children Transcend the Intense, Unpredictable, and Volatile Relationship.
New York: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., pg. 207.
13 Mason, Paul, MS and Randi Kreger. 2010. Stop Walking on Eggshells, 2nd
Edition. Oakland, California. New Harbinger Publications, Inc., pg. 61.
14 Mason, p. 109.
15 The U.S. Department of Justice, from the publication The Crime of Family
Abduction, a Child’s and Parent’s Perspective, First Edition. May 2010.