Within the past year, Ms. Neustein’s daughter, Sherry Orbach, now a graduate student in New York City, has broken her silence and written a detailed refutation of her mother’s charges. She portrays a mother who persistently attempted to coach her to make sexual abuse and other allegations against her father. Ms. Orbach credits the family courts and her father for ultimately protecting her from this form of emotional abuse. She has now remained out of contact with Ms. Neustein for many years. Ms. Orbach further complained about the media’s eagerness to publicize and support her mother’s baseless allegations.
If Ms. Orbach has correctly portrayed the events of her childhood, and her article does appear restrained, sober and lacking in malice, then Ms. Neustein’s credibility is seriously in doubt. If, as Ms. Neustein claims, Ms. Orbach’s mind and childhood memories have been corrupted by her manipulative father, then she is a living demonstration of parental alienation, which “Breaking the Silence: Children’s Stories” claims does not exist.
Ordinarily, we would not wish to question the character of published authors who treat a serious issue. In this case, however, the allegations by Ms. Orbach go to the heart of Ms. Neustein’s credibility on the precise issue at hand.
Arizona Coalition Against Domestic Violence. (2003). Battered Mothers Testimony Project: A Human Rights Approach to Child Custody and Domestic Violence. Phoenix, AZ.
This publication explicitly credits the similar Massachusetts publication reviewed above, and is a copycat effort. Similar methodologies were used, and the same criticisms apply. This publication, although “cherry-picking” 57 cases that appear to confirm the assertions under review, fails to provide scientific support for the socieal-wide patterns alleged to exist.
Depner et al. (1992). Building a uniform statistical reporting system: A snapshot of California Family Court Services. Family and Conciliation Courts Review, 30, 185-206
Summary of reported findings: Review of 1699 mediated cases in family court from June 1991 across 51 counties in California (83% of total). A Family Profile was completed by 92% of all eligible parents. Counselors completed post-session evaluations on 99% of mediations. Mothers and fathers had equal response rates.
Derivative statistics include citation that >50% of mothers in mediation were either unemployed (36%) or earning below the poverty line (number not given, but 12.8% earned <$700/month), compared with 17% and 6.6% respectively (~25% total). In assessing marital problems, the authors “applied the broadest possible definition of problems, scanning answers to all available questions…(which) encompasses concerns that cannot always be substantiated.” They acknowledged a risk of “overestimation.” Cited incidence statistics included child stealing (6%), child sexual abuse (8%), child physical abuse (18%), child neglect (30%), substance abuse (38%), and “domestic violence” (65%). No definition was offered for domestic violence. With the exception of the last category, virtually none of the other problems occurred in isolation. 30% of “domestic violence” was presented as an isolated problem.