When the victim leaves the abuser, abusers often recognize that the most expedient way to continue to hurt and control the partner is via legal rights to control the victim’s access to their children. By gaining control of the children, an abusive partner now has a powerful tool which allows them to continue to stalk, harass or physically abuse an ex-partner even when the abuser has no direct access. Moreover, by emotionally torturing the child and severing the bond between children and the target parent (TP), the abuser is able to hurt the intended victim, the target parent (TP), in a way the AP can’t escape.
DV by Proxy includes tactics such as: threats of harm to children if they display a positive bond to the TP, destroying favored possessions given by the TP, and emotional torture (for example, telling the child the TP hates them, was not at the birth/wanted an abortion, and is not bothing with them because they are unloved).
DV by Proxy may also include coaching the child to make false allegations regarding the TP’s behavior and harming or punishing the child for not complying. DV by Proxy perpetrators may also create fraudulent documents to defraud the court in order to prevent the TP from gaining custody. Whether or not the child is biologically related to them is irrelevant to perpetrators of DV by Proxy. The perpetrator’s main motivation is to hurt the TP; whether or not their own child is harmed in the process is irrelevant to the abuser.
This is very different form “parental alienation” and different from PAS as described by the late Richard A. Gardner. Dr. Gardner described PAS as an internal process by which a child aligns themselves with a preferred parent to protect themselves from the divorce conflict. “PAS” is conceptualized as a psychological process of identification with a parent who, according to the theory, encourages this identification at the expense of the other parent.
PAS inducing parents, according to Gardner, are often unconscious of what they are doing to encourage the identification. In contrast, perpetrators of DV by Proxy are very conscious of what they are doing. Controlling, coercive, illegal acts often done by abusive and controlling people, men or woman, may not even be subtle, and do not encourage an identification with a parent. Criminal, fraudulent, coercive acts can be visible and obvious. These behaviors encourage compliance by threats and fear. Behaviors involved in DV by Proxy are deliberate and often illegal. These behaviors include: battery, destruction of property, locking children in rooms to prevent them from calling parents, falsifying documents, along with other similar overt behaviors.
This puts a TP of DV by proxy in a difficult position when accusations are made that they have caused the alienation of a child.
DV by Proxy can be readily observed. Behaviors involved in DV by Proxy are deliberate and planned; many are illegal, and if the child is given the freedom to talk, will be described in great detail by the child.
If the child’s formerly favorable view of the victimized parent changes when exposed to tactics like this over time then it is more likely a form of “Stockholm Syndrome” or traumatic attachment to the abuser, rather than the alignment with one parent and negative reaction to the other that Gardner described as “alienation”.