Law and Psychiatry part 3

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Well I am going to court as an expert witness soon. This pertains to a couple of child custody/access situations. I generally prefer testifying in criminal matters: like not guilty by reason of insanity or dangerous offender apps or sentencing for recidivist sexual psychopaths over this “civil” crap. Nothing like a failed marriage to bring out the dark side of humanity. Of course  I don’t see the civilized folks who work out joint custody and communicate, remain friends for the sake of the kids and don’t accuse each other of child abuse or sexual molestation.

More often the case is however is along the lines of “he’s an a55hole and she’s a b****h”. Charming. And the story is “I want custody as her new boyfriend has a criminal record and threatened to rip my throat out” and so there is a request for a reduction in child support or “he shouldn’t see the kids as his new girlfriend is a dancer and has installed a pole in the living room “for practice”. And so “I want sole custody and he can visit now and then” preferably supervised etc.

The other case is more serious and involves accusations by mom along the lines of “dad fondled his daughters genitals” or that he “”poked the boy in the butt with an unidentified appendage”. Plus the “pervert likes crack smoking and collecting my soiled undies”.

I like the human drama of courtrooms in general. An example of the search for truth employing  rational  means rather than the scientific empirical method. Dialectic discourse and hypotheticals, a Greek invention that goes back to Plato.

But the major stress for me though is that I haven’t been to court for a while, so now I need a new sport coat and band collared shirt. That’s the major anxiety provoker. I haven’t  worn a tie since 1976, going since for the “Don Johnson” look. But my old jacket, c1987 is corduroy with suede elbow patches and a black clerical shirt given to me by an Episcopal priest in Kansas. Reliable female advice is that I will blow the case if I wear these items. My cargo pants and hiking boots are borderline OK however. But, I will NOT wear a wool suit and Italian loafers. Not negotiable.

The sexual abuse case I have however is worth looking at.

These are tough to analyse especially with kids who are only 5. How does one approximate truth? After all kids are suggestible and want to harmonize. They are conflicted and want to protect and make both parents happy. They are susceptible to leading questions.

Well the first step is to look at what is agreed upon by child protection workers as sex abuse red flags:

 

  1. Regression: a reappearance of bedwetting or a need to carry a blanket.
  2. Fears: clingyness or fears of the dark.
  3.  Sexual behaviour: this is the main indicator and involves masturbating, provocative conduct or sex talk.
  4.  Aggression: since young children  in particular often don’t talk about their feelings, it comes come out through violent play or irritability.
  5.  Sleep disturbance: monsters become real with night terrors and the child won’t stay in their room.

Now in one case the female child had all of these features but the child protection agency exhibiting bias towards the mother felt that she was engaging in coaching and “parental alienation”, a popular buzzword. It gets even more interesting when they throw in false memory syndrome as a result of suggestion. After all kids want to please their parents and because the child is smart enough to realize that Dad could go to jail, she has made contradictory statements.

He has a history of recent meth abuse which is sexually disinhibiting. Well one would think this is a fait accompli. In law this is res ipsa- it speaks for itself.

If you go to a surgeon with a cancerous left breast and the right one is removed, malpractice is self-evident. I think the evidence points to this child having been sexualized by father and not a maternal injected memory implant.

But psychiatry is rarely that black and white and the law is grey. Truth is an approximation, a consensus of probability over possibility. Mistakes are made and in this case father can go to sex offender prison or mother to jail for contempt by withholding visitation. While the safety and mental health of a child hangs in the balance.

For myself the sentence is much more severe: I have to go shopping with a female guide: ” No you can’t buy a velour safari jacket. You will look like a disco era refugee. No you can’t wear the Cambodian made Hawaiian shirt you bought in the used clothing store in Belize.”

I may have to withdraw from these cases and plead insanity.

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