Our Side Speaks on Houston
PBS is a publicly-funded institution and its conduct is of
concern to all citizens.
PBS's Mission Statement states that one of the central aims of its
programming is to "provide multiple viewpoints" and "treat complex social issues
completely." Breaking the Silence misses the mark by a wide margin.
The film does not "treat the issue completely," but
instead gives only one side of the story, a side which cherry-picked a few
highly unusual cases and pretended that they represent a widespread problem. Our
campaign's demand--that fatherhood and shared parenting advocates be given a
chance for a meaningful, on air, national response to the film--is entirely
consistent with PBS's stated goals and aims. In fact, it is far more consistent
with them than Breaking the Silence is.
To its credit,
made and followed through on a commitment to allow our side to air its views on
its round-table discussion show
The Connection on Friday, October 28 at 8 PM CST and again on Sunday,
October 30 at 5 PM CST. We commend Ken
Lawrence, the Director of Programming for PBS of Houston, for his
Help Stop PAS Inc., a
Houston based non-profit set up in the wake of the Lohstroh/Parental Alienation
tragedy, has done excellent work around Breaking the Silence: Children's
is a report on Friday's show from two of
their leaders, Executive Director Dr. Laird Sweet, and Administrative Director
Making The Connection:
Breaking the Silence on PAS
The Public Broadcasting System continues to air the pseudo documentary,
Breaking The Silence: Children’s Stories, despite the misleading information
it presents regarding child abuse, fathers, Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS)
and the family court system. To its credit, Houston PBS made the decision to
hold a round table discussion regarding the documentary on their weekly program
The Connection. The show first aired on Friday, October 28.
Three of the guests opposed the views of the documentary: Dr. Reena Sommer, a
psychologist and Research Director of Help Stop PAS, Andy Sperling, the Director
of Fathers for Equal Rights in Houston, and family law attorney Reginald Hirsch.
Tom Burton from Justice for Children
was there to support the views presented in the film.
The program jumped right to a discussion regarding the validity of PAS. Burton
took the stance that PAS was simply “junk science,” and falsely stated that PAS
had been debunked by the
American Psychological Association.
To make his point Burton resorted to personal
attacks on Dr. Richard Gardner, who coined the term PAS. He went on to say that
most abusers were men and that no one could dispute this fact, that “protective
parents” were mainly mothers, and that child abuse can never be disproved
without a jury trial. The most ridiculous statement Burton made was “children
don’t lie--adults lie.”
All of these statements were refuted by the other members of the panel. Dr.
Sommer cited a
study by the US Department of Health and Human Services published in 2005 by
the National Clearinghouse on Child Abuse and Neglect which states that
all child abuse is perpetrated by women. Sperling also validated PAS and
correctly asserted that PAS is not a gender issue, it’s a parenting issue.
Hirsch called for more emphasis to be put
into remedies rather than debate. All three agreed that when actual abuse has
occurred, a child is justified in rejecting a parent, but that when a healthy
relationship between a parent and child deteriorates after divorce for no
apparent reason, there is pathology involved.
Burton had no response to the facts presented
by the other members of the panel other than to repeat his position that PAS was
Throughout the program Burton insisted that
he and his group were first and foremost child advocates, while at the same time
he ignored the plight of children who were being mentally abused or manipulated
by one parent into destroying a healthy and beneficial relationship with the
other. He defended a program which cast fathers as abusive and mothers as
protective parents in the face of statistics that prove mothers abuse children
more often than fathers. He justified the removal of fathers from the lives of
their children, even though it has been proven that the loss of either parent by
a child often results in long-term delinquency and relationship problems. These
statements hurt Burton’s credibility.
PA and PAS are not gender issues. When a
parent, for whatever reason, attempts to destroy a healthy relationship between
their children and the child’s other parent, there is a disorder present. Groups
such as Justice for Children need to stop making gender issues out of parenting
issues, realize that both fathers and mothers engage in alienating behavior, and
focus on a resolution to the problem. There is no reason that our children
should have to endure this kind of emotional abuse, and it is our obligation as
a society to find a remedy.
Dr. Laird Sweet, Executive Director, and
Barbara “Judy” Sweet, Administrative Director, Help Stop PAS - a 501 (c) (3)
non-profit public charity