What do these teenagers have in common?
They are victims of the alienation industry, and have had to go to extreme lengths – including barricading themselves in rooms, running away, and going into hiding to protect themselves from the horrors of reunification camps.
Tina Swithin from One Mom’s Battle is back on the BTR.ORG Podcast, taking a deep dive with Anne into the subject of the alienation industry – with a call to action for our community. Tune in and read the full transcript below for more.
Gaslighting & Psychological Trauma at Reunification Camps
Reunification camp staff freely admit that the tactics they employ serve to condition children and teens to doubt their own memories and lose faith and trust in their own intuition.
By playing “memory games” with children and teens, camp staff “prove” to the court-ordered attendees that they are forgetful and cannot trust their own memories regarding the abuse that they endured at the hands of the parent who is paying for them to be at the camp.
Reunification Camps Are Human Trafficking in Broad Daylight
Camps are not located in every state where children are court-ordered to attend – in order to avoid human trafficking charges, camp staff use a handy (and corrupt) loophole:
“They often cross state lines. A lot of times they are operating out of AirBNBs or in hotel suites. There are a few camps, actual physical locations. There’s one in Texas, there’s one in California. But most of the time, and the way they avoid human trafficking charges by crossing state lines, they transfer custody at each leg. So when the transport agents come in to remove the children, they have guardianship. And then when they take the children to the camp, they transfer custody to the camp owner. And then ultimately the alleged abuser is the one who maintains custody. And the people who own the camp, the way it’s written in the court orders, maintain full control of the case for at least a year.”
Tina Swithin, One Mom’s Battle
Reunification Camps & The Safe Parent
Children are further traumatized when they aren’t allowed to have any contact with their preferred parent:
“In all of these cases, once the four-day reunification camp is complete, the preferred parent is not allowed in. There’s a 90-day block-out period where they’re allowed no contact. And if contact is made or attempted, the 90 days starts all over again. But it’s never 90 days. We have stories where parents have been two years, four years without their children, and some parents don’t even know where their children are two years later.”
Tina Swithin, One Mom’s Battle
BTR.ORG Is Here For You
Victims of abuse face the terror of the family court system when they take courageous steps toward separation and divorce from the abuser. Tina shares that many women have written to her and expressed that they are afraid to take steps for their own safety because they don’t want to subject their children to unsupervised time with the abuser:
“A failure in this system is when victims of domestic abuse would rather stay in the relationship than risk losing their children to their abuser. That is a failure in itself.”
Tina Swithin, One Mom’s Battle
BTR.ORG is here for you as you navigate your journey toward safety. You don’t have to do this alone. Our daily live group Group Sessions are available to you.
Welcome to BTR.ORG. This is Anne. Tina is back on today’s episode. Last week we were talking about reunification therapy. If you did not hear that episode, listen to that first and then join us here. She starts off this episode talking about how the reunification camps, or the reunification therapy, is paid for. It’s 50/50, meaning the protective parent has to pay 50% of the fees for putting their own child in danger and exposing their child to abuse. So not only are they punished in that they can’t see their child or that their child is taken away, but also because it’s a financial burden for them to have to pay for the abuser to have contact with their child.
It’s usually divided 50/50, but there are lots of different situations where that has gone in different directions. But we heard a story recently where a mom made a plea to the court that she could not afford the camp and was told to cash out her daughter’s college fund to pay for it.
Gaslighting & Psychological Abuse at Reunification Camps
And so on day two of these camps, the kids are forced to play memory games to show them that their memory is not always accurate and that their preferred parent or protected parent was lying and that the abuse did not happen. And so it’s professional, organized gaslighting. When I read the actual words from the people who own the camp, any psychologist who understands these dynamics would say this is gaslighting,
Psychological warfare, really, of children.
So this is therapy. And also with the camps, they can actually be kidnapped and removed from their home too.
How Does the Reunification Industry Avoid Child Human Trafficking Charges?
Yeah. And they a lot of times cross state lines. A lot of times they are operating out of Airbnbs or in hotel suites. There are a few camps- actual physical locations. There’s one in Texas, there’s one in California, and the way they avoid human trafficking charges by crossing state lines, they transfer custody at each leg. So when the transport agents come in to remove the children, they have guardianship. And then when they take the children to the camp, they transfer custody to the camp owner. Then ultimately the alleged abuser is the one who maintains custody. And the people who own the camp, the way it’s written in the court orders, maintain full control of the case for at least a year.
In all of these cases, once the four-day reunification camp is complete, the preferred parent is not allowed in. There’s a 90-day block-out period where they’re allowed no contact. And if contact is made or attempted, the 90 days starts all over again. But it’s never 90 days. We have stories where parents have been two years, four years without their children, and some parents don’t even know where their children are two years later.
It is a systematic form of child abuse.
The Reunification Industry is Simply Human Trafficking
Absolutely. And I think it’s can be even more traumatizing and abusive than what the kids have already been through. In the stories that I’ve heard from these survivors, it would break a healthy grown adult. So these kids will be the change. They are starting to age out of the system and speak out about these things. The media is finally paying attention and covering these stories, and I think it’s a matter of time before it is exposed for what it is. It’s human trafficking.
Tina was recently interviewed on a podcast called Civic. The title is called The Industry of Defending Child Abusers. It’s an in-depth investigative report of this, and it’s really detailed. It’s excellent. And I know all of you listening are really interested in this because you’re either currently in a relationship with abuser and wondering if you need to set the boundary of divorce or work toward some type of separation. Or maybe it’s post divorce and you’re trying to figure out what you’re going to do with custody in your divorce case.
We know everyone is interested in this, and I want everyone to be prepared for what they’re up against when it comes to civil cases with custody. Due to the financial abuse and the litigation abuse that you experienced through the 10 years of legal abuse that you endured, you needed to do your case pro se, which means that you were representing yourself. And so I am so proud of you and impressed by you that you did that and that you just kept fighting for your kids. That’s awesome. When you finally were able to protect your children, talk about how you felt and like what happened after that? Your kids finally don’t have to do parent time with him. How does that feel?
“I’m Still Processing the Trauma”
You know, interesting that you ask because I’ve shared this with close friends and family members where I had visualized for so long what that day would feel like, because that’s what we hoped for. That’s what we prayed for. But on the day that visits were finally ended and he wasn’t even allowed to call the girls (it was no contact period), I walked out of the courthouse and I had imagined that it would just be a flood of tears and this huge relief. That juncture was around the six-year mark and I felt like I had been in shock, almost a dissociative state, and it had been six years of living in fight or flight mode. There was a period of time where I slept with a hammer under my pillow because I was in fear for our lives.
And so to be granted peace, it probably took me about three months before the floodgates opened and I started to process what had happened. And I’m still in therapy. I mean, 13 years ago is when my case started, and I’m still processing the trauma. I often say the post separation abuse and watching what my children endured without being able to protect them, which is what nature intended for me to do, was by far more abusive than what I experienced during my relationship. And I think the family court system and institutional betrayal is to blame for that.
“Even Though There Were Findings of Severe and Chronic Abuse, Judge Pullan Gave [the Abuser] Full Custody”
Do you know the details of what happened when the Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes, decided to get involved with the case with Ty and Brynlee and sent people down to Provo to observe, to see if everything was going according to the law or whatever? Do you know what happened with the details of that and why they just thought, oh, this makes sense, this looks good.
I have no idea why nothing came of that, because it gave everyone so much hope to know that the Attorney General’s office was assigning someone to pay attention to this case and to watch the final days of these hearings in Judge Pullan’s courtroom. But the ruling that came down is shocking to everyone that this dad received full custody, even though there are findings of severe and chronic abuse, that Judge Pullan gave him full custody, yet he can’t be unsupervised with his own kids. The court orders that the kids are to be separated and put into two different houses with paternal family members versus their mom. And so the fact that the Attorney General was witness to that unfolding is mind blowing to me.
Why Don’t the Courts Value Children’s Safety More?
Yeah. That they’re not like, “That’s weird.”, you know? I’m constantly shocked actually that people say things and then they’re like, “Oh, yeah, it’s fine.” Recently the same pediatrician that I was talking about in the beginning, gave these pictures of bruises on these children to court and testified that they’d been abused, and the Guardian ad Litem in that case and the judge both said, “Oh, yeah. Hmm. I don’t really think that that counts as abuse. No problem. 50/50 custody.”
It is shocking, especially in a state like Utah that really thinks that children are important apparently. And I’m like, apparently not. Apparently they really value men’s exploitative privilege.
Absolutely. I think that pretty much sums up <laugh> the majority of what we’re all up against.
We don’t necessarily know what the solutions are, per se. There’s Kayden’s Law that I’d like you to talk about, but I’d like you to talk about the path forward on two different fronts. The first one is what women who are currently experiencing abuse and perhaps considering a divorce boundary to separate themselves from harm can do. Or if they’re post-separation, to protect themselves and their own children, if you have any tips. And then secondly, what concerned citizens could do. So if you could just point to the path forward on those two fronts, that would be great to close us out.
In terms of a parent who is still in the abusive relationship, it’s heartbreaking to me because I get the messages saying, ‘I’ve read your story,’ or ‘I watch what’s happening on your blog with other stories, and I would rather stay because I know that I have a better chance of protecting my kids.’ What a failure this system is when victims of domestic abuse would rather stay in the relationship than risk losing their children to their abuser. That is a failure in itself. But I cannot emphasize enough the importance of understanding your local system. Learning it like the back of your hand, really entrenching yourself in who the judges are, who the bad players are, who the good players are. Having an attorney that truly gets it.
The Family Court System “Requires a Tremendous Amount of Strategy”
I always struggle or hesitate to use this term, but radical acceptance- it is not a system that’s in children’s best interest. And unfortunately, it is a system that requires a tremendous amount of strategy and it shouldn’t, and that’s not fair. It’s not just, but that is the reality of what we’re up against.
So really document everything, and people cringe when I say that. I always say 99% of my documentation has never been seen by anyone, but I would do it all again because the 1% that I was able to showcase in court or in custody evaluations is what protected my kids.
And then, to reference what the solutions are, last year with the Violence Against Women’s Act passing at the federal level, it’s the first time that the federal government has recognized that we have a crisis in the family court system, and they passed Kayden’s Law. You can find out more about it at nationalsafeparents.org. I don’t remember the exact dollar amounts, but it incentivizes states to adopt Kayden’s Law in their state. And so there is a push right now in Montana. There’s one starting up in Utah, California.
What Does Kayden’s Law Accomplish?
One of the things it will do is restrict expert testimony to those who are appropriately qualified to provide it. It’s a lot of the people in the alienation industry who are pushing their own agenda, and so it will create a standard for expert testimony, which is long overdue. You would think that would be common sense in the family court system, but unfortunately it’s not.
It would limit the use of reunification camps and therapies which are not proven to be safe and effective. So it’s going to address the issue we’ve talked about here today, and it’s going to require that family courts consider past abuse. Right now they don’t. They can say that just because he abused you, doesn’t mean he abused the kids, and they’re so wrong on that.
They’re calling for evidence-based training for judges and family court professionals, which again, that just seems like common sense. My dog groomer is required to have a certain amount of hours to receive her certification to groom my dog, yet our family court judges to have no training – that needs to stop.
Narcissistic Court Professionals Are Harming Children
I found it very interesting, I didn’t know this until you said it, that they’re being trained by the parental alienation side. They’re going to conferences where people are talking about this. They’re like, “Okay, it’s fine that I get trained by people who want to protect child abusers.” Because in Utah right now, the judges are like, “No way. Why do I need to get trained about child abuse? I know everything already.”
Also, I see this quite a bit and it’s super, super annoying to me and traumatic to me that certain therapists or Guardians ad Litem, or custody evaluators, think so highly of themselves that they are flattered by the abuser. So they think that they’ve turned him into a safe person. They’re like, “Oh, here we have this man who’s been abusive in all these ways, and I, through my helpful guidance, am going to tell him, ‘Hey, you’ve been abusive and you’ve been terrible.'”
And then when he grooms them and says, “I know that was wrong, I’m not ever gonna do that again.”, they pat themselves on the back as if like, “Oh, it’s so good that I was part of this case. It’s so nice now that these parents can co-parent together and these kids can be safe and they can have their dad in their life and everything is gonna be okay now because I did such a good job.”
Right. I think there’s a high level of narcissism in our family court professionals. I think there’s a range between that high level of narcissism and financial incentive that it’s in their best interest to keep these kids going through this pipeline of alienation services and all of it. So I think that’s a huge issue in the family court system.
What Can You Do To Help?
So if you are horrified by this, which I hope that you are, I hope that you feel angry. I hope that you feel upset and I hope that that justifiable, righteous anger motivates you to get more educated about this.
There are three things you need to do. Number one, go to nationalsafeparents.org and find out how you can support having a law like Kayden’s Law passed in your state. Go to One Mom’s Battle, which is an excellent place for resources if you are going through this yourself. And then also please, if you have social media accounts, which I totally support you if you do not, but if you do, post podcasts like that Civic podcast that I mentioned. One of the children who is involved with this, who is currently barricaded in his room, please follow his TikTok.
Just talking to people about it and getting the word out that this is occurring. Most people who I talk to, especially in my case when I said I had a supported domestic abuse case and he pled guilty, they think the next thing is, “Oh, I’m so glad you’re safe. I’m glad your kids don’t have to go with him.” And when I say the next thing, “No, he actually got more custody.”, the shock ensues, right? Most people aren’t aware that this is happening, so helping get the word out is the most important thing.
If you’re involved in your own current situation, focus on yourself. You don’t need to change the world right now, but learn through strategy and through other means how to keep yourself safe. We have our Living Free Workshop, to help women navigate just what to do with themselves, not necessarily related to their children. And then Tina’s site One Mom’s Battle is really good resource for parents.
“This is an Absolute Crisis”
When everyday citizens who are not affected by the family court system link arms with us and demand better for our children, that’s where we are going to see a change. Because right now it’s so easy to label all of us as hysterical moms, and that bias is overwhelming. We really need people who aren’t involved in family court to stand with us in outrage and to reach out to their legislators and put this on their radar, that it is an absolute crisis.
It is a crisis, and our children are being hurt. I met with a legislator about Kayden’s Law here in Utah, and I just said to him, “Currently, right now today, there are safe parents who are trying to protect their own children from a known child abuser, and the court is prohibiting them from protecting them. And the more they try to protect their kid, the worse off it gets for everybody.”
Support the BTR.ORG Podcast
Well, Tina, thank you so much for your hard work. We appreciate everything you do to bring this issue to light. So thank you. Thank you so much for talking with me today.
If this podcast is helpful to you, please support it. And until next week, stay safe out there.