Parental Kidnapping In America
As a specialist in cross-border child custody disputes who has provided expert testimony on parental kidnapping for 15 years, Mauren Dabbagh is not only well-versed professionally, but she also has a personal connection to the issue.
Dabbagh’s daughter was abducted and taken to the Middle East by her ex-husband. She had no communication with her daughter for 17 years until they were reunited in 2010.
In her 15 years handling parental kidnapping cases both professionally and personally, Dabbagh said she has seen the country’s “antiquated” and “barbaric” laws demonize the male gender by reducing men to “sperm banks and child support checks.”
That unfortunately popular and destructive mentality and the growing dynamic of “abusive apologetics” are featured in Dabbagh’s book, “Parental Kidnapping in America: An Historical and Cultural Analysis.”
Men’s Rights: One of the chapters in your book is called “Parental Abduction: A Timeless Tradition.” Can you provide historical context to this issue? How long has parental kidnapping been a part of our society?
Maureen Dabbagh: In my research for this book, I found reference to parental kidnapping in an ancient Hindu text, which was over 3,000 years ago. The first laws in America during pre-colonial time, I believe, dealt with parental kidnapping.
So, as a new nation, the United States immediately began addressing those issues when large numbers of children were being abducted by parents. They were usually connected with religious movements and religious immigration movements.
Men’s Rights: You specialize in cross-border child custody disputes, and you have provided expert testimony on parental kidnapping for 15 years. What changes, if any, have you noticed in the way these cases are handled now compared to 15 years ago?
Maureen Dabbagh: I don’t know that they’re being handled any different. Certainly this social view of child custody and the social evolution of every culture does not reflect in the laws.
As a result of that, our laws are antiquated — pretty barbaric. So in the last 15 years, I’ve seen the ‘“abusive apologetics”” dynamic increase with laws not keeping up with it, and we have demonized the male gender by reducing men basically to sperm banks and child support checks.
It’s created a very negative dynamic culturally across the board. Policies continue to be made today on what I call ‘“flat earth theory’” assumptions, and I’ve seen these argued this year at state department level meetings.
It was offered that it is impossible for a female to commit an act of violence against a man unless she’s defending herself, and therefore, it was recommended that women not be held accountable for any acts of violence that they do.
In regards to kidnapping, it was suggested that the law be amended so that only men who abduct their children should have petitions brought against them. So, I’m seeing these types of suggestions as a result of this “abusive apologetics” dynamic, and it’s hurting all members of a family.
Men’s Rights: Before we get deeper into those myths about parental kidnapping, I want to ask you to clarify “abusive apologetics.” What exactly do you mean by that phrase?
Maureen Dabbagh: “Abusive apologetics” is a dynamic that we are currently in. We are in the middle of a gender war. I call it an outright war in which by virtue of an individual’s gender, there are assumptions made regarding their parental ability and skills. Those assumptions go in favor of females.
So, when females murder their children or act in a way that we don’t expect them to behave, we apologize. For example, you know we can turn on the news just about any day and see that a mom has killed her children. What we see is an “Anthony case” where they walk, or they make excuses and apologize. There are a lot of apologies made for women who do these horrific acts. If a father does this, the media treats it much differently and so do the courts.
My book talks about the jail time and the sentences given to fathers who kill a child vs. mothers who kill a child and there’s a huge difference.
So “abusive apologetics” goes to this dynamic that we’re seeing today where, because of this gender war and this assignment of characteristics to each gender that may or may not be true, we’re acting upon this and we’re apologizing for the poor behavior of women and we’re not holding them accountable. We’re dismissing their abusive behavior.
Men’s Rights: As I mentioned earlier, you brought up some of those myths about parental kidnapping and your book seeks to clarify many of these misconceptions. What are some of the larger myths surrounding this issue?
Maureen Dabbagh: There was some excellent research done in the 90s that identified certain characteristics in abducting families. The way that the research was done was that questionnaires were given to left-behind parents whose children had been abducted.
One of the questions was essentially, “why do you think your child was abducted?” The vast majority responded by saying they believed it was a form of revenge and control.
My research doesn’t show that. I’ve been involved with over 1,500 abducting families. I’ve gone abroad, I’ve brought back children, I’ve worked with abductors, I’ve worked with left behind parents, and I still continue working with adult children who were abducted.
So, I’ve had a bit of an advantage over the past 18 years working with these families in that I had access to a lot of information that wasn’t in print. There’s a lack of understanding and a lack of really good resources that will work with families that are having problems. The courts and lawyers just rip them apart further.
This is what’s going into parental kidnapping: parents take their kids because they don’t have another resource. Litigation is really just tearing each other to pieces.
I think this is why I enjoy what I do as a cross-border mediator; working with them so they can create solutions that help them because they are in a unique situation.
Watch the DadsDivorce.com interview: “DadsDivorce Live: Parental Kidnapping In America”