‘Swim, swim and die at the beach’: family court and perpetrator induced trauma (CPIT) experiences of mothers in Brazil

New paper health experiences of mothers in Brazil in family court

December 19, 2023


Gender-based violence (GBV) and Domestic Violence (DV) are prevalent in Brazil. There are growing concerns globally regarding the weaponisation of the pseudo-concept ‘Parental Alienation’ (PA) in the family courts against women. Additionally, a lack of understanding of mothers’ family court and health-related experiences indicated a need to explore this topic further. A qualitative study was conducted with thirteen mothers who are victims of Domestic Violence and have been accused of PA. Mothers reported a range of harmful health experiences, delineated here under the conceptual framework of Court and Perpetrator Induced Trauma (CPIT). Six themes are presented, which encapsulate a range of harmful actions, behaviours and circumstances (ABCs) that surround these mothers and their responses to these ABCs. Multiple physical health conditions were reported as associated with family court proceedings. This included maternity problems, musculoskeletal, autoimmune, and respiratory conditions and a broad range of mental health implications including suicide and other trauma responses. Human rights violations, the weaponisation of ‘Parental Alienation’ and inherently misogynistic and oppressive justice systems in Brazil were also reported. Urgent measures and further research are now needed to investigate causal links between harm to health and the family courts and to strengthen human rights protection for women and child victims in Brazil and beyond.

The full paper can be accessed freely by clicking here.

Shocking findings from Brazil are reported by the SHERA team including:

Parental Alienation is a pseudo-concept that asserts when a child has a negative stance towards one parent, typically the father, the child’s preferred parent, typically the mother, is to blame.

When victim-survivors report abuse and violence, parental alienation is often used to denounce and disqualify reports of abuse, implying that mothers are lying and manipulating children.

A law introduced in Brazil in 2010 solidified the concept into legislation.

The current Government under President Lula da Silva shows no sign of a revoking it. In fact, the country is on track to making so-called parental alienation a criminal offence, punishable by 3 months to 3 years in prison.

Speaking publicly about this abuse in the family court and inability to pay child support can result in a prison sentence for mothers in Brazil, whereas child rape and other acts of violence including illegal firearms possession and associated violence by fathers did not, the study found.

In the study, all the mothers reported multiple health conditions associated with family court proceedings, conceptualised by the researchers as Court and Perpetrator Induced Trauma (CPIT).

Eight of the 13 cases included child sexual abuse. Five mothers reported that police-led criminal investigations into child sexual abuse were closed due to allegations of parental alienation in family court.

Citation: E. Dalgarno, E. Katz, S. Ayeb-Karlsson, A. Barnett, P. Motosi & A. Verma (2023) ‘Swim, swim and die at the beach’: family court and perpetrator induced trauma (CPIT) experiences of mothers in Brazil, Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law, DOI: 10.1080/09649069.2023.2285136

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