Who is the Monster?

WHEN I was 19 and my late dad was 45 years old, he had an extra marital affair and left the family home to live with his mistress.

It was a devastating time for all of us, and none more so than my mum, who seemed to spend the next four months crying and starving herself, while somehow parenting my youngest sister, who was then only eight years old.

A week after my father left, my mother told me that this was the third or fourth affair that my dad had “enjoyed”, and she could not forgive him again.

She was hurting badly; and looking back, I am sure that in her pain, she told me this to drive me away from my father and maybe make me hate him.

But it had the reverse effect.

Instead, I saw my dad as a weak human being and I worried for him, and loved him even more – after all he was “my dad”.

As things turned out, six months later my father suffered a nervous breakdown and my mum took him back, nursed him back to health and once again, forgave him.

He never strayed again, and when he died in my mother’s arms in 2008, they loved each other more than ever before.

So why do I tell you this?

Well, fast forward to 2003.

This was the year I was denied all contact with my middle two daughters (Rhia and Shannon). You can read the full account and my battle for access here: Denial

The loss of my daughters was a major contributing factor in my own nervous breakdown in 2013.

This is fully explained here: When you gonna wake up and strengthen the things that remain?

Then some nine months after my breakdown, I discovered that my eldest son, Ben, had married in March 2014, without telling me. To add insult, he had invited my daughters’ stepfather to his wedding rather than me. Perhaps not surprisingly, I suffered another breakdown.

Some 18 months later, when his new wife gave birth to their daughter (my grand-daughter) he instructed members of the family NOT to show me any photographs of her.

Again, I was left reeling – where had all this hatred come from?

It seems that since 2010, he too had been dragged into this denial of access mess.

My last contact with Ben was a text message he sent me in May 2010, in which he said:

“I know your secret”.

When I asked what that “secret” was, he stopped all contact, blocked calls and emails and returned all my letters.

Read this for background about what was going on: The Gaslight Tapes

So I was left with my youngest son Nathan, who I had cared for single-handedly since just after his fourth birthday (he is now 15) and my eldest adult daughter Tan, who had stayed away from all the family problems, and whom I have not seen for a few years.

So time to bring things up to date: at October half-term 2016, Nathan asked if he could pop and see Tan at her office in Telford. I agreed and went with him.

We telephoned the office to find out if she was at work. She was, and she spoke briefly with Nathan, but made excuses why she could not see him personally.

Three days later, she emailed my ex-wife (Nathan’s mother and someone she had not seen in more than 10 years) to claim she was scared by the phone call. But the two page email was full of vitriol about me and how she did not want to see me again and had “nothing positive to say” about me.

Clearly upset, Nathan showed me this email last week.

I was choked by it… I have NEVER fallen out with Tan, never harmed her in any way and had no idea that she didn’t want contact with me.

I had given her space, believing she was being aloof, due to family problems with her uncle and the recent death of her grandfather.

So this email was completely out-of-the-blue and hit me very hard.

But, what became immediately clear was that a 14 year campaign of lies, innuendo, gaslighting and character assassination against me, was continuing.

This campaign was being driven by Alvilde, the mother of my middle daughters, and her wealthy husband John.

As explained in The Gaslight Tapes: “A common element among all the tactics manipulators use is that they cause the person being targeted to doubt their gut instincts about what’s going on.

“Their gut tells them they’re under attack or that someone is trying to get the better of them, and they intuitively go on the defensive. But because they often can’t find any clear, direct, objective evidence that the other person is merely trying to disadvantage them, they start doubting and questioning themselves.

“This is the real secret of effective manipulation. If the “target” were solidly convinced they were in the process of being done in, they’d more likely put up more resistance instead of capitulating.

“Manipulators know this. They win by getting the other person to back down or give in.”

So what is my “secret”?

And what have I done to make me such a heinous father or such a monster, that my children hate me?

  • Am I a murderer?
  • Am I a rapist?
  • Am I a wife beater?
  • Am I a child abuser?
  • Am I a paedophile?

I am NONE of these things…. I have NEVER physically abused, sexually abused, mentally abused or harmed any of my children or past partners. I have rarely even raised my voice to my kids.

Plus, I am a pacifist.

The ONLY time I have ever hit anyone, is a drunken fight I had at a ceilidh in Scotland in 1992, when Alvilde and I drunkenly and publicly punched each other over my refusal to take part in a country dance. It was something we both regretted the next day and something I openly apologised for – this was long before our daughters were even born.

So has this one incident become the bedrock of the gaslighting?

I genuinely don’t know.

But, as my good friend Sara Salyers observes:

“From bitter personal experience I can attest to the fact that whispered accusations behind the back of the accused, rather than a clear and evidenced case are a sure sign that a speculative and inauthentic profile is being constructed in the shadows from which it cannot be challenged because it is protected from the light of day.

“Anyone accused of crimes serious enough to cost him the right to a relationship with his children has the right to hear the case against him. And his children have both the right and the duty to pull the whispers out of the shadows and subject them to the light of test and evidence.”

So I ask again, what have I done, to warrant such ongoing poison?

Now, after reading Tan’s email, I am not going to back down again and submit to life-ruining lies and innuendoes.

I believe I am a caring and gentle man, who loves his children deeply and should not be forced through this hell any longer.

If the perpetrators intended to break me, they did that a long time ago. The child sexual abuse, cancer, bankruptcy and bereavements ground me down over many years, but the cruel assassination of my character to my children finished me off.

In June 2015, I tried to take my own life, but was rescued by two passing strangers. The road to emotional and psychological recovery since that day has been strong, but draining.

I am now too tired and too old to fight any longer.

So this is my final battle, my final attempt to break this campaign of vilification, and beg that my older children (who are now all adults) see me as I really am.

Whatever the outcome, I will always love all of them.

My youngest son Nathan knows and loves me as a caring and loving dad, who would do anything for his children.

And my many friends know me too.

This is what a few of them so kindly volunteered to write.

I leave you, the reader, to judge, but this is the REAL ME:

I first met Nic when we worked together for the YTS scheme in the mid-1980s; training teenagers to get employment. Nic had a teaching role. He was married and the loving father of a young family.

Over the years some may have assumed that Nic’s easy-going personality was a weakness, but this was not the case. Perhaps some were jealous of Nic’s character and may have felt inadequate. Perhaps because of this, they tried to make Nic look bad to make themselves look better.

Nic has admitted to faults but has always been a family man and wanted to be there as a father for his children. Everyone makes mistakes but many do not admit to them publicly in social media. Nic is a good, kind man and father to his children. He loves them all very much even the ones he is not able to communicate with which I know rips him apart.

JA (known Nic for 30 years)

 

I met Nic last summer through Momentum and his blogs. We went on to meet and become friends. Nic is a very decent, honest and genuine human being, which is very rare nowadays.

AA (known Nic for 7 months)

 

Nic and I worked together for three years and he became a great pal and was always passionate about what he did.

The love of his family is obvious and I truly hope that his dream of having a relationship with his other children comes true.

SB (known Nic for 6 years)

 

Nic is a great editor and it was one of my life pleasures to work with him. When I was having deep work-related problems, he was the first person I turned to. At work he was inspirational, and out-of-work he is a great family man who adores his children.

Nic and his wife Gill became close personal friends of my husband Alex and me and we have stayed at each other’s houses many times.

AB (known Nic for 6 years)

 

I’ve known Nic for four years, meeting him as the father of one of my son’s best friends, and now we are friends in our own right. Nic has many qualities that I admire, which include being thoughtful, caring, loving, and a very talented writer. Nic is a kind and loving father to Nathan, who in return is growing into a very polite and thoughtful young man.  I’d like to say not a day goes by without him thinking of all of his kids, but it’s probably more likely to be not an hour. Nic deserves as much as any of us to see his family.

CB (known Nic for 4 years)

 

I have known Nic first as a work colleague and then as a friend.

Nic is a compassionate and very fair man who has endured much in his life. What Nic has come through would have crippled most other people. The fact that he has come through it with such little resentment and such a sunny disposition says it all.

I am so proud that I am a friend of his and in my eyes he is a hero.

KB (known Nic for 8 years)

 

I have known Nic personally for many years through our common love of Brighton and Hove Albion FC. In short Nic is a fantastic guy, gentle and compassionate and extremely funny. I hope it all works out for him.

AB (known Nic for 13 years)

 

Nic and I met at college when we were both still teenagers and have kept in touch ever since. We both have great pride in swapping news about how our respective children have grown and developed.

Nic has always had a funny and quirky personality. I can still remember him reading his election speech at Poly with his pants on the outside of his trousers and a knotted hanky on his head. The memory of it still makes me laugh.

Nic does not suffer fools but neither does he exhibit any rash or violent temper.

Nic is now, as he was at 19, a caring, honest, considerate and sensitive man, passionately opposed to social injustice and whose deep and abiding love for his children is absolutely apparent.

I am proud to be his friend.

JB (known Nic for 41 years)

 

Nic gave me my first job in journalism in 2007. I can without hesitation say he is the best editor I could have wished for.

Over the years Nic and I became friends and I have found him to be someone I could rely on if I had a problem as he always made time for his friends and staff even when he was busy or in difficulty himself. 

I was humbled when he and Gill asked me to be their wedding photographer. As for Nathan, I just don’t know how Nic has managed to bring up a child on his own while working full-time as a newspaper editor.

CB (known Nic for 9 years)

 

I worked alongside Nic for six months and he is one of the most earnest, helpful and trustworthy colleagues I have ever known. Gregarious, kind and immensely talented, he commands results using a fair and approachable management style. His sunny nature and sharp wit lit up the newsroom and it was both a pleasure and delight to work alongside him.

SC (known Nic for 5 years)

 

I have known Nic since 1999 and visited him and Ruth often at their home in Oldmeldrum. I met Rhia and Shannon on a number of occasions. I was also present at Nic and Ruth’s wedding in 2003. It was so lovely to see how beautiful Rhia and Shannon looked at the wedding, and how excited they were. It was obvious how much they loved their little brother, Nathan, constantly fussing over him, and how much they loved their dad.

Nic is, and always has been, loving and caring towards all of his children and a thoroughly decent man. It is time he had an even break.

LD (known Nic for 18 years)

 

Nic and I enjoyed a loving relationship for little over a year. We would spend alternate weekends at each other’s homes and spent Christmas and Easter together too. His son, Nathan became good friends with my teenage children. I also met and spent time with Nic’s lovely mum, Jackie.

Nic is a loving person and a wonderful father. He also put himself out of limb to get to know and befriend my children. I never saw Nic lose his temper or harm anyone. It is now sadly ironic that the reason we split up was due to his high personal morality and honesty – something to which I still aspire. He was a lovely part of my life.

NG (known Nic for 7 years)

 

Nic is an outstanding editor, teacher and friend. I worked for him for two years between 2008 and 2010. I feel very privileged to have been part of his editorial team. His enthusiasm is infectious and it encouraged me to unearth some great stories and push myself to new limits. Nic will always be someone I continue to turn to for help and advice.

AF (known Nic for 9 years)

 

I met and worked for Nic between 1998 and 1999. I got to know him and his then partner Alvilde on a personal and friendly basis. I never witnessed Nic lose his temper once and he always adored his two little daughters.

Nic is a unique editor who gave confidence and inspiration to many aspiring journalists. More than that, he is a lovely guy.

PF (known Nic for 19 years)

 

I have known Nic for around 13 years, via our mutual love of Brighton and Hove Albion Football Club. In all this time, I have seen his devotion to Nathan, often in the face of great difficulty, to be unswerving, with the soul of a man who loves his son dearly. I know Nic would welcome the chance to (re)build relationships with his other children. He is a genuinely lovely man, full of wit, passion and care.

IH (known Nic for 13 years)

 

Nic is a wonderful mentor and teacher and an editor I would willingly move hundreds of miles to work for him again. He is also a warm and compassionate human being and an amazing father to his lovely son Nathan. In a nutshell: he is just amazing.

LH (known Nic for 6 years)

 

I have known Nic for 10 years. We met when he did pro bono PR work for my former band Tiny Tin Lady. I have stayed at Nic’s house many times over the ensuing years and he has become my soul-mate.

Nic is an awesome father to Nathan and a lovely human being. He is one of my best friends in the world and I was honoured to be his witness at his marriage to Gill.

I would love to meet his estranged daughters and tell them to their faces what a beautiful man their father is.

HH (known Nic for 10 years)

 

I consider myself to be a very good judge of character. This opinion of myself has come about through many years of observing the consequences of my decisions based on the judgements I make. Mostly I have been right, and my awareness of other people has enabled me to almost instantly know if someone is going to be trouble, or enjoys harming other people, or is lying to me or trying to manipulate me in any way.

Nic is a sensitive, kind and intelligent man, who wants to live in a world that values peacefulness, equality and compassion.

AI (known Nic for 6 months)

 

I first met Nic while working for NWN Media. I think it was probably our passion for football that got us talking (he is B&HAFC and me it’s Chester).

It was always a pleasure to chat with him as a happy bloke who never seemed to have a problem with anyone or anything. He hid the agony of his family problems well.

Subsequently we have become good friends with a shared love of music and footy. He has always been kind even in his darkest hours and even appreciated my bad jokes.

Even though Nic lives some miles away I consider him a close friend and would happily welcome him to my home or holiday home in mid Wales, where I spend a lot of time with my wife and extended family of foster children and pets. I hope he finds the inner strength and peace that he deserves.

JL (known Nic for 11 years)

 

Nic and I met after our sons became close friends at school, when they were still just Infants.

Over the years our sons have played together, had many sleepovers and grown to be best buddy teenagers.

Nathan has excelled at school and is one of the brightest boys I have ever known. This is in no small measure due to Nic’s parenting of Nathan.

I make these observations as a fellow parent, a good friend and as a school teacher.

CL (known Nic for 11 years)

 

I first worked with Nic in 1993. I also met Dilla – this was before they had their two daughters. Our paths crossed again at The Scotsman in 1996. We became good friends and I socialised with both Nic and Dilla over the following year. I visited their home in Haddington and saw at first hand his wonderful parenting of Rhia and Shannon.

I can say in all honesty that Nic is a kind, funny and a very gentle man. It is a horrendous travesty that he has been denied the rights of any father to be a parent to his daughters.

VM (known Nic for 24 years)

 

I need to thank Nic for his support over the last three years – he is a star! I’ve come to value his kindness, honesty, and integrity greatly.

SM (known Nic for 7 years)

 

Nic and I met through our sons, who went to the same primary school.

Nic is friendly and approachable and very easy to talk to. I have never witnessed him being angry and always thought of him as very laid back and relaxed.

Nic is a loving parent who always wants the best for his son. Nathan is a lovely boy and that is credit to the upbringing that Nic has given him. Both my children have spent lots of time at Nic’s house and I have never had any reason to be concerned. Even with a house full of noisy children I have never seen or heard Nic raise his voice in anger. He genuinely enjoys seeing the children happy and having fun.

KM (known Nic for 8 years)

 

Dad is loving and caring, he spoils me rotten. He is kind and generous. He can be firm and sometimes raise his voice, but he never loses his temper with me. He is the best dad in the world ever!

NO (known Nic all my life)

 

I have only known Nic a short time through our mutual socialist beliefs and membership of the local Momentum branch.

I have to say, I believe Nic to be a thoughtful, caring and gentle soul who wants a just, equal, and caring society. I truly hope his fight to put the record straight is successful.

ER (known Nic for 6 months)

 

Nic is insightful and generous. His passion for social issues and concern for his fellow man permeates every aspect of his work and personality. Nic is a breath of fresh air.

It is for these reasons that I consider him to be one of the best bosses I have ever had and also a very dear friend.

RR (known Nic for 5 years)

 

I first met Nic in 1996 when he was working for The Scotsman. We had a lot in common and quickly became friends.

I got to know him, Dilla and the girls, visiting them in Haddington and going to stay with them in Galloway a couple of times in 1999.

Nic was a proud and loving father and his girls obviously adored him. Everything about his politics and his core values and his behaviour as a dad was of a peace, committed, brave and loving.

No one is without faults and all of us hurt those we love as a result – all of us without exception. But the kinds of fault that would justify alienating and excluding a father, the kinds of faults that would make the violent emotional damage inflicted by parental alienation preferable to maintaining a working relationship with a parent, are not part of his profile. I can state that with 100% certainty.

And from bitter personal experience I can attest to the fact that whispered accusations behind the back of the accused, rather than a clear and evidenced case are a sure sign that a speculative and inauthentic profile is being constructed in the shadows from which it cannot be challenged because it is protected from the light of day.

Anyone accused of crimes serious enough to cost him the right to a relationship with his children has the right to hear the case against him.

And his children have both the right and the duty to pull the whispers out of the shadows and subject them to the light of test and evidence.

Even if that means acknowledging the vengeful or venal or deceitful character of the other parent.

Much love to a brave, brilliant and loving friend.

SS (known Nic for 21 years)

 

Meeting and working for Nic between 2008 and 2010 gave me a strength and inner-belief that few could ever manage. I will never forget his presence in the newsroom, his advice or guidance, all of which are worth more than gold.

He is a lovely man and I am a better person for having known him.

MT (known Nic for 9 years)

 

I worked for Nic for over five years, first as a trainee and then on to chief reporter. He taught me everything I know.

Not only a great journalist and editor Nic is the most compassionate manager I have ever worked for. After being diagnosed with cancer he was a massive support to me, treating me like a friend rather than an employee or a ‘number’.

I am very proud and grateful to have been a member of his team and to class him as a true friend.

And to watch Nathan grow under his parenting has been amazing.

NT (known Nic for 9 years)

 

I have known Nic for a little over five years.

I think he, Gill and Nathan are fantastic loving people, educated and incredibly funny.

VT (known Nic for 7 years)

 

I have come to know Nic through his writings and ultimately as a valued friend.    

It is impossible to read Nic’s accounts of his life and of his struggles to gain access to his children, without being deeply moved.   

Nic has a tremendous insight into self, probably more than anyone I know.  Unlike so many of us humans, he can reflect and admit to his weaknesses and imperfections.  

Nic is a valued friend and is a kind, caring and above all honest man. 

SW (known Nic for 2 years)

 

I have known Nic for over 30 years and met him at a particular difficult time for him, health wise. I was a nurse, working at an oncology hospital in Cardiff, and Nic was a patient receiving radiotherapy due to him having a malignant tumour removed from his shoulder area. I would redress his wound each day, and spend a long time talking and listening to a brave, intelligent man.

I gained great insight into a man who was determined to get well and restart his life and career. I saw how he worried about other patients and how one young girl became a great friend to him and he looked out for her throughout his time at the hospital. They remained friends up until her untimely death through cancer. Again this hit Nic hard as he loved her like a younger sister he has never forgotten her and has even made time to meet her family many years later.

I for one class Nic as a caring passionate friend and know our friendship will never be lost. When you meet Nic and talk to him you know him only as a gentleman who wants the best for other people before himself. A selfless man who deserves better than what has happened to him these past years.

AY (known Nic for 30 years)

 

Poem: Fanny by Gaslight

Fanny turn the gaslight up

And tell me what you see

Your vision has been clouded

Do you still remember me?

The lies and old malt whisky

Have poisoned all that’s good

Your captives have been clever

Don’t let us be misunderstood

 

Fanny turn the gaslight up

And cut the wick down low

Your memory has been twisted

And truth returns too slow

The lies and old malt whisky

Have poisoned all that’s good

Your captives have been clever

Don’t let us be misunderstood

 

Fanny turn the gaslight up

Now open the curtains wide

The horizon goes on forever

And I am on the other side

The lies and old malt whisky

Have poisoned all that’s good

Your captives have been clever

Don’t let us be misunderstood

 

Fanny turn the gaslight up

Pack your toothbrush and your comb

The train awaits on platform six

So make your way back home

The lies and old malt whisky

Have poisoned all that’s good

Your captives have been clever

Don’t let us be misunderstood

 

Poem: Fanny by Gaslight

Fanny turn the gaslight up
And tell me what you see
Your vision has been clouded
Do you still remember me?
The lies and old malt whisky
Have poisoned all that’s good
Your captives have been clever
Don’t let us be misunderstood

Fanny turn the gaslight up
And cut the wick down low
Your memory has been twisted
And truth returns too slow
The lies and old malt whisky
Have poisoned all that’s good
Your captives have been clever
Don’t let us be misunderstood

Fanny turn the gaslight up
Now open the curtains wide
The horizon goes on forever
And I am on the other side
The lies and old malt whisky
Have poisoned all that’s good
Your captives have been clever
Don’t let us be misunderstood

Fanny turn the gaslight up
Pack your toothbrush and your comb
The train awaits on platform six
So make your way back home
The lies and old malt whisky
Have poisoned all that’s good
Your captives have been clever
Don’t let us be misunderstood

The Gaslight tapes

I HAVE been the victim of gaslighting.

And I didn’t even know it!

To understand anything which now follows, you probably will need to read my recent autobiographical blog piece entitled Denial. The posting tells the story of my denial of access and loss of my two middle daughters.

Following the publication of Denial on Sunday 9 March, I suddenly discovered by cruel irony that the perpetrators had poisoned other members of my family.

It was a sinister and unexpected shock and left me asking “Why?”

Then last weekend things became a lot clearer.

I had my best friend to stay. She wanted to help me come to terms with the most recent turn of events. She is my soul mate, my trustee and by chance a psychologist. She has known me for many years and knows most of my life. She had read my blog posting and was concerned. So during Saturday afternoon sat on our sofa, I filled in a few gaps and we chatted.

Then she turned to me and said suddenly: “You have been gaslighted.”

“It is a cruel and cunning and devious abuse tactic,” she added.

I gasped for an explanation.

So here it is: Gaslighting is a sophisticated manipulation tactic which is used to control and create doubt in the mind of the victim.

In a 1930s movie thriller entitled “Gas Light”,  a conniving husband tries to make the wife he wishes to get rid of think she is losing her mind by making subtle changes in her environment, including slowly and steadily dimming the flame on a gas lamp.

In recent years, the term “gaslighting” has come to be applied to attempts by certain kinds of people to create so much doubt and fear in the minds of their targets of exploitation that the victim no longer trusts their own judgment about things, thus coming under their power and control.

Sometimes, a person can assert something with such an apparent intensity of conviction that the other person begins to doubt their own perspective.

Bringing up historical facts that seem largely accurate but contain minute, hard-to-prove distortions and using them to “prove” the correctness of one’s position is another method.

Gaslighting is particularly effective when coupled with other tactics such as shaming and guilting. Anything that aids in getting another person to doubt their judgment and back down will work.

Deception is often the key ingredient in manipulation. Deception can be accomplished by outright denial, distortion of key aspects of events, and a variety of other methods, especially the more sophisticated lying techniques.

A really accomplished liar can deceive another person by merely reciting a litany of absolutely true things — while deliberately and cleverly leaving out one or two crucial elements that would change the entire character of what they’re trying to make you believe.

But a common element among all the tactics manipulators use is that they cause the person being targeted to doubt their gut instincts about what’s going on. Their gut tells them they’re under attack or that someone is trying to get the better of them, and they intuitively go on the defensive. But because they often can’t find any clear, direct, objective evidence that the other person is merely trying to disadvantage them, they start doubting and questioning themselves.

This is the real secret of effective manipulation. If the “target” were solidly convinced they were in the process of being done in, they’d more likely put up more resistance instead of capitulating.

Manipulators know this. They win by getting the other person to back down or give in.”

My friend then added: “The way I see it is that the person behind this is like a poison seed. That seed poisons those around to believe them and demonise you.”

So things began to become clearer:

  • The perpetrator could cite three of four instances in my life when I had lost my temper… therefore I had an “anger management problem”. Failing each time to mention the circumstances which led to the rational outburst of anger.
  • The perpetrator could prove that on a few occasions in my life I was treated for depression… therefore I was “mentally ill” and “must be dangerous”. Failing to point out that these occasions were separated by many years and were a natural reaction to overpowering life events, such as bereavement, cancer and loss of a job.
  • The perpetrator could point out that I had a criminal conviction… therefore I was “a criminal with an interest in young girls”. Failing to point out that the conviction was 30 years ago, had been fully spent since 1991, and was due to me immediately handing myself in to the police when I discovered the girl’s age.
  • The perpetrator could point out that I had moved 300 miles away and not seen my daughters for years… therefore I had “abandoned them”. Failing to point out that their mother had moved away and had prevented me from seeing my daughters.

And so on. Until those around them – mainly my daughters – believed all the blackening lies and half truths about me.

My friend said that I had been specifically a victim of gaslighting by proxy, which is described: “If all else fails, the abuser recruits friends, colleagues, family members, the authorities, institutions, neighbours, the media, teachers – in short, third parties – to do his bidding. Even the victim’s relatives, friends, and colleagues are amenable to the considerable charm, persuasiveness, and manipulativeness of the abuser. The abuser offers a plausible rendition of the events and interprets them to his favour.

“Others rarely have a chance to witness an abusive exchange first hand and at close quarters. In contrast, the victims are often on the verge of a nervous breakdown and are angry.

“Confronted with this contrast between a polished, self-controlled, and suave abuser and his harried casualties – it is easy to reach the conclusion that the real victim is the abuser, or that both parties abuse each other equally.

“The abuser perverts the system – therapists, counsellors, mediators, court-appointed guardians, police officers, and judges.

He uses them to pathologise the victim and separate him/her from their sources of emotional sustenance – notably, from their children.”

Dr Richard Gardner sums it up: “The purpose of the alienation is usually to gain or retain custody without the involvement of the father. The alienation usually extends to the father’s family and friends as well.

“Many of these children proudly state that their decision to reject their fathers is their own. They deny any contribution from their mothers. And the mothers often support this vehemently. In fact, the mothers will often state that they want the child to visit with the father and recognise the importance of such involvement, yet such a mother’s every act indicates otherwise.

“Such children appreciate that, by stating the decision is their own, they assuage mother’s guilt and protect her from criticism. Such professions of independent thinking are supported by the mother who will often praise these children for being the kind of people who have minds of their own and are forthright and brave enough to express overtly their opinions. Frequently, such mothers will exhort their children to tell them the truth regarding whether or not they really want to see their fathers.

“The child will usually appreciate that “the truth” is the profession that they hate the father and do not want to see him ever again. They thereby provide that answer – couched as “the truth” – which will protect them from their mother’s anger if they were to state what they really wanted to do, which is to see their fathers.

“After a period of programming the child may not know what is the truth anymore and come to actually believe that the father deserves the vilification being directed against him. The end point of the brainwashing process has then been achieved.”

So I turned to my friend exhausted. She hugged me and said: “Now you know what has happened to you. You are not alone, you are a beautiful person and those that love you and know you well are still with you and we all support you.”

My first lesson in human psychology was over!