For the past year, Carolyn Jenkins, an associate professor in the department of social work, collaborated with producers at “Dateline NBC” to create a special on Parental Alienation Syndrome. The theory states that in divorce cases where sexual abuse by the father is claimed, the sexual abuse actually does not happen but is a ploy by mothers who coach their children to cry abuse in an effort to obtain full custody.
Jenkins says that while there’s no research to validate this theory, the court often favors the fathers, despite the accusations by the children of abuse. Why? “I think it’s because judges and the court system in general don’t want to believe a parent would sexually abuse their own child,” she says.
A mother and daughter who went into hiding after the court threatened to return the girl to her abusive father got in touch with Jenkins. Jenkins called a friend who put her in touch with a “Dateline” producer. “This is a national problem,” Jenkins says.