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Torn apart

A documentary play about parental child abduction

The play is for four actors, two men two women. Preferably they should be a younger and older pair of each sex with the elder pair of an age to be parents to the younger. These play the main parts and also take on the subsidiary characters.

Main Characters:

Subsidiary characters

All to be played by the main characters



The play needs a minimum setting with chairs for the actors to stay on stage throughout most of the action or that is the original plan




(Tom sits at stage centre and looks at the audience. Eventually he starts speaking)

Tom

Thank you for coming to hear this story. It isn't my story, or our story, because we are not real people. We are actors acting out a sort of amalgam of many people's stories


Anyway this is not a happy story though sometimes it has a happy ending. But mostly the happy endings are for the people who hear about it not for the people who have to live it. I really can't remember the last time I would call myself happy.


(Tom sits twitching for an unnaturally long while and eventually brings himself to speak again. It is a visible effort.)


You know, I expect, that this is a story about being taken away by your mother or father and then hidden from the other parent. Parental abduction is the name they give it.


I know the words "Parental abduction" only too well, and I know the statistics. One child is abducted by a parent every five minutes. And that is just the figure for the United States. We only seem to have figures for them. In the UK it is perhaps one every half hour, or every hour, but however you count it it's a lot children. A lot of unhappy children.


The bad times started when Daddy and Mummy were splitting up. There was a lot of shouting and I did my best to stop it. I did all a five year old can do.


I noticed that they didn't scream at each other so much when I was there so I tried to be with them all the time. And I did my best to make them laugh. But in the end they would always get angry with me and force me into bed and their I would lie there and then come running into the room and they would tell me that everything was all right and take me back to bed and lock the door. Then the arguments would really start as I lay in bed crying.


Then one night I heard it happen.

Mother

(screaming) Get out, get out, leave my house now!

Father

(cold but loud) I've been waiting for this. I wasn't going to be trapped into deserting you. But now you've asked me to leave and I've never been so happy to leave in my life. Goodbye.

(a door slams loudly)

Tom

Later that night she came into the bedroom and curled up with me in bed.

Mother

(talking as if he is a five year old) Oh my darling, darling boy, we love each other so much and mummy and you are going to be so happy together.

Tom

(resuming) She was wrong about that. We weren't happy, not me anyway. But in some ways it was better without both of them in the house. I didn't have to watch them and stay with them and stop them screaming at each other all the time. And both of them gave me lots of presents and kept on telling me and my sister that they really loved us both.


But if they loved me why didn't they get back together again. That's what I wanted to know.


And the change-overs were horrible. When Mum was getting me ready I could see that she was angry and I thought it must be with me.


She would count out my clothes and make a list of them and tell me not to do anything dangerous. I was frightened of her then.

Mother

Come along Tom. We mustn't be late for Daddy.

Tom

(as a child) Do I have to go? I want to stay with you.


And then I would see Daddy and rush to him.


(as a child) Daddy, Daddy, Daddy

Mother

Stop twirling him around like that you'll hurt him.

Father

I was just playing. He likes it.

Mother

It's dangerous, you know it's dangerous. One of these days you are going to really hurt him and I won't be there to help him.

Father

It's only a game, we like it don't we Tom.

Tom

Yes dad (to mother) It's only a game mummy, it's all right.

Mother

(changing subject) What are you going to do with him this weekend?

Father

(deliberately vague) Oh we'll do men's things seeing Jill is too ill to come. Tom and me with probably go swimming and then watch a DVD.

Mother

You scared him with that last DVD you watched. He had nightmares about it all week and I couldn't get him to sleep.

Father

Come on Tom, we'll miss the train. We're going to go somewhere really exciting.

Tom

Can Mummy come too?

Father

No she's got to stay here. Goodbye Maureen. Say goodbye to your mother Tom.

Tom

Goodbye Mum

Father

Come on Tom I'll race you to that lamppost.

Mother

(shouting) Don't do anything stupid with him. I'll phone you tonight, Tom, darling.


One of these days he's going to kill him, do something really stupid and kill my baby. That man is so bloody stupid and the law forces me to leave him alone with Tom.


What's the law for if it won't even let a mother protect her children. I thought the law was meant to protect you. I thought the law was supposed to protect mothers.


(Tom takes over as narrator)

Tom

And so Mum went off and brooded and worried, and sat by the phone expecting a call from the hospital at any minute, and every now and then rang up dad and asked to talk to me.


And I didn't want to talk to her. I wanted to go on doing what I was doing. And sometimes I would refuse to talk and run away or throw the phone on the floor. And Dad would sometimes see it was her ringing on the mobile and not answer and then she would ring from another number and so they played silly games with each other.


And me. Most of the time I had wonderful games with my Dad. I would play bouncing games on the bed and fight my Dad and watch grown up films on the telly that mummy always turned off.


But when I was alone in bed I would miss my Mum and cry and wonder why we couldn't all be together again.


When it was time to go back to Mum, I never wanted to leave. I never wanted to leave either of them when the time came, but it was worse with my Dad because I saw less of him. So I used to hide at going-back-to-mum time. Then Dad would get really angry with me. The first black weekend I was hiding in a cupboard by the phone when one of Dad's friends rang.

Father

(hurriedly on the phone) Hello .... Oh Hello Bill. No listen I haven't got time to talk about that now. No got to catch the train in half an hour and that stupid little bugger Tom is hiding somewhere like he always does when I'm in a hurry. ......... No, no. Maureen goes absolutely paranoid, bonkers, screaming her head off. She called the police out when the train got stuck in the snow ........ yes, she IS a fucking bitch .... Look, I'll call you tonight.

Tom

When he put the phone down I crawled out of the cupboard and started hitting him. Daddy, Daddy, stop saying horrid things about Mummy, you mustn't say it, you mustn't say it.

Father

(lying) It wasn't about Mummy it was another Maureen. I didn't know you were listening.

Tom

You mustn't say horrid things. You're a horrid Daddy, I hate you I hate you.

Father

Listen I haven't got time for this, we've got to catch the train. We've got to catch the train.

Tom

(briefly as narrator again) And so I was dragged off kicking and screaming to the train. I tried to hang onto the door knob as we left and he pulled me away and it really hurt. Meanwhile my mother was waiting for the train and getting more and more anxious.

Mother

He's going to be late again. He's always late or he brings Tom back in tears, or both.


What does he do to him, what the hell does he do to him?

Tom

Well I was really angry with my Dad and scared of him, he was in such a bad temper too, so I ran to Mum


Mummy, Mummy, Daddy hurt me.

Mother

What have you been doing to him, why's he crying, Did you hit him?

Father

I had to drag him onto the train and he got hurt hanging onto the door of the flat.

Mother

You hit him didn't you? You hit him.

Father

No. He didn't want to come onto the train. He didn't want to come back to you. I had to carry him onto the train and hold him there.

Mother

What did you do to him? You hit him didn't you?

Father

He didn't want to come back to you. He got hurt when he hung onto the door handle. I told you already.


I'm not going to stand here and have a fight.


Goodbye Tom. See you at the same time next weekend.

Tom

Mummy, mummy. Daddy was horrible to me.

Mother

My poor little darling.

Tom

(resuming narrator role) Well I was pleased to be in Mummy's arms and be able to cry. I tried not to cry when I was with Daddy. I'd been hurt as he dragged me out of the door, so I was glad to cry and be back with Mum where I could do it safely. And I could talk and complain about how nasty Daddy had been to me.


Looking back this seems like the point where the real troubles began. I used to think, as I grew up that if I hadn't said what I said then things would have turned out different. I suppose our abduction was just waiting to happen. But I still regret what I said then. Quite unintentionally I raised my mother's worst fears.


But you should hear for yourselves what our mother was thinking.

Mother

You won't understand me. I know you won't understand me. No one can understand unless they have been through it themselves.


But I expect the mothers here will begin to understand a little.


I mean what is the law for? It's to protect people, right. But no it doesn't protect children. It doesn't even allow a mother to protect her own children. Instead there is this so called "family court"" and it forces me to hand over my children every week to a man I know is dangerous. The very man in the whole world who my children should be protected against.


What do they know about him? They just see him all smart and smarmy in his best suit. They didn't see him drop Tim on the head when he was playing a bouncing game. They haven't seen him chase Jill into the street straight in front of a huge lorry when they were playing tick.


And sex. They haven't seen him run about furiously kicking things when I'd refused to touch him after I watched him drooling over some teenage pop singer waving her arse all over the telly.


What does the court know about that? What does that fat bitch of a magistrate know about that? I bet she hadn't had sex for about 60 years anyway and then it was probably with her brother.


(she is slightly mollified by her own joke) But you wouldn't understand having to sit here alone for two days and every minute expecting the hospital to ring and tell me I'd better hurry over to see my son immediately.


You wouldn't understand it. No you wouldn't understand.

Tom

Those were the sort of things my mother was thinking. And this was my father.

Father

(reading a letter) Dear God she thinks I'm made of money. Forty quid for a pair of trainers and I've seen them in the supermarket for a fiver.


Can't she understand that I haven't got the money? I never had the money. Couldn't afford it when we were living together and surely even she can see that it costs more to live apart.


And look at the clothes she sends the children in. Always the worst they've got. She wants to make me look like I'm a neglectful parent I suppose. And if I buy them something better and send them back in it I'll never see it again.


I should have them all the time. All the time. Full custody that's the only way they have a chance of growing up normally and not bloody nutcases like their bitch of a mother.


Full custody, that's the only way. God that woman's a mad bitch.

Tom

(resuming narrator role) So that's the way it was. Mum and Dad both ready for a war and me and my sister in the middle. Oh yes I had a little sister, she wasn't there that time I overheard dad on bad mouthing mum over the phone. Mum had kept her back saying she was ill. Mum used to do that a lot. I think she must have been frightened of being alone.

I remember that time well. She used to run into my bedroom and we used to cling together and wonder what would happen to us.

Jill

Tom, Tom, Tom, I'm frightened. Mummy's walking up and down in the kitchen and breaking things. What are we going to do? What are we going to do to stop her?

Tom

Jill, Jill it's all over now. It all happened more than thirty years ago. We're all right. We don't have to go through all that.

We're alright, we've grown up alright.

Jill

(reverting to a grown woman suddenly) We're not all right. You know we're not all right.

You stammer all the time and you've never had a girlfriend and you're obsessed by the whole business of child abduction.

And as for me, I'm terrified of men and I'm terrified of having children. Look at Mum and Dad and look at what they did to us. If I have a baby I know I'll do something terrible to it. It's in our blood, it's in our family, I'm bound to do it if I have a baby and I'm 36 already

Tom

Not again Jill, I've heard it all before. Listen we don't have to do the same as our parents. WE DON'T HAVE TO DO THE SAME AS OUR PARENTS.

Jill

And I've heard that before as well.

Anything could have happened to us. Mum could have driven us into a lake when she was scared that Dad was going to find us. Or Dad could have pushed us out of a sixth floor window rather than take us back to Mum's.



That sort of thing happens. It happens quite often. Two or three times a year in the British papers you see it. Parents start to believe that death is better than letting their children be with the other one.

I expect they come to believe that death is in the best interest of the child - God help them.



(to Tom rather than the audience) Yes I suppose we should both feel lucky to be alive. But most of the time I don't/ I don't really feel alive and I certainly don't feel lucky - do you?

Tom

I won a bottle of bubble bath in a raffle last week. That was lucky.

Jill

(realising she has gone too far) I'm sorry Tom I shouldn't go on so. I don't want to fall out with you again. I'll leave you to get on with the story.

Tom

Yes, where was I? You've probably heard enough of my immediate family but in a case like this where the fight for custody gets really bitter and accusations of sexual abuse are thrown about there seem to be a cast of thousands.



When you are a child all the adults involved seem the same. They all pretend to be friendly with you and they all want to talk about the things that you don't want to talk about at all and are trying to forget.



And you keep on meeting new people as one or another of them is assigned to a new case. Social workers, they have a bad name and bad wages too they would have you believe. Mostly they are probably more caring and intelligent than the average. Mostly, I suppose they are working for the best interest of the child. Anyway this is what they are probably thinking.

Social worker1

I'm the social worker and what am I thinking. Something like this probably.

Oh my God another new case, another 25 new forms to fill in. And I've got to go and see the father. And the mother is scared of getting beaten up. And I have to go and see him by myself.

And for God's sake I get paid about a tenth of that plumber who came this morning and failed to unblock the sink. And they're about to load me with more cases as "child services has to share in the pain of the cuts"

I'm scared. I'll tell you honestly I'm scared. I just know his flat will smell of beer and probably of pot too and maybe he'll have a bull terrier that he can't control ... I'm not looking forward to this.

Tom

So that was the social workers. None I remember at all except for Sally and we'll come to her later.



Meanwhile Dad and Mum were fighting it out in the family court. They are a whole other group of well-intentioned people.

They do their best but they're human like the rest of us.

Magistrate

I'm the chairman of a family court and sometimes I have to kick myself before I believe I am doing any good at all.

Sometimes I think I should resign. But when I say it's time I resigned, they are all over me and assure me that I have done wonderful things and that I have done so much good for the families of the area.



And all the time I know that they haven't got anyone else and don't want to spend money on training.

And what do I do. Sit for hours listening to solicitors spinning improbable stories about their clients or their client's spouses.

And all of us know they are as good as lying, and, of course, I have no power whatsoever or not in a case like this anyway. If the mother won't let the father see the children all we can do is threaten to send her to prison. We can't actually send her to prison because it's impossible to argue that that would be "in the best interests of the child".

So it's story after story and lots about the "best interests of the child". It's plain in most cases that the best interests of the child would be to have had different parents in the first place.

I really should resign. I really am getting too cynical.

Tom

So that's some of the people involved but of course in a case like ours there were solicitors and police and and psychiatrists and probably more I've forgotten. It's time to get back to the story.



Well I had just got back to Mum after Dad had nearly wrenched my hand off and I was feeling very cross with him. Mum seemed a real comfort to me.

Mum

Do you love me Tom darling? Do you love your Mummy?

Tom

Of course, I love you so so much Mummy

Mum

Do you miss me when you’re away with ...away for the weekend?

Tom

'Course I do I miss you all the time, and especially when Daddy is horrid to me.

Mother

I'm never horrid to you am I?

Darling, darling Tommy my very own lovely boy. Was someone very horrid to you when you were away?

Tom

Daddy called me "a stupid little bugger"

Mother

(shocked) A what?

Tom

A stupid little bugger. I'm not a stupid little bugger am I Mummy?

Mother

Of course you're not, Tommy darling. You're my lovely brilliant clever Tommy my brilliant boy genius. No you're not a ....(steps back from repeating the phrase) you are not what that nasty horrid Daddy called you.

Tommy

And you're not a fucking bitch are you?

Mother

A what?

Tom

(realising this was a mistake but seeing no escape so, very quietly) A fucking bitch.

Tom

Of course I knew it was a bad word but I didn't expect quite the reaction that I got. Sometimes when you set out on the course for disaster every step you take to get away only makes it worse.

I had to tell Mum that I was in the cupboard. I said Daddy locked me in the cupboard because of something. It seemed a good idea so I'd get a bit of sympathy for being locked in. Then I said I was locked in the cupboard because I didn't want to do something. It was sort of almost true. I didn't dare tell Mum I was hiding in the cupboard so I wouldn't have to go home to her. Then when she kept on asking me why I was in the cupboard I had an inspiration.

Mum and Dad both sometimes used to tell us things, then tell us not to tell the other one. It's against all the good rules but it is easy to do. So at last I thought of the answer. I wasn't allowed to tell Mum about the thing I didn't want to to do because it was a special secret between me and my dad.

I had inadvertently said the words that she was half dreading, half hoping half expecting to hear.

Mum

I knew it. In my heart I knew it straight away but I hit it even from myself.

Surely my ex-husband couldn't be a paedophile, I pushed it away at first but know I know for certain that Allan really is sexually abusing Tom



Dad

(reading) YOU ARE A WICKED EVIL MAN. YOU ARE NEVER GOING TO SEE MY CHILDREN AGAIN. I KNOW WHAT YOU DO TO THEM. What the hell is she talking about, she's flipped, she's finally flipped. What's she talking about. What's the bitch doing?

She'd better bring the kids or I'm going straight to the judge for an injunction. I'm going straight to her house right now!

Shit, I can't she's got an exclusion order. Can't afford to cross the court if I'm hoping to get custody.

What's it all about "wicked evil, I know what you do"

Tom

It had to be one of his friends that told him she was accusing him of sexual abuse. "She's trying to accuse you of sexual abuse that’s what she's doing. You'd better watch out you'll have a bunch of wild eyed lesbian fanatics round investigating you any moment now.

Well that didn't happen, not then anyhow. Dad in fact got his injunction and Mum took us kids round on the appointed weekend. I guess someone must have told her that if she didn't she'd probably lose us for good. Anyway if the weekend before had been bad this one turned into a disaster - again without me or Jill who was with me that time realised..

Well the next bit of the story is pretty disgusting but nothing that hasn't happened to most families with young kids.

Dad gave us something pretty horrible to eat and me and my sister both felt bad and it was a night of sore bottom and shitty nappies.

Father

Oh my God it was horrible. It was runny and yellow and had that rubbery smell that makes you want to retch over everything.

And it was all at about 3 o'clock in the morning and my stomach wasn't feeling too steady either. And I don't know what happened but I ended up with Jill's bottom under the tap and her face in the basin and she screamed and thought she was going to drown. And then I couldn't find any clean pyjamas and in the end we all went to sleep in one bed with no clothes on. I always sleep in the nude but now I wish I never had.

Jill

When we woke up the next day the sun was shining and we forgot all about it. We spent the day playing about in the river and doing all the sorts of things that Mummy wouldn't let us do. I fell in at one point and Daddy had to pull me out, but it was all a lovely day of adventure.

Tom

And we didn't want to tell mum about the river in case she stopped dad from ever taking us again. So when we got home we didn't tell her about that.

Jill

You quickly learn the sort of thing each parent wants to hear and one of Mum's favourites was how much nicer her food was than Dad's

Anyway by then all the poo and the nappies seemed like a big adventure anyway and we told her all about it.

Mother

What did you eat over the weekend? Did Daddy give you nice food like you get at home?

Tom

On Saturday night he gave us something really yucky. He said it was spaghetti and fish. Yuk

And I had a pain in my bottom

Jill

And I pooed in the bed.

Tom

And I did too it was all squishy and yellow.

Jill

And Daddy hurt me, he got really cross and he held me by one leg under the tap and put his hand right in my bottom and I cried

Mother

What happened?

Jill

He washed out my bottom and I cried.

Mother

My poor little darling

Tom

Yes Daddy got really angry with us and Jill cried and Daddy stuck his hand right into Jill's bottom.

Mother

My poor darlings, my poor little darlings. Daddy has been a bad wicked man and Mummy won't let it ever happen again.

Jill

And then Daddy couldn't find any clean pyjamas so we all went to bed with no clothes on and Daddy told us a story and we went to sleep.

Mother

Don't worry my little darlings you'll be safe with me. I'll make sure that Daddy never hurts any of us ever again.

Tom

So that was it. Mum at that moment determined that Dad was a paedophile and nothing would shake her from the belief. It wasn't true. I knew he wasn't and so did Jill. But that's the terrible thing about paedophilia, it's virtually impossible to prove that you are not one.

Take this quote from Toon and Ainscough, the British gurus on the subject. "It is impossible to know who is a paedophile, they may be old or young, they may be of either sex, rich or poor. The only time you know is when a person is doing it.”

So if it's impossible to know who is one, it's even harder to know who isn't. And paedophilia has a horrible fascination for people. A paedophile is someone we all love to hate. It gets crazy and even comic at times. Paedos is a word for child from the Greek but paediatricians, children's doctors, sometimes have their windows broken by drunken yobs.

Dad

It was awful, really awful. I used to shut myself in my office, lock the door, put my head on my desk and burst into tears.

What had happened to the woman I had married. Did she really believe it or was she just doing it to get revenge on me for something.

My lawyer kept on telling me that I had better protect myself and get anyone I knew to write out references saying I was fine with kids. But it's hard everyone you talk to says they believe you. But there must be some that think "there can't be smoke without fire".

And every time someone gives you a strange look you start to believe they have heard the story and are avoiding you, and you begin to remember the pictures of the children you took when they looked so sweet in the bath. And you think you'd better take them all off your computer. That means not just deleting them but getting a data shredding program and then you imagine the police following your browsing history and asking you why you were looking for data shredders.

And meanwhile I was not doing any work, and every knock at the door made me think that this was the police coming to inspect the house. It was terrible

Tom

Dad, dad

Dad

Leave me alone.

Tom

Dad, Dad it's all right you know you never got put on trial. And everyone knows that nothing happened. Everyone believes you now.

Dad

Everyone except your mother.

Tom

I know she'll never say. She'll never admit to being that wrong but I think sometimes she senses it and then she has to block it out by denouncing you even harder.

Dad

And what about you two children. Jill smokes pot all the time and changes men every two minutes ....

Tom

And I can't even get a girlfriend, can I Dad? But at least I haven't destroyed four lives by having a disastrous marriage like you did.

Dad

OK, OK. I didn't do well. But no point in standing here arguing. We must get on with the story.

Tom

OK Dad you carry on.

Dad

It was a bad time that first few weeks, a very bad time but not quite as bad as I expected. There seemed to be hundreds of officials swarming around me. The police, the social services, the youth workers, a psychologist working for one of those groups and maybe more.

The thing that I didn't expect was that it was a familiar story to all of them. Accusing fathers of sexual abuse is a weapon of choice for mothers who want control of their children.

There is even a name for it PAS Parental Abduction Syndrome. Now before someone in the audience shouts "Junk Science" let me tell you it arouses all kinds of controversy. The scientific argument rages about whether it is a syndrome but to a layman that seems pretty unimportant. There's no doubt that lots of mothers accuse the separated fathers of sexual abuse and sometimes the accusation are wrong.

And you can find lots of authoritative figures about what percentage of claims are untrue. Unfortunate these figures vary from 5% untrue to 85% untrue so they are not much help and are used as blunt instruments to beat your opponents or rally your supporters. Some think the mothers are always in the right and sexual abuse is so horrible and widespread that if one or two fathers are falsely accused so be it. And anyway, a mother never makes accusations without some good reason. Others think that fathers are getting a very raw deal and the law is heavily biased in favour of the mother.

So anyway I know some of the claims are untrue because it happened to me. Why do people do it, it's mostly mothers who do but it is not safe to say so in public. Some do it knowingly; they want revenge on their husbands and control of the children. At worst it will give them a few weeks alone with their children while it is investigated. Social workers daren't ignore it for fear of the press getting hold of the story.

Some do it maliciously just to cause trouble for their ex. After all they think he deserves it - look what he did to me. Some do it out of desperation because they can think of no other way to keep control of their children.

Some do it because they have convinced themselves it is true. Maybe it is because they have been sexually abused themselves; maybe it's because they have been sexually rejected by the father and are jealous of the attention he gives to their children. Maybe there is some sexual frisson in accusing the husband of sexual abuse. All these theories float around the subject.

And some of the accusations are true of course. It's easy to forget that when you have been falsely accused yourself. Yes whatever way you look at it some of the accusations of sexual abuse are true.

Anyway let’s get back to the story. Those first few weeks were a bad time for me.

Jill

Me me me. That's all you think about isn't it. You just feel sorry for yourself. What about us children, don't you think it was difficult for us too. Tom and I scared stiff because Mum was scared. Frightened of every knock on the door in case it was you as a bogey man come to harm us in some horrible way we did not understand. Frightened of going out to play in case we were caught. And still wondering why you and Mum didn't get together to come and save us.

And we've heard all about your suffering, but what about the women. Don't you think that Mum was suffering as well?

Mother

The men in the audience won't understand but a mother knows. When you've had that fragile life inside you for 9 months, you develop a bond, you develop a sixth sense.

I knew then and I know now that the man I married was not fit to look after children, any children and I'm glad that I stopped him. I may not have done much in my life but for a few crucial years I stopped him damaging my children.

Those first few weeks were terrible, those first few weeks so alone and so frightened and living without enough money to pay for proper food and the flat was mouldy you could see the fungus on the walls. And he knew where I was and the lock on the door wasn't strong enough to keep a child out let alone an angry man. And he could get angry all right. Yes I've seen him raging, and if he got a hammer or an axe, the door would be down in seconds.

The social workers were hopeless. They had to act of course because if they miss a case of child sexual abuse the press will crucify them. But you can see they don't really believe you. "Was I sure?" they kept on asking. "How did I know?" Of course I was sure, of course I knew, a mother has an instinct for things like that.

And the courts! Well my husband had bought a new suit and an expensive new lawyer - that was where the money for our food was going. And all I had was a cheap lawyer who could hardly speak coherently and never understood my case.

And all the family court judges were the same. They just believed the smartest lawyer. But I had an injunction that stopped my ex seeing the children until a proper examination had been made and it was plain I had to get somebody powerful on my side or the children would be forced back to go to their father however much they cried of screamed.

I presumed the doctors were going to help me. But I was wrong. The first doctor sat squarely on the fence "Well Mrs X, I can find no physical evidence of any wrong doing and as a medical man I am not in a position ..." But they told me, the children told me.



I made sure the children understood just what it was they had to tell the next doctor. But she was even worse. She got as close as she dared to telling me it was all in my imagination and I'd better start taking a few Valium and pulling myself together. What the hell did she know?

Luckily that was the time I met Sally. She was the only social worker who understood.

Tom

Yes I remember Sally. A big woman with a long dress. Looked nice, didn't smell funny and seemed to be kind.

Sally (played by daughter)

Hello I'm Sally. I always wanted to be a social worker and to help children. It was only when I got out into the field that I realised the extent of sexual abuse. Oh yes you get a few lectures about it in training but you don't understand that it is everywhere an epidemic.

What's wrong with the men of this country? They seem to have nothing to do but sit about watching pornography, gazing at legs and bottoms and breasts and drooling. It's disgusting, it's horrible. And it's not just their girlfriends and wives that suffer. They force themselves onto children - usually their own children.

Fortunately it's my job to expose them. To seek them out however strong and powerful they may be and to expose them.

Tom

That was Sally. She used to sit and play with me and talk. I remember we played but it always got round to one thing in the end. Daddy and his "secrets". Like the time I showed her my best car

(Tom reverts to a child)

Look Sally this is my best car - it goes really fast.

Sally

It looks good can I have a go.

Tom

No let me show you. It's got real doors that really open. It's like Daddy's

Sally

Do you like your Daddy, Tommy?

Tom

Yes we go to the park and play at monsters, and we go on the big swings that Mummy is frightened of. And then Dad tells us to keep it a secret from Mummy so she won't be frightened.

Sally

Does Daddy tell you to keep other secrets from your Mummy?

Tom

He gives us sweets sometimes when Mummy doesn't allow.

Sally

And do you have secrets with Daddy at a secret time. Does he tell you special secrets when he puts you to bed?

Tom

Yes but I mustn't tell you. You shouldn't tell secrets to other people.

Sally

Oh no Tom, that's my job you see. I'm a secret keeper I go round listening to children's secrets and I have a special place where I can keep them really safe.

Tom

And so it went on until I was telling her about the bottom weekend and it was plain that was what she liked talking about best.

In fact at the time all the adults I met seemed to want to talk about nothing but bottoms and that weekend where Jill and me had pooed the bed and slept naked with Dad in the bed.

I had to tell these stories lots of times to lots of different people. Sometimes I was given these special dolls one had a big erect penis and the other holes in different parts of their anatomy. When I was living in women’s refuges after Mum ran off with us the other kids told me you got special prizes if you could fit them together in really funny ways. But I hated them. I was a boy. I didn't want to play with dolls.

After a while I knew what the adults wanted to hear and what Mummy wanted me to tell them and so I told them as quickly as possible so it wouldn't last too long. Sometimes I used to add bits to make it sound more horrible. How Dad locked me in the cupboard with no clothes on and fed me nothing but a slice of raw turnip all weekend. Mum quite liked being told all that but the doctors, I suppose they must all have been psychiatrists really, kept asking me difficult questions about it like "How big a slice?", so I learnt just to say what Mum told me and not add anything. And that way it was over quickest.

Psychiatrist Played by the Father

I'm a psychiatrist, but I didn't go into the field for this kind of thing. I didn't see myself as an expert who could tell whether or not a child was being sexually abused. Oh it was interesting research. What is it about children that raises sexual desire in some adults? Is it some sort of bad wiring in the brain? Is it some sort of longing for innocence or hatred of innocence? Really interesting questions.

And not just for professionals. You can see that when a lurid story gets splashed all over the papers. The public can't get enough of it.

They love reading about it and they are frightened. Thousands of mothers get terrified and see a paedophile in every male they meet. Then people like me are called in to make a judgement.

Well sometimes it is obviously happening and that's easy, but most of the time you don't know. Get it wrong one way and you condemn some child to a life of continuing misery. Get it wrong the other way and you have ruined the life of an innocent man. And there is my own career to think of as well. I could be made to look foolish by some smart lawyer in court or if I get involved in a big case be crucified by the tabloid press.

So the safest thing to do is come to some indefinite conclusion that either side can read as justifying their case. Most often that is what I do.

Some parents, (and it's mostly mothers, though I'd better not say that in public) get obsessed and will not take no for an answer. They go the rounds of people like me until they find an answer that more or less satisfies their needs or until the money runs out.

Like I said I didn't come into psychiatry for this.

Tom

And so that is what was happening to us we went round the experts till one said "it is possible that these children have been sexually abused." It was the best that Mum could get.

But finally she realised that maybe it wasn't enough. Maybe the courts wouldn't let her keep us children away from their father because some Doctor said sexual abuse was a "possibility". So, probably advised by Sally or someone like her she decided to "go underground" and disappear. I'll tell you more of the story later.

This play is about parental abduction and so far we've only dealt with one aspect. Children are abducted by their parents in all sorts of ways and for all sorts of reasons. Sometimes it's just that one parent wants to live in the country they are used to. Sometimes it's about religion, the father wanting the child to be raised in a Muslim country, that's quite common. Sometimes the child is not really abducted at all, just prevented from seeing the other parent by psychological pressure and making visits awful. However it happens, it's bad news for the children.

Dad

There's been enough bad news tonight. Maybe we should look at some good news.

Tom

Is there any?

Dad

Well there are the children who come back. Stories like that are always treated as good news by the newspapers.

Tom

I'm not sure the newspapers are right. After the children have been snatched away from one parent, is it good for them to be snatched back again by the other?

Dad

Oh cheer up Tom. Surely it's better that the children live with the parent who doesn't kidnap them and take them off somewhere they don't know, where their lives are probably more uncomfortable and they've lost half of their relatives..

See this book, (holds up the book "Taken in Contempt") it’s full of stories of children that come back.

They are exciting stories and there is a great sort of rough justice about them. It warms the heart.

This book is mostly about Australian cases. This is a typical story about an Australian woman who marries a Polish immigrant and falls out with him and the father kidnaps the children and takes them back to his family in Poland.

There's this extraordinary man called Keith Schafferius who went around kidnapping the children and bringing them back to the parent, who usually had the weight of the Australian court on his side.

This story starts with Schafferius hiring a Polish detective to find the child. In this case it was fairly easy because the father had taken them home to his own family. Then Schafferius and the Mother flew out to a country bordering Poland.

This is how it went. I'll be Schafferius, you can be my assistant. You can be the mother (points to the Mother) and you the abducted child (points to the daughter.).

Schafferius (played by the father)

Listen, all you have to do when we find Anna is get out of the car, make sure it really is her and persuade her to come quietly into the car. Tell her anything you like. Tell her you are just going to take her back home and have a talk with your ex. Tell her anything that will make her come.

Mother

What if she won't come?

Schafferius

She will come but if she starts objecting hold up both your hands and we will come and help her into the car. Hands up like this ((he demonstrates). Show me.

Mother

Like this. (she holds her hands up reluctantly)

Schafferius

No make it clear. Remember it will be almost dark. I've got to see it.

Mother

You won't hurt her will you?

Schafferius

No. She'll come with you anyhow if you tell her the right thing.

Listen, are you sure you want to go ahead with this? We could always call it off. I don't want to face ten years in a Polish jail if you're not serious about this.

Mother

I'm serious. We've got to do it.

Schafferius

Good we're going to do it. Remember that.

Tom

So the next day in a small town in Poland they are waiting in a fast car. Anna comes by and the mother steps out.

Mother

Anna. Anna my darling you're safe at last. I've come to rescue you.

Anna

Mum, what are you doing here? Go away. I don't want you here.

Mother

Anna darling, I've come to save you.

Anna

Please go away Mum. I don't need you any more go away.

Mother

Anna I love you, please come.

Anna

Mum you're a bad woman - go away.

Schafferius

((to his assistant) We've got to grab them, she's going to scream. Go go go

Anna

(Screams) Help help

Tom (as Tom)

And so they were driven at high speed to the border where the guards who had already been primed were given a further bribe. Anna, half reconciled to her mother, and half drugged with a mixture of Coca Cola and Valium was hidden under a rug.

And then off to the nearest Australian embassy for a passport (the mother had legal custody so the officials did not ask too many questions) and then the flight home to Australia.

So that's the illegal way. quick, often effective and very expensive.

The legal way is slow, uncertain but probably equally expensive when the process is completed.

Jill

So that's the story of one rescue. If you can call it a rescue - because to a child it is simply being abducted again except this time it is by the other parent.

Let me tell you about the life in hiding. Some of the time it seems like an exciting game of course, but most of the time it is pretty prosaic and uncomfortable. And if you are a young child very frightening.

The runaway parent is scared and the children pick this up. Me and Tom used to hide every time anyone knocked at the door. We were scared to go out. And most of the places were pretty uncomfortable and often they were dirty and smelled nasty too.

Mostly we were in women's refuges and all the children were escaping from their fathers - most of them with better cause than we were.

Tom

Yes, they would tell us stories about how their Dad had hit their mum with a bottle and she had lain on the floor in a pool of blood. It was horrible. But you sort of accepted it as the norm after a while.

There seems to be a sort of network of women's refuges around Europe and Sally (or some other crusader for women) must have told our mother about them.

Jill

We didn't like the refuges much but it sort of re-assured Mum and helped her to think the worst of Dad and re-assure her that she had done the best thing for us.

Tom

Yes I remember telling the story of the "bottom weekend" time after time and embroidering it with details to please mum. After a while I half got to believe it myself. I believed that Dad had locked me in the cupboard and fed me with grass and pushed things down my bottom.

And everyone would say. "It must be true. Children haven't got the imagination or the knowledge to invent stories like that"

Jill

And all the children we met seemed to have stories as frightening as ours and so we just accepted it as the norm.

Tom

As I said, there seems to be a network of safe houses around Europe run by well-intentioned people. Often they are supported by big respectable "abused children" charities and sometimes by religious orders.

These people know they often break the law but consider it their duty. I often wonder if they do more harm than good, whatever their intentions.

Dad

Yes Ken thought they should all be prosecuted as accessories to crime. We should tell the audience about Ken. It's a true story and most of it is in the public domain - unlike a lot of stories where court restrictions prevent the story from being told "to protect the children" of course. Though it protects the courts as well because no one is allowed to tell about when they make stupid decisions.

Tom

Tell them then Dad.

Dad

Well he had a good job, an important job in the fire service, and he had a younger wife and a small boy. The marriage was going through a bit of a rocky patch and out of the blue his wife took his son away and left a note saying "I know your secret and you are never going to see my son again".

He was devastated. He didn't even guess what it was all about. It was someone else who told him "Look, she's accusing you of sexual abuse; you'd better do something about it."

Anyway Ken went to court and legal things ground on, as they do everywhere, and the whole thing was investigated by the psychologists and it went to court and it quickly became clear that Ken was probably going to win, At which point his wife got a plane and took the boy to Frankfurt,

She knew Germany and the police couldn't find her. Ken's life froze up. For about two years he could do nothing. He used bike riding to relieve the tension and one day he said "You know I feel like getting on my bike and riding round Europe till I find him." He was part of a father's support group at the time and they said "Do it then" and he did.

He came and cycled round Europe. He road down the A31; in fact across The Forest about a year ago.

And in the end he found his wife and son. Partly it was luck. Mostly it was the publicity he got from his journey. His son was in a safe house in Amsterdam and going to school under a false name. But sometimes he would sign his real name and one day a picture with his real name got hung on the classroom wall. One of the Mum's who had discovered he was Australian saw it, got suspicious and Googled for the name and "missing children Australia". In a second there was his picture up in front of her and the full story. Thanks to Ken's publicity he was right on top of the Google listings.

The cat was out of the bag and everyone scuttled to be on the right side of the law. The school, who should have examined the papers thoroughly, rang the police. The priest sheltering them told the press he had been about to fly to Australia and try to arrange a reconciliation with Ken. The wife was put in prison for kidnapping.

After a long drawn out legal process, Ken took his boy back to Australia.

Tom

We don't know how it has gone, and if we did we wouldn't be allowed to tell you because the rest of the story is not in the public domain. But we hope that all is going well.

Dad

Let me speak for Ken now.

I say all the people who helped hide my boy without trying to discover the truth were evil people. They should be brought to court and made to answer for what they have done. The unthinking support of mothers just because they are women has got to stop. These people and their supporters are evil and everyone should know it. The truth is that the police never dare to question these groups and that is causing misery to thousands of children.

Mother

And I'll speak for them. I'll speak for the mother superior of the convent who looked after Ken's son.

Listen, Ken, whoever you may be, We have our duty, our God given sworn duty to support and help those who come to our door in need.

We are not an agency of the police. We are an agency of God. If mothers come to us, and they do, we support them. Women are the weaker sex though they seem to bear most of the pain in this world.

We must listen to the women who come to us, not question their stories and send them to the police. If we did that they wouldn't come.

And men give one cell, just one cell, to a child and still they think they own them, still they think they are their property by right. It is ridiculous. It's quite ridiculous.

Jill

(as narrator again) And so the argument rolls on. It has a cast of thousands of people, well-intentioned people, committed people, fanatical people, indifferent people and most of them doing their best, doing what they think is right. And all the time thousands of children are suffering.

Tom

While you have been listening probably another ten or twenty children have been dragged away from one parent by the other.

Jill

Sometimes it happens dramatically, when the children are dragged away and hidden. More often in happens subtly and gradually with one parent slowly locked out of the child's life. Both ways everyone suffers. Mother, father, child - grandparents too.

Tom

You may wonder what happened to us. Well the answer is nothing happened to us. As I said at the start we are not real people. We are just imagined. People created from an amalgam of true stories.

Our story, if it were true might end in many ways. Maybe we would have been found by the authorities and there would have been another court case. Maybe, when we were teenagers we would have looked and found our Dad using Facebook. Maybe we would have never seen our father again, maybe it would all get too much for our mother and we would end up in care or driving us over a cliff in a car..

Jill

One ending is extremely unlikely and that is a happy one. Children like those we've been portraying seldom lead happy lives.

Tom

Thank you for coming. We hope you take away one thing. Parental child abduction is child abuse. Please try to avoid it.



Good night.



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