In reality, what these women are describing from their ex-partners is better termed Domestic Violence by Proxy (DV by Proxy), a term first used by Alina Patterson, author of Health and Healing. DV by Proxy refers to a pattern of behavior which is a parent with a history of using domestic violence or intimidation, uses a child as a substitute when he no longer has access to his former partner. Calling this behavior “parental alienation” is not strong enough to convey the criminal pattern of terroristic behaviors employed by batterers.
When his victim leaves him, batterers often recognize that the most expedient way to continue to hurt his partner is to assert his legal rights to control her access to their children. By gaining control of the children, an abusive male now has a powerful tool which allows him to continue to stalk, harass and batter an ex-partner even when he has no direct access to her. Moreover, by emotionally torturing the child and severing the bond between children and their mother, he is able to hurt his intended victim — the mother — in a way she cannot resist.
DV by Proxy includes tactics such as: threats of harm to children if they display a positive bond to the mother, destroying favored possessions given by the mother, and emotional torture (for example, telling the child the mother hates them, wanted an abortion, and is not coming to get them because they are unloved).
DV by Proxy may also include coaching the child to make false allegations regarding their mother’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 mother 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 his ex; whether or not his own child is harmed in the process is irrelevant to him.