Når mediation tvinger til underkastelse

Læs indlæg fra Libbie Bouffon:

(In English below)

Når mediation tvinger til underkastelse

Når et barn ender i alvorlig mistrivsel efter en højkonflikt skilsmisse, tyr kommunerne ofte til tvungen mediation mellem de fraskilte forældre. Det sker ved at true bopælsforælderen med, at barnet ellers vil blive tvangsfjernet.

Når det sker i sager, hvor der har været eller stadig er overgreb eller vold – fysisk eller psykisk – pålægges voldsofret indirekte et fælles ansvar for volden. På engelsk kaldes det ’victim blaming’. Samtidigt gøres der intet for at stoppe krænkeren eller for at hjælpe ham til at erkende egen adfærd som voldelig eller krænkende.

Et offer for vold – vold af enhver slags – er ofte traumatiseret. Alene tanken om at skulle møde sin krænker, giver hjertebanken, angst, invaderende tanker og ufrivillig genkaldelse af volden. Det slår kort sagt bunden ud af tilværelsen på voldsofret, at hun hele tiden skal konfronteres med krænkeren igen og de søvnløse nætter kan sætte ind flere uger før et mediationsmøde.

Ved selve mediationsmødet er voldsofret stiv af skræk, bange for at udtrykke sig og fryser på indersiden. De har derfor meget svært ved at komme til orde på en rimelig måde.

Krænkeren, derimod, sætter meget pris på den tvungne mediation, hvor frustrationerne kan få frit afløb og hvor voldofret er tvangsindlagt til en times eder og nedsættende tale. Mediatorer, der ikke har særlig træning, genkender nemlig ikke voldsofrenes reaktioner som symptomer på vold. Derfor sætter de heller ikke grænser for den krænkende kommunikation.

I en case var et barn i stærk mistrivsel og i alvorlig fare for livsvarige men. Forældrene blev derfor sendt i tvangsmediation, som forløb regelmæssigt i over et halvt år. Statsforvaltningen havde jo fastsat samvær og det var derfor kommunens opgave at få det projekt til at lykkes til næsten hver en pris.

Der havde været langvarig, grov psykisk vold og trusler og de mange ubehagelige kontaktforsøg forsatte i mange år efter skilsmissen. Både mor og barn havde fået konstateret PTSD, post-traumatisk stress-syndrom.

Jeg har lyttet til båndoptagelser af nogle af møderne, hvor begge forældre og kommunen deltager. Og jeg har læst og analyseret transskriptioner af møder. En times mediation kan se sådan her ud:

Faren taler: 4.784 tegn
Mediator taler: 3.363 tegn
Moren taler: 3.195 tegn

(Metode: Optælling af antal tegn i transskriptionen)

Faren afbryder: 28 gange på 1 time.
Mediator afbryder: 2 gange på 1 time. Kun 1 gang tager hun ordet tilbage, når hun selv bliver afbrudt.
Moren afbryder: 0 gange på 1 time.

Moren påpeger flere gange, at hun har svært ved at deltage i samtalen, når hun hele tiden bliver afbrudt. Hun beder uden held mediator om at sætte rammerne for samtalen. Mediator beder faren om at stoppe med at afbryde 3 gange, men fastholder ikke kravet, når han alligevel fortsætter.

To gange forsøger moren at komme med eksempler på det, hun er bange for. Begge gange bliver hun lukket ned både af sin eks-partner og af mediator. Hun bliver pålagt ikke at bringe emnet op! Moren bliver også pålagt at prøve at imødekomme faren, mens samme opfordring ikke gives til faren. Mediator falder flere gange i snak med faren, som om moren ikke er i lokalet, mens det modsatte ikke forekommer.

Mediators mål er, at parterne skal blive i stand til at indgå aftaler om deres barn. Ikke en eneste gang interesserer hun sig for, at målet kun nås ved at kue moren til at acceptere farens forslag. Eller for, at samtlige aftaler bliver brudt af faren, så snart de to har forladt lokalet.

Moren er altså tvangsindlagt til at deltage i jævnlige og stærkt retraumatiserende møder med sin krænker under ledelse af en mediator, der ikke er sin opgave voksen og som ikke vil erkende, at parterne ikke er på vej til at nå hinanden. Den indrømmelse kan jo enten koste mediator en opgave betalt af kommunen. Eller det kan koste skår i rygtet om, at hun er en dygtig mediator.

Der foregår absolut ingen udvikling mellem parterne. Pengene fosser ud af kommunekassen. Barnet er livsvarigt mærket med en fejludvikling af sin personlighed, fordi ingen ville opgive et idealistisk projekt uden jordforbindelse. Og moren fremstilles senere i retten som den, der ikke vil samarbejde, fordi hun bad kommunen om at evaluere projektet.

På intet tidspunkt i den mangeårige sag overvejer kommunen, at vejen til at bringe barnet i trivsel ikke er mediation. (Vold kan ikke stoppes med mediation.) Men at vejen er at stoppe det skadelige samvær, fordi det placerer barnet i midten, hvor det ikke kan tåle at være. Og at Statsforvaltningen derfor må revurdere sagen.

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ENGLISH

When mediation forces you to submit

When a child ends up in serious failure to thrive following a high conflict divorce in Denmark, the local Social Services often resort to mediation between the divorced parents. The mother (or resident parent) is coerced into accepting mediation using threats that if she doesn’t, the child will be removed from her.

When this happens in cases involving abuse or violence – physical or psychological – the victim is indirectly given part of the responsibility for the violence. This is called ‘victim blaming’. At the same time, nothing is done to stop the abuser or to help him recognise his own behaviour as violent.

A victim of violence – any kind of violence – is often traumatised. The very thought of meeting her abuser makes her shake all over, gives her anxiety, invading thoughts and involuntary recollection of the violent episodes. In other words, it impairs her significantly that she has to be confronted with her abuser again. Often, the sleepless nights set in several weeks before a mediator meeting.

At the meeting, the victim is scared stiff, afraid to speak out and often psychologically frozen inside. For this reason, it is hard for them to make themselves heard in a reasonable way.

The abuser, on the other hand, appreciates the mandatory mediation, where he can continue to flood the victim in his demeaning statements and verbal abuse. Mediators, who are not specifically trained in understanding violence, rarely recognise the victim’s symptoms, so they don’t stop the verbal abuse even as it takes place in front of them.

In one case, a child was in serious failure to thrive and to develop lifelong damage to the personality. The parents were sent to mandatory mediation with regular meetings for over six months. The State Administration had decided the visitation schedule, so it was up to the Social Services to make that project succeed at almost any cost.

There was a long history of severe psychological violence and threats and the many unwelcome and uncomfortable attempts at contact continued for many years following the divorce. Both mother and child had PTSD, post-traumatic stress syndrome.

I have listened to tape recording of some of their meetings where both parents as well as social services were present. And I have read and analysed transcriptions of meetings. A one-hour mediation meeting can look like this:

The father speaks: 4.784 characters
The mediator speaks: 3.363 characters
The mother speaks: 3.195 characters

(Method: Word count of the transcription)

The father interrupts 28 times in 1 hour
The mediator interrupts twice in 1 hour. Only once does she interrupt the father back, after he has interrupted her.
The mother does not interrupt a single time.

The mother points out several times that it is difficult for her to take part of the conversation when she is interrupted all the time. She does ask the mediator to take control of the situation but it doesn’t happen. The mediator asks the father to stop interrupting three times, but she does not persist when he continues to interrupt.

The mother tries twice to give examples of things she is concerned about. Both times, both the father and the mediator shut her up. She is told not to bring up the subject! She is also told to try to accommodate the father while the same suggestion is not given to the father. Several times, the mediator and the father speak to each other as if the mother is not in the room. The opposite does not happen.

The mediator’s aim is that the parents should be able to make agreements concerning their child. She doesn’t seem bothered by the fact that the only way this can happen is if the mother accommodates to the father’s wishes. And she does not show any interest in the fact that the father breaks all agreements as soon as the two leave the room.

Thus, the mother is forced to take part in frequent and very retraumatising meetings with her abuser; meeting that are led by an incompetent mediator who does not want to recognise that the parents are not able to work together. Admitting to that could cost her an assignment paid by the Social Services. And it could also damage her image as a skilled mediator.

There is absolutely no development between the parties. The money is pouring out of the municipality into a lost case. The child is left with a lifelong personality disorder, because no one wants to give up on an ideal with no reality check. And the mother is later portrayed in court as “unwilling to cooperate” because she asked the Social Service to evaluate the project.

At no point during this year-long case does the Social Services consider that perhaps the way to help the child does NOT involve trying to mediate between the parents. (Violence cannot be stopped using mediation.) But that instead, the way would be to stop the damaging visitation, because it places the child in the middle. And that the State Administration has to reconsider their decision.

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