Coping with the aftermath of family courts

Before you are labelled with some psychobabble disorder after your children have been kidnapped.
 
I suggest you read on and bring this up in court.
 
There seems no common sense or acceptance in family courts that you are grieving for the loss of your child .
 
 
 
Grief is the emotional response to loss. The loss can range anywhere from the loss of a loved one to the loss of a relationship through divorce or illness, or even a change in life-style such as a geographical or occupational move. It is characterized by feelings of sadness, hopelessness, depression, numbness, anger and even guilt. In normal grief resolution, these feelings gradually subside. Disenfranchised grief, however, interferes with normal grief resolution causing the feelings associated with grief to persist for a very long time.
According to Kenneth Doka, disenfranchised grief is grief that is not openly acknowledged, socially accepted or publicly mournedMoreover, the relationship is not recognized, the loss is not recognized or the griever is not recognized. Doka believes that mourners whose grief is disenfranchised are cut off from social supports. With few opportunities to express and resolve their grief, they feel alienated from their community and tend to hold onto their grief more tenaciously than they might if their grief was recognized.
According to Ms. Robinson, the grief of relinquishing mothers fits the definition of disenfranchised grief in the following ways. First of all, the pregnancy and relinquishment were most often kept secret, preventing any open acknowledgment of the loss. The grief was not socially supported since the natural mother had placed herself in a position that was unacceptable to society. She was to blame and therefore had no right to mourn. The natural mother was an embarrassment to her family and others so the grief could not be publicly mourned. She had to pretend that the birth and loss of her child never happened. In addition, in a relinquishment situation, the mother child relationship was not recognized, therefore the natural mother was not recognized as a legitimate mourner since the loss of her child was not considered real.
Resolution of Grief
The goal in successful grief resolution is to reestablish emotional equilibrium. Ms. Robinson used Worden’s model of grief counseling from his book, Grief Counseling and Grief Therapy, to demonstrate how the disenfranchised grief of natural mothers interferes with the successful resolution of grief. The four aspects he presents as necessary for successful grief resolution include: first, accept the reality of the loss; second, experience the pain of grief; third, adjust to the environment from which the lost person is missing; and fourth, withdraw emotional energy and reinvest it in another relationship. The disenfranchised grief that natural mothers experience interferes with the completion of all of these tasks.
It is difficult for a natural mother to deal with the first task, to accept the reality of her loss, since she has no concrete focus for her grief.In many cases, she never saw or held her baby. Since the child probably still exists, there is no finality to the loss of her relationship with her child.
Dreams and illusions are hard to mourn. There is also no opportunity for her to experience the pain of her loss since the relinquishment is often a secret. Her situation made others uncomfortable and therefore she could not verbalize her grief. She had to suppress and deny her pain. The third task is also impossible for a natural mother. How can she adjust to a new environment without her child when the child was never accorded a place in her life anyway? And yet her life situation and psychological environment has changed dramatically. Finally, how can she reinvest her emotional energy in another relationship when this one still exists, if only in her mind?
In normal bereavement, rituals surround and ease the pain of the bereaved. But for cases of disenfranchised grief, there are no rituals. A natural mother receives no cards, flowers, or expressions of sympathy. There is nothing to validate her loss. Society sees no reason for her to grieve so there are no allowances for a change in her demeanor, behavior or outlook as there would be in regular bereavement situations.In addition, there are no rituals to delineate the length of mourning. No wonder many natural mothers feel as if their grief will never end.
Some natural mothers place added blame upon themselves for not being able to “get over it”. When the mourner feels responsible for the loss, it results in feelings of shame and guilt. Relinquishing mothers feel that, not only were they to blame for the unmarried pregnancy and relinquishment, they were also to blame for not dealing with their grief successfully, making grief resolution even more difficult.
Effects of Disenfranchised Grief
The effects of disenfranchised grief and consequent poor grief resolution are displayed in a variety of ways and in varying degrees.Depression, emotional disturbances, withdrawal from society, psychosomatic illnesses and low self-esteem are all symptoms. Many of those affected succumb to substance abuse and have difficulty in forming healthy relationships. Jeffrey Kaufmann is quoted in Disenfranchised Grief, “The loss of community that may occur as a consequence of disenfranchised grief fosters an abiding sense of loneliness and abandonment”. Furthermore, people with disenfranchised grief often have trouble in coping with subsequent losses. Doka states “..the old disenfranchisement will affect the new situation and may enforce a repetition of the earlier inhibited grief pattern”. In other words, how a natural mother learned to grieve for what was probably the first major loss in her life, she will most likely use, however ineffective, for the next loss.
Resolution of Disenfranchised Grief
Ms. Robinson believes, that because the disenfranchised grief of relinquishing mothers is complicated and deep, it is difficult, but not impossible, to resolve. First of all, a natural mother, starting with herself, needs to acknowledge and validate the loss in order to address her grief.
Current adoption policy and practice, however, complicates the matter. One way for a natural mother to establish the reality of her adult child is to retrieve any and all documentation, from the relinquishment paper to the original birth certificate, if available.  Also, letters and pictures from the time of the pregnancy and relinquishment might be helpful. In addition, Ms. Robinson believes that all natural mothers should search, if only to establish that their child is indeed alive and very much a reality. She understands that a successful search and/or reunion is not a panacea for grief resolution, since reunion is often traumatic in its own right.
Many natural mothers find healing in creating rituals surrounding the loss of the relationship. They make memorials from the very simple to the complex to validate their grief and “let it go”. Many find solace in a ceremonial burial of their grief.
Ms. Robinson strongly emphasizes the need for post adoption services for natural mothers. These services, which she firmly believes should not be provided by an agency that arranges adoptions, should assist natural mothers in coping with the long lasting effects of their grief.The social workers or therapists must be completely familiar with the issue of disenfranchised grief and realize how difficult it is to resolve.
To quote Ms. Robinson directly, “The role of support groups cannot be overstated. Natural mothers have felt for many years marginalized and abandoned by society. It is very empowering for them to meet even one other woman who has also lost a child to adoption”. To have someone else validate your pain and loss through understanding is often one of the first steps toward healing.
 
 

Adjustment Disorders

What is an adjustment disorder?
An adjustment disorder is defined as an emotional or behavioral reaction to an identifiable stressful event or change in a person’s life that is considered maladaptive or somehow not an expected healthy response to the event or change. The reaction must occur within three months of the identified stressful event or change happening. The identifiable stressful event or change in the life of a person may be a family move,  divorce or separation, the loss of a child , to name a few.
What causes adjustment disorders?
Adjustment disorders are a reaction to stress. There is not a single direct cause between the stressful event and the reaction.  Stressors also vary in duration, intensity and effect. No evidence is available to suggest a specific biological factor that causes adjustment disorders.
Who is affected by adjustment disorders?
Adjustment disorders are quite common  They occur equally in males and females. While adjustment disorders occur in all cultures, the stressors and the signs may vary based on cultural influences. Adjustment disorders occur at all ages, however, it is believed that characteristics of the disorder are different in children and adolescents than they are in adults. Differences are noted in the symptoms experienced, severity and duration of symptoms and in the outcome.
What are the symptoms of an adjustment disorder?
In all adjustment disorders, the reaction to the stressor seems to be in excess of a normal reaction, or the reaction significantly interferes with social, occupational or educational functioning. There are six subtypes of adjustment disorder that are based on the type of the major symptoms experienced. The following are the most common symptoms of each of the subtypes of adjustment disorder.  Symptoms may include:
Adjustment disorder with depressed mood.
Symptoms may include:
Depressed mood.
Tearfulness.
Feelings of hopelessness.
Adjustment disorder with anxiety.
Symptoms may include:
Nervousness.
Worry.
Jitteriness.
Fear of separation
Adjustment disorder with anxiety and depressed mood.
A combination of symptoms from both of the above subtypes (depressed mood and anxiety) is present.
Adjustment disorder with disturbance of conduct
Symptoms may include:
Violation of the rights of others.
Violation of societal norms and rules (, destruction of property, reckless driving, fighting).
Adjustment disorder with mixed disturbance of emotions and conduct.
A combination of symptoms from all of the above subtypes are present (depressed mood, anxiety and conduct).
Adjustment disorder unspecified.
Reactions to stressful events that do not fit in one of the above subtypes are present. Reactions may include behaviors such as social withdrawal or inhibitions to normally expected activities .

Adjustment Disorders

What is an adjustment disorder? An adjustment disorder is defined as an emotional or behavioral reaction to an identifiable stressful event or change in a person’s life that is considered maladaptive or somehow not an expected healthy response to the event or change. The reaction must occur within three months of the identified stressful event or change happening. The identifiable stressful event or change in the life of a person may be a family move,  divorce or separation, the loss of a child , to name a few. What causes adjustment disorders? Adjustment disorders are a reaction to stress. There is not a single direct cause between the stressful event and the reaction.  Stressors also vary in duration, intensity and effect. No evidence is available to suggest a specific biological factor that causes adjustment disorders. Who is affected by adjustment disorders? Adjustment disorders are quite common  They occur equally in males and females. While adjustment disorders occur in all cultures, the stressors and the signs may vary based on cultural influences. Adjustment disorders occur at all ages, however, it is believed that characteristics of the disorder are different in children and adolescents than they are in adults. Differences are noted in the symptoms experienced, severity and duration of symptoms and in the outcome.  What are the symptoms of an adjustment disorder? In all adjustment disorders, the reaction to the stressor seems to be in excess of a normal reaction, or the reaction significantly interferes with social, occupational or educational functioning. There are six subtypes of adjustment disorder that are based on the type of the major symptoms experienced. The following are the most common symptoms of each of the subtypes of adjustment disorder.  Symptoms may include: Adjustment disorder with depressed mood.Symptoms may include:Depressed mood.Tearfulness.Feelings of hopelessness.Adjustment disorder with anxiety.Symptoms may include:Nervousness.Worry.Jitteriness.Fear of separation Adjustment disorder with anxiety and depressed mood.A combination of symptoms from both of the above subtypes (depressed mood and anxiety) is present.  Adjustment disorder with disturbance of conductSymptoms may include:Violation of the rights of others.Violation of societal norms and rules (, destruction of property, reckless driving, fighting). Adjustment disorder with mixed disturbance of emotions and conduct.A combination of symptoms from all of the above subtypes are present (depressed mood, anxiety and conduct).Adjustment disorder unspecified.Reactions to stressful events that do not fit in one of the above subtypes are present. Reactions may include behaviors such as social withdrawal or inhibitions to normally expected activities .

 

Acute Stress Disorder

 
Symptoms of Acute Stress Disorder
According to the DSM, “The essential feature of Acute Stress Disorder is the development of characteristic anxiety, dissociative, and other symptoms that occurs within 1 month after exposure to an extreme traumatic stressor” . The following specific diagnostic criteria are reproduced verbatim  from the DSM-IV TR
Diagnostic Criteria for Acute Stress Disorder
A. The person has been exposed to a traumatic event in which both of the following were present:
the person experienced, witnessed, or was confronted with an event or events that involved actual or threatened death or serious injury, or a threat to the physical integrity of self or others
the person’s response involved intense fear, helplessness, or horror
B. Either while experiencing or after experiencing the distressing event, the individual has three (or more) of the following dissociative symptoms:
a subjective sense of numbing, detachment, or absence of emotional responsiveness
a reduction in awareness of his or her surroundings (e.g., “being in a daze”)
derealization
depersonalization
dissociative amnesia (i.e., inability to recall an important aspect of the trauma)
C. The traumatic event is persistently reexperienced in at least one of the following ways: recurrent images, thoughts, dreams, illusions, flashback episodes, or a sense of reliving the experience; or distress on exposure to reminders of the traumatic event.
D. Marked avoidance of stimuli that arouse recollections of the trauma (e.g., thoughts, feelings, conversations, activities, places, people).
E. Marked symptoms of anxiety or increased arousal (e.g., difficulty sleeping, irritability, poor concentration, hypervigilence, exaggerated startle response, motor restlessness).
F. The disturbance causes clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning or impairs the individual’s ability to pursue some necessary task, such as obtaining necessary assistance or mobilizing personal resources by telling family members about the traumatic experience.
G. The disturbance lasts for a minimum of 2 days and a maximum of 4 weeks and occurs within 4 weeks of the traumatic event.
H. The disturbance is not due to the direct physiological effects of a substance (e.g., a drug of abuse, a medication) or a general medical condition, is not better accounted for by Brief Psychotic Disorder, and is not merely an exacerbation of a preexisting Axis I or Axis II disorder.

Symptoms of Acute Stress Disorder
According to the DSM, “The essential feature of Acute Stress Disorder is the development of characteristic anxiety, dissociative, and other symptoms that occurs within 1 month after exposure to an extreme traumatic stressor” (p. 469). The following specific diagnostic criteria are reproduced verbatim (except for codings and page references) from the DSM-IV TR (where ‘IV TR’ indicates fourth edition, text revision), pages 471-472. Also see the separate page on the closely-related PTSD (Posttraumatic Stress Disorder).
Diagnostic Criteria for Acute Stress Disorder
A. The person has been exposed to a traumatic event in which both of the following were present:
the person experienced, witnessed, or was confronted with an event or events that involved actual or threatened death or serious injury, or a threat to the physical integrity of self or othersthe person’s response involved intense fear, helplessness, or horrorB. Either while experiencing or after experiencing the distressing event, the individual has three (or more) of the following dissociative symptoms:
a subjective sense of numbing, detachment, or absence of emotional responsivenessa reduction in awareness of his or her surroundings (e.g., “being in a daze”)derealizationdepersonalizationdissociative amnesia (i.e., inability to recall an important aspect of the trauma)  C. The traumatic event is persistently reexperienced in at least one of the following ways: recurrent images, thoughts, dreams, illusions, flashback episodes, or a sense of reliving the experience; or distress on exposure to reminders of the traumatic event.
D. Marked avoidance of stimuli that arouse recollections of the trauma (e.g., thoughts, feelings, conversations, activities, places, people).
E. Marked symptoms of anxiety or increased arousal (e.g., difficulty sleeping, irritability, poor concentration, hypervigilence, exaggerated startle response, motor restlessness).
F. The disturbance causes clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning or impairs the individual’s ability to pursue some necessary task, such as obtaining necessary assistance or mobilizing personal resources by telling family members about the traumatic experience.
G. The disturbance lasts for a minimum of 2 days and a maximum of 4 weeks and occurs within 4 weeks of the traumatic event.
H. The disturbance is not due to the direct physiological effects of a substance (e.g., a drug of abuse, a medication) or a general medical condition, is not better accounted for by Brief Psychotic Disorder, and is not merely an exacerbation of a preexisting Axis I or Axis II disorder.

 

Legal Abuse Syndrome suffered By Parents Courtesy of Social Services and The Family Courts

Synopsis of Legal Abuse Syndrome
Legal Abuse Syndrome is a 234 page book which discusses the effects of, and steps to recovery from Legal Abuse Syndrome (LAS), which the author has defined as a Post Traumatic Stress Disorder resulting from abusive and protracted litigation.
Anyone subjected to the abuses of the American civil justice system will immediately identify with the cover and quotations appearing on the back cover of the book.
Ms. Huffer begins in the Preface by defining LAS, and in the Introduction identifies seven LAS victims whose stories she has woven into a highly readable self-help book for other victims of LAS.  Legal Abuse Syndrome also doubles as a text book for mental health professionals providing therapy to LAS victims.
The book is divided into 10 chapters.  Beginning in Chapters 1 and 2, Huffer identifies the symptoms of the LAS victim and the etiology of LAS.  These two introductory chapters are followed by 8 chapters in which the author breaks down the Eight Steps to Recovery, consisting of Debriefing, Grieving, Obsession, Blaming, Deshaming, Reframing, Empowerment and Recovery.
Each chapter begins with a relevant quote which sets the stage for the material presented.  The book concludes with Maya Angelou’s powerful poem, “I rise.”
CHAPTER SUMMARIES
Chapter 1 – “Invisible Hostages” reveals the hostage condition that results from betrayals of trust and the quiet crimes.  Symptoms of the hostage-stage psychological reactions are put forth with a list of the white-collar crimes, litigation/judicial atrocities and bureaucratic failings that cumulatively assault victims.  The case of James graphically portrays the path from the initial affront through the aftermath of the crime.  James went to law enforcement agencies, sued through the courts at huge expense, and found his situation worsened to the point of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  Chapter 1 includes one cartoon and two illustrations.
Chapter 2 – “The Epidemic” illustrates the chemical changes that take place in the brain during prolonged victimization.  It becomes clear that a profound sense of helplessness in the face of jeopardy causes post traumatic stress disorder.  The longer the feeling of helplessness lasts, the more pronounced are the symptoms.  Victims find themselves in the symptoms as they relate to their own experiences.  James shares that at the time he needed the protection of his judicial system, it betrayed him.  He was left unable to obtain justice.  Extensive research supports the theory that “psycholegal” post traumatic stress disorder is a common occurrence in litigants and victims of the invisible crimes.  The reader can look around and see the “cellophane-wrapped” victims who have moved beyond rage to an implosive, cyclical lifestyle.  These victims usually remain invisible.  The chapter includes one illustration.
Chapter 3 – “Debriefing” begins the second part of the book, the eight steps to recovery.  Debriefing is an activity that the reader can do.   It centers around a graphic, processing sheet that delineates losses, feelings and facts.  This chapter begins a caring journey.  The sense of isolation is relieved in victims as they see their experience(s) begin to take a manageable form.  The case of P.J., who broke through denial during debriefing helps us understand how to effectively respond to victims.  This chapter also lists “absolutely what not to say to a victim.”  The chapter includes one illustration and two reader participation graphics.
Chapter 4 – “Grieving” clarifies that loss of trust is the greatest loss known to a human being.  The case of Judy demonstrates the profound effect of bureaucratic and law enforcement behavior on a victim.  Judy had to face the FBI, the IRS, and court after a betrayal by her husband.  Grieving masques as depression (the common cold of mental illness), exhaustion, varied illnesses and conditions.  Grieving over loss of property is usually discounted in American culture.  ”Takings” have become a part of business strategy and are often done through the use of the system.  Bankruptcy court, the Drug Enforcement Agency, the IRS effect takings of property without due process.  Takings threaten the lifeblood of the nation.  The case of John depicts the nebulous nature of grief.  It is pushed aside if the loss is not “respectably” large.  John breaks down over a tiny tangible issue that, in fact, reflects huge intangible losses.  In this chapter we see that the loss of belief systems, trust, and ideals are critical to the loss picture.  Each case will show that our protective systems did not function as intended, and inadvertently or by design, intensified the trauma.  Legal Abuse Syndrome , a journey Beyond Rage… and Back, articulates that the right to redress in order to prevent losses and to exact recompense is key to a sense of safety and security necessary for mental health.
Chapter 5 – “Obsession” leads us toward a sense of control over our lives again.  Readers become aware that obsession is a natural response to victimization.  Randomization is a difficult concept to grasp in life.  When good people are assaulted and left unaffirmed by their culture’s systems, life proceeds on a path with no moral compass – no guide to safety.  A list of obsessive styles is characterized by descriptive names, i.e. “Lifeguard,” obsesses around health; where as an “Inventorier” counts and accounts for all belongings, endlessly.  What to do about easing obsession is listed with case examples.  A sense of humor interweaves as victims look at their obsessive selves with acceptance.
Chapter 6 – “Blaming” faces victim-blaming head on.  Society discourages blaming; therefore, victims are praised for taking responsibility for the awful things that happen to them.  Further, victims often see little recourse once blame is established.  Attribution is a necessary step toward justice because it reinforces the moral code.  This chapter gives a victim a graphic for assessing degrees of blame and then enriches the reader with specific blaming actions dramatized by James and the other cases.  Barriers to blaming are explored, such as guilt and societal pressure.  There is a self-blame checklist followed by the danger of self blame.  Revenge and punishment are contrasted with appropriate, quality blaming actions which drive behavior toward the moral code.  Those ignored, outrageous assaults by attorneys and the systems, such as slander and character assassination in the courtroom and denied right to redress, are listed at the end of the chapter.  Victims begin to feel that they are not crazy or at fault.  This chapter includes a reader participation check list.
Chapter 7 – “Deshaming” offers a totally unique approach to understanding human motivation in terms of power.  A continuum is presented which ranks a person’s motivating force as either conscience-based or power-based.  Human interactions can be visualized as on a grid.  The conscience-based person is often victimized even though he may have spiritual power.  Power-based people are motivated by envy and a need for superior posture.  Lying is a key tool of the power motivated person.  Lying wins over truth.  Here is where violation of the moral code is “business as usual” for some and an outrage to others.  Shame is known to the conscience-based person,who often absorbs shame from the violator as well.  A tournament of the game, “Prisoner’s Dilemma,” is used as an example of strategies that help conscience-based people learn to identify and cope with power-based individuals.  Specific skills are taught regarding cooperation, competition, and self-protection.  Thus, to free them from shame, the readers are able to relinquish undeserved shame and to follow guiding principles for modification of their belief systems.  The case of Manny exemplifies the predicament and the process for deshaming.  The chapter includes two illustrations.
Chapter 8 – “Reframing” is the pivotal procedure that embarks upon recovery.  All five steps leading to reframing are required to effectively achieve this phase.  The victim shifts from a painful perception of self to a new, open, morally sound and personally inspired view of himself.  There is an LAS Reframe Exercise which allows the painful issue to come forth.  Then the pain is put to the reframe steps.  The victim might say, “I was a fool.”  Reframed, the victim will say, “I was a trustworthy person, I believed that others were largely trustworthy too.”  Then the victim searches for the wisdom gained from the experience.  The chapter includes one reader participation checklist.
Chapter 9 – “Empowerment” more than anything, brings a fresh approach for legal and bureaucratic problem solving to the ordinary person.  Steps are blueprints:  1) seek and destroy misinformation, 2) from pragmatic expectations, 3) avoid the predictable, 4) persevere, 5) use mental toughness, 6) become a vigilante consumer, 7) call a crime a crime.  Misinformation is a strategic tool used by abusers of the justice systems.  It crushes the force of truth distorting the course towards justice.  Oppression thrives on misinformation.  Empowerment requires effective attacks on misinformation through official channels.  The predictable path is owned by the power-centered.  They travel ahead and prepare to take the conscience-centered person out at every turn.  Victims need each other and creative approaches.  This chapter ties into Appendix B which contains a host of resources.  Eleven tools and techniques are presented.  Rules and regulations of an institution are usually broken by those who abuse from within the organization.  Finding those violations empowers a victim tremendously.  Mental toughness is the ability to never lose focus regardless of attacks or diversions.  Vigilante consumers focus on the real bottom line in America, the consumer.  When crimes occur, they must be treated as crimes and dealt with by consumers who keep the focus on the real bottom line.  The chapter contains one graphic.
Chapter 10 – “Recovery” brings perspective.  Victims become veterans who have an important function in correcting societal wrongs.  Readers are brought up to date by parting words from the victims whose cases were portrayed in the book.  It becomes apparent that recovery is not a destination but a journey wherein the eight steps are incorporated into a renewed lifestyle.  Forgiveness and restoration are discussed as quite separate issues from recovery.  Veterans are no longer cellophane-wrapped hostages but are back in the game of life, risking once more.  Trust as a staple, societal issue is explored in the context of LAS being a totally preventable assault to the mental health of our nation.
In the Conclusion , Ms. Huffer thanks her patients who have trusted her and taught her that there is an invisible fabric woven of American character found in the ordinary person.  It is an invitation for these victims who refused to be soul-murdered to lead the nation back into a future of hope, trust and a code of American conduct that they represent to quietly.  The Epilogue contains a snapshot of an LAS victim that has been driven beyond rage.
The book includes a Bibliography which cites referenced and related works included as well as a Glossary of terms used in the book.
Appendix A defines clinical post traumatic stress disorder.
Appendix B – Resources for the Empowerment of the Ordinary Person.  This appendix provides the LAS victim with a list of organizations dedicated to legal reform and victim rights.
Appendix C – Victims-Witness Protection Act of 1984.
Appendix D contains worksheets to be used in conjunction with the book.
The following pages contain the Preface and Introduction as they appear in the actual book.
Preface
If you are deeply disillusioned and feeling oppressed as an American Citizen, resulting from experience with our justice system, you may be suffering from Legal Abuse Syndrome.
If you’ve been a litigant in court and justice was not to be obtained at any price, you may be suffering from Legal Abuse Syndrome.
If you fantasize an act of vigilante vengeance because it seems like the only recourse, you may be suffering from Legal Abuse Syndrome.
If you’ve reported a crime and found that you were punished instead of the criminal, you may be suffering from Legal Abuse Syndrome.
If creativity and dreams have been left in the past because their development was ripped from you and torn to shreds by your protective systems, you may be suffering from Legal Abuse Syndrome.
If you feel numb, disconnected, and vulnerable, you may be suffering from Legal Abuse Syndrome.
If you feel that you have been victimized twice, once by a perpetrator and then by your protective system, you may be suffering from Legal Abuse Syndrome.
Some will deny that Legal Abuse Syndrome (LAS) exists.  They will remind us that we have an adversarial system of justice.  Abuses will be written off as adversaries battling for their clients.  Victims will be nothing more than casualties of a “fight for justice.”  Others will worry that victims of LAS will want compensation for their psychological injuries.  Skeptics will ask, “Aren’t LAS victims just malingerers wanting more from the system?”
I do not indict the legal profession, fine judges and hard working public servants.  I applaud those who serve their clients well in any milieu.  We do not bash any organization or profession in this book.  Lawyers, judges, FBI agents, police officers and investigators have all crossed my private practice and helped me to delineate the abuse of power that permeates every profession.  Many of these professionals are themselves invisible victims also and need the support of the public.
Abusers are studied in this book as a method of exposing to LAS victims the predicament that oppresses them.  The systems are explored in the light of victims’ experiences.  The psycholegal condition is revealed along with skills to help the victim cope with abusers of his systems.  The scope is a large one for a marriage and family therapist or or fellow victim to tackle.  It may feel unwieldy and threatening to the reader.  However, reading and rereading has produced results and has motivated me to risk a big project and perhaps an unpopular one in behalf of those invisible victims who can heal in spite of systems without a cure.
A firm warning to those who would use the following material to damage or discredit any citizen in any manner:
LEGAL ABUSE SYNDROME IS A NATURAL AND NORMAL RESPONSE TO AN ABNORMAL, UNNATURAL, CUMULATIVE TRAUMA, AS WITH ALL POST TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDERS.  ANY ATTEMPT BY ANY PERSON TO DISCREDIT AN INDIVIDUAL’S TESTIMONY, CHARACTER, OR ACTIONS DUE TO THEIR SUFFERING FROM LAS IS TO CLEARLY DEMONSTRATE THE ABERRANT NATURE OF OUR SYSTEM OF PROBLEM-SOLVING.  ANY ALLY OF CIVILIAZATION MUST CLEARLY IDENTIFY SUCH BEHAVIOR AS ABUSIVE, PUT A HALT TO DESTRUCTIVE ACTIONS, AND DEVOTE THEIR ENERGIES TO RESTORATION OF VICTIMS OF THE “SYSTEMS”.
No one likes to think of himself as a victim.  Immediately, it conjures an image of a loser or someone making poor life-choices.    Yet, in spite of resistance to facing our victimization, legal abuses have become common.  When abuses occur, victims are created.  We either have to face that we are victimized or accept an aberration to civilized living as being “just the way it is”.
Laws provide for courts, agencies, law enforcement bureaucracies, and regulatory services.  We depend on them to resolve our disputes and to protect our cherished rights.  When they fail, our nation must deal with the victims and vigilantes left in the wake of officially sanctioned wrongdoing.
In this book, we will explore cases that are shocking and fascinating.  They illustrate abuses perpetrated by our legally instituted protective systems and the pain and suffering that results.  Citizens are driven “Beyond Rage.”  However startling and moving our cases may be, we have only touched a segment of their lives and experiences.  Each case has left unrevealed depth of trauma and complication that would be prohibitive in space and time to write about in one book.
This work results from my experiences of the past twenty years as a marriage and family therapist in private practice.  Throughout my career, a certain discomfort gnawed at me regarding clients who attended my various groups and seminars.  While the seminars dealt with the subjects of codependency, substance abuse, parenting, divorce adjustment, assertiveness, stress, or whatever the current topic dictated, there always remained the walking wounded.  Those were clients, whose true source of pain was not recognized by family or friends.  Worse, it was never clearly defined by helping professionals.  With no diagnosis, their condition could not be targeted for treatment.  Invisible trauma nebulously danced around the topics, never to be healed in these hungry participants.
It wasn’t until a white-collar crime was perpetrated on my family that I saw these walking wounded with uncomfortably opened eyes.  After nearly a decade of struggling with the justice system, and working with other such victims,I have concluded that the enormous betrayals and inefficiencies that make up bureaucratic post-crime experiences, are literally attacking the emotional health of this nation.  Victims have no satisfying place to turn.  Rage accumulates and its sequelae have reached epidemic proportions.
A therapist must, of course, check such observations against the danger of inaccurately projecting onto a client personal feelings or attitudes that go beyond the therapeutic use of self.  I have done that.  Even more uncomfortably now, i see the massive validation of my theory by participants in the “Beyond Rage” seminars.  Still theoretical, but deadly serious, is the thesis of this book that victims in America are, first, assaulted by crime and, secondly, by abuses of power and authority administered by the systems their tax dollars support to provide due process of law.  In short, they get a “double whammy.”
People of principle find their decency, trustworthiness, responsibility, and use of their courts trounced by systems that perpetrate judicial and bureaucratic atrocities.  Americans, who follow a code of conscience, encounter a profound imbalance between the abuses of power perpetrated by those entrusted with the systems and the prohibitive conscience of the ordinary person to violation of values and laws.  At the heart of this book is the threatened psychic underpinning of the American citizen which is tied into the Constitutionally protected rights that we depend upon.  To imperil the basic freedoms, which Americans are taught are their birthright, is to jeopardize conditions of trust and safety necessary for a healthy, productive life.
Victims challenge the finest of counseling techniques.  The lack of closure combines with prolonged, cruel, and unusual punishment exerted by the court system.  Ongoing strain of litigation then interfaces with psychological issues.  Diagnoses are tricky and dynamic.  Healing techniques and strategies are interrupted by the trauma of the proceedings or behaviors of court personnel.  Stress reduction training is of marginal value for a litigant who will regularly be administered another dose of outrage.  The best of family intervention is defeated if the family court renders a visitation arrangement that destroys continuity in the raising of the children or if the current custodial parent is harassed and stalked, unprotected by the law enforcement system.
Outrage is tough enough.  Beyond rage is terribly painful territory.  I caution the reader that to earnestly use this self-help material for healing purposes will be challenging.  On the other hand, if you choose to stay beyond rage, you exist in a type of living death.  So victims of the systems are caught between a tough place and a really hard place.  Go slowly, get involved in groups, if possible, but don’t let your lifeblood be stripped from you without a fight.  This book will help to get you back on your fighting feet.  You won’t change massive systems or reform your country in all likelihood.  However, when all of the trauma has been processed, you will become an empowered, effective individual again.
More and more, helping professionals are being confronted by “psycholegal” issues.  Patients are driven beyond rage over an extended period of time during which victims travel an isolated road.  The impact of the invisible assaults usually are ignored.
Vigilante violence results when the needs of the majority are not being met by the systems (Tucker).  What of the gentle and decent person who values a law abiding mode of life?  Unless the unique needs of these victims are identified and healing processes made accessible to them, the cost in pain, suffering, disillusionment, and shutdown of creativity to the individual and society is immeasurable.

Synopsis of Legal Abuse Syndrome
Legal Abuse Syndrome is a 234 page book which discusses the effects of, and steps to recovery from Legal Abuse Syndrome (LAS), which the author has defined as a Post Traumatic Stress Disorder resulting from abusive and protracted litigation.
Anyone subjected to the abuses of the American civil justice system will immediately identify with the cover and quotations appearing on the back cover of the book.
Ms. Huffer begins in the Preface by defining LAS, and in the Introduction identifies seven LAS victims whose stories she has woven into a highly readable self-help book for other victims of LAS.  Legal Abuse Syndrome also doubles as a text book for mental health professionals providing therapy to LAS victims.
The book is divided into 10 chapters.  Beginning in Chapters 1 and 2, Huffer identifies the symptoms of the LAS victim and the etiology of LAS.  These two introductory chapters are followed by 8 chapters in which the author breaks down the Eight Steps to Recovery, consisting of Debriefing, Grieving, Obsession, Blaming, Deshaming, Reframing, Empowerment and Recovery.
Each chapter begins with a relevant quote which sets the stage for the material presented.  The book concludes with Maya Angelou’s powerful poem, “I rise.”
CHAPTER SUMMARIES
Chapter 1 – “Invisible Hostages” reveals the hostage condition that results from betrayals of trust and the quiet crimes.  Symptoms of the hostage-stage psychological reactions are put forth with a list of the white-collar crimes, litigation/judicial atrocities and bureaucratic failings that cumulatively assault victims.  The case of James graphically portrays the path from the initial affront through the aftermath of the crime.  James went to law enforcement agencies, sued through the courts at huge expense, and found his situation worsened to the point of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  Chapter 1 includes one cartoon and two illustrations.
Chapter 2 – “The Epidemic” illustrates the chemical changes that take place in the brain during prolonged victimization.  It becomes clear that a profound sense of helplessness in the face of jeopardy causes post traumatic stress disorder.  The longer the feeling of helplessness lasts, the more pronounced are the symptoms.  Victims find themselves in the symptoms as they relate to their own experiences.  James shares that at the time he needed the protection of his judicial system, it betrayed him.  He was left unable to obtain justice.  Extensive research supports the theory that “psycholegal” post traumatic stress disorder is a common occurrence in litigants and victims of the invisible crimes.  The reader can look around and see the “cellophane-wrapped” victims who have moved beyond rage to an implosive, cyclical lifestyle.  These victims usually remain invisible.  The chapter includes one illustration.
Chapter 3 – “Debriefing” begins the second part of the book, the eight steps to recovery.  Debriefing is an activity that the reader can do.   It centers around a graphic, processing sheet that delineates losses, feelings and facts.  This chapter begins a caring journey.  The sense of isolation is relieved in victims as they see their experience(s) begin to take a manageable form.  The case of P.J., who broke through denial during debriefing helps us understand how to effectively respond to victims.  This chapter also lists “absolutely what not to say to a victim.”  The chapter includes one illustration and two reader participation graphics.
Chapter 4 – “Grieving” clarifies that loss of trust is the greatest loss known to a human being.  The case of Judy demonstrates the profound effect of bureaucratic and law enforcement behavior on a victim.  Judy had to face the FBI, the IRS, and court after a betrayal by her husband.  Grieving masques as depression (the common cold of mental illness), exhaustion, varied illnesses and conditions.  Grieving over loss of property is usually discounted in American culture.  ”Takings” have become a part of business strategy and are often done through the use of the system.  Bankruptcy court, the Drug Enforcement Agency, the IRS effect takings of property without due process.  Takings threaten the lifeblood of the nation.  The case of John depicts the nebulous nature of grief.  It is pushed aside if the loss is not “respectably” large.  John breaks down over a tiny tangible issue that, in fact, reflects huge intangible losses.  In this chapter we see that the loss of belief systems, trust, and ideals are critical to the loss picture.  Each case will show that our protective systems did not function as intended, and inadvertently or by design, intensified the trauma.  Legal Abuse Syndrome , a journey Beyond Rage… and Back, articulates that the right to redress in order to prevent losses and to exact recompense is key to a sense of safety and security necessary for mental health.
Chapter 5 – “Obsession” leads us toward a sense of control over our lives again.  Readers become aware that obsession is a natural response to victimization.  Randomization is a difficult concept to grasp in life.  When good people are assaulted and left unaffirmed by their culture’s systems, life proceeds on a path with no moral compass – no guide to safety.  A list of obsessive styles is characterized by descriptive names, i.e. “Lifeguard,” obsesses around health; where as an “Inventorier” counts and accounts for all belongings, endlessly.  What to do about easing obsession is listed with case examples.  A sense of humor interweaves as victims look at their obsessive selves with acceptance.
Chapter 6 – “Blaming” faces victim-blaming head on.  Society discourages blaming; therefore, victims are praised for taking responsibility for the awful things that happen to them.  Further, victims often see little recourse once blame is established.  Attribution is a necessary step toward justice because it reinforces the moral code.  This chapter gives a victim a graphic for assessing degrees of blame and then enriches the reader with specific blaming actions dramatized by James and the other cases.  Barriers to blaming are explored, such as guilt and societal pressure.  There is a self-blame checklist followed by the danger of self blame.  Revenge and punishment are contrasted with appropriate, quality blaming actions which drive behavior toward the moral code.  Those ignored, outrageous assaults by attorneys and the systems, such as slander and character assassination in the courtroom and denied right to redress, are listed at the end of the chapter.  Victims begin to feel that they are not crazy or at fault.  This chapter includes a reader participation check list.
Chapter 7 – “Deshaming” offers a totally unique approach to understanding human motivation in terms of power.  A continuum is presented which ranks a person’s motivating force as either conscience-based or power-based.  Human interactions can be visualized as on a grid.  The conscience-based person is often victimized even though he may have spiritual power.  Power-based people are motivated by envy and a need for superior posture.  Lying is a key tool of the power motivated person.  Lying wins over truth.  Here is where violation of the moral code is “business as usual” for some and an outrage to others.  Shame is known to the conscience-based person,who often absorbs shame from the violator as well.  A tournament of the game, “Prisoner’s Dilemma,” is used as an example of strategies that help conscience-based people learn to identify and cope with power-based individuals.  Specific skills are taught regarding cooperation, competition, and self-protection.  Thus, to free them from shame, the readers are able to relinquish undeserved shame and to follow guiding principles for modification of their belief systems.  The case of Manny exemplifies the predicament and the process for deshaming.  The chapter includes two illustrations.
Chapter 8 – “Reframing” is the pivotal procedure that embarks upon recovery.  All five steps leading to reframing are required to effectively achieve this phase.  The victim shifts from a painful perception of self to a new, open, morally sound and personally inspired view of himself.  There is an LAS Reframe Exercise which allows the painful issue to come forth.  Then the pain is put to the reframe steps.  The victim might say, “I was a fool.”  Reframed, the victim will say, “I was a trustworthy person, I believed that others were largely trustworthy too.”  Then the victim searches for the wisdom gained from the experience.  The chapter includes one reader participation checklist.
Chapter 9 – “Empowerment” more than anything, brings a fresh approach for legal and bureaucratic problem solving to the ordinary person.  Steps are blueprints:  1) seek and destroy misinformation, 2) from pragmatic expectations, 3) avoid the predictable, 4) persevere, 5) use mental toughness, 6) become a vigilante consumer, 7) call a crime a crime.  Misinformation is a strategic tool used by abusers of the justice systems.  It crushes the force of truth distorting the course towards justice.  Oppression thrives on misinformation.  Empowerment requires effective attacks on misinformation through official channels.  The predictable path is owned by the power-centered.  They travel ahead and prepare to take the conscience-centered person out at every turn.  Victims need each other and creative approaches.  This chapter ties into Appendix B which contains a host of resources.  Eleven tools and techniques are presented.  Rules and regulations of an institution are usually broken by those who abuse from within the organization.  Finding those violations empowers a victim tremendously.  Mental toughness is the ability to never lose focus regardless of attacks or diversions.  Vigilante consumers focus on the real bottom line in America, the consumer.  When crimes occur, they must be treated as crimes and dealt with by consumers who keep the focus on the real bottom line.  The chapter contains one graphic.
Chapter 10 – “Recovery” brings perspective.  Victims become veterans who have an important function in correcting societal wrongs.  Readers are brought up to date by parting words from the victims whose cases were portrayed in the book.  It becomes apparent that recovery is not a destination but a journey wherein the eight steps are incorporated into a renewed lifestyle.  Forgiveness and restoration are discussed as quite separate issues from recovery.  Veterans are no longer cellophane-wrapped hostages but are back in the game of life, risking once more.  Trust as a staple, societal issue is explored in the context of LAS being a totally preventable assault to the mental health of our nation.
In the Conclusion , Ms. Huffer thanks her patients who have trusted her and taught her that there is an invisible fabric woven of American character found in the ordinary person.  It is an invitation for these victims who refused to be soul-murdered to lead the nation back into a future of hope, trust and a code of American conduct that they represent to quietly.  The Epilogue contains a snapshot of an LAS victim that has been driven beyond rage.
The book includes a Bibliography which cites referenced and related works included as well as a Glossary of terms used in the book.
Appendix A defines clinical post traumatic stress disorder.
Appendix B – Resources for the Empowerment of the Ordinary Person.  This appendix provides the LAS victim with a list of organizations dedicated to legal reform and victim rights.
Appendix C – Victims-Witness Protection Act of 1984.
Appendix D contains worksheets to be used in conjunction with the book.
The following pages contain the Preface and Introduction as they appear in the actual book.
Preface
If you are deeply disillusioned and feeling oppressed as an American Citizen, resulting from experience with our justice system, you may be suffering from Legal Abuse Syndrome.If you’ve been a litigant in court and justice was not to be obtained at any price, you may be suffering from Legal Abuse Syndrome.If you fantasize an act of vigilante vengeance because it seems like the only recourse, you may be suffering from Legal Abuse Syndrome.If you’ve reported a crime and found that you were punished instead of the criminal, you may be suffering from Legal Abuse Syndrome.If creativity and dreams have been left in the past because their development was ripped from you and torn to shreds by your protective systems, you may be suffering from Legal Abuse Syndrome.If you feel numb, disconnected, and vulnerable, you may be suffering from Legal Abuse Syndrome.If you feel that you have been victimized twice, once by a perpetrator and then by your protective system, you may be suffering from Legal Abuse Syndrome.Some will deny that Legal Abuse Syndrome (LAS) exists.  They will remind us that we have an adversarial system of justice.  Abuses will be written off as adversaries battling for their clients.  Victims will be nothing more than casualties of a “fight for justice.”  Others will worry that victims of LAS will want compensation for their psychological injuries.  Skeptics will ask, “Aren’t LAS victims just malingerers wanting more from the system?”
I do not indict the legal profession, fine judges and hard working public servants.  I applaud those who serve their clients well in any milieu.  We do not bash any organization or profession in this book.  Lawyers, judges, FBI agents, police officers and investigators have all crossed my private practice and helped me to delineate the abuse of power that permeates every profession.  Many of these professionals are themselves invisible victims also and need the support of the public.
Abusers are studied in this book as a method of exposing to LAS victims the predicament that oppresses them.  The systems are explored in the light of victims’ experiences.  The psycholegal condition is revealed along with skills to help the victim cope with abusers of his systems.  The scope is a large one for a marriage and family therapist or or fellow victim to tackle.  It may feel unwieldy and threatening to the reader.  However, reading and rereading has produced results and has motivated me to risk a big project and perhaps an unpopular one in behalf of those invisible victims who can heal in spite of systems without a cure.
A firm warning to those who would use the following material to damage or discredit any citizen in any manner:
LEGAL ABUSE SYNDROME IS A NATURAL AND NORMAL RESPONSE TO AN ABNORMAL, UNNATURAL, CUMULATIVE TRAUMA, AS WITH ALL POST TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDERS.  ANY ATTEMPT BY ANY PERSON TO DISCREDIT AN INDIVIDUAL’S TESTIMONY, CHARACTER, OR ACTIONS DUE TO THEIR SUFFERING FROM LAS IS TO CLEARLY DEMONSTRATE THE ABERRANT NATURE OF OUR SYSTEM OF PROBLEM-SOLVING.  ANY ALLY OF CIVILIAZATION MUST CLEARLY IDENTIFY SUCH BEHAVIOR AS ABUSIVE, PUT A HALT TO DESTRUCTIVE ACTIONS, AND DEVOTE THEIR ENERGIES TO RESTORATION OF VICTIMS OF THE “SYSTEMS”.
No one likes to think of himself as a victim.  Immediately, it conjures an image of a loser or someone making poor life-choices.    Yet, in spite of resistance to facing our victimization, legal abuses have become common.  When abuses occur, victims are created.  We either have to face that we are victimized or accept an aberration to civilized living as being “just the way it is”.
Laws provide for courts, agencies, law enforcement bureaucracies, and regulatory services.  We depend on them to resolve our disputes and to protect our cherished rights.  When they fail, our nation must deal with the victims and vigilantes left in the wake of officially sanctioned wrongdoing.
In this book, we will explore cases that are shocking and fascinating.  They illustrate abuses perpetrated by our legally instituted protective systems and the pain and suffering that results.  Citizens are driven “Beyond Rage.”  However startling and moving our cases may be, we have only touched a segment of their lives and experiences.  Each case has left unrevealed depth of trauma and complication that would be prohibitive in space and time to write about in one book.
This work results from my experiences of the past twenty years as a marriage and family therapist in private practice.  Throughout my career, a certain discomfort gnawed at me regarding clients who attended my various groups and seminars.  While the seminars dealt with the subjects of codependency, substance abuse, parenting, divorce adjustment, assertiveness, stress, or whatever the current topic dictated, there always remained the walking wounded.  Those were clients, whose true source of pain was not recognized by family or friends.  Worse, it was never clearly defined by helping professionals.  With no diagnosis, their condition could not be targeted for treatment.  Invisible trauma nebulously danced around the topics, never to be healed in these hungry participants.
It wasn’t until a white-collar crime was perpetrated on my family that I saw these walking wounded with uncomfortably opened eyes.  After nearly a decade of struggling with the justice system, and working with other such victims,I have concluded that the enormous betrayals and inefficiencies that make up bureaucratic post-crime experiences, are literally attacking the emotional health of this nation.  Victims have no satisfying place to turn.  Rage accumulates and its sequelae have reached epidemic proportions.
A therapist must, of course, check such observations against the danger of inaccurately projecting onto a client personal feelings or attitudes that go beyond the therapeutic use of self.  I have done that.  Even more uncomfortably now, i see the massive validation of my theory by participants in the “Beyond Rage” seminars.  Still theoretical, but deadly serious, is the thesis of this book that victims in America are, first, assaulted by crime and, secondly, by abuses of power and authority administered by the systems their tax dollars support to provide due process of law.  In short, they get a “double whammy.”
People of principle find their decency, trustworthiness, responsibility, and use of their courts trounced by systems that perpetrate judicial and bureaucratic atrocities.  Americans, who follow a code of conscience, encounter a profound imbalance between the abuses of power perpetrated by those entrusted with the systems and the prohibitive conscience of the ordinary person to violation of values and laws.  At the heart of this book is the threatened psychic underpinning of the American citizen which is tied into the Constitutionally protected rights that we depend upon.  To imperil the basic freedoms, which Americans are taught are their birthright, is to jeopardize conditions of trust and safety necessary for a healthy, productive life.
Victims challenge the finest of counseling techniques.  The lack of closure combines with prolonged, cruel, and unusual punishment exerted by the court system.  Ongoing strain of litigation then interfaces with psychological issues.  Diagnoses are tricky and dynamic.  Healing techniques and strategies are interrupted by the trauma of the proceedings or behaviors of court personnel.  Stress reduction training is of marginal value for a litigant who will regularly be administered another dose of outrage.  The best of family intervention is defeated if the family court renders a visitation arrangement that destroys continuity in the raising of the children or if the current custodial parent is harassed and stalked, unprotected by the law enforcement system.
Outrage is tough enough.  Beyond rage is terribly painful territory.  I caution the reader that to earnestly use this self-help material for healing purposes will be challenging.  On the other hand, if you choose to stay beyond rage, you exist in a type of living death.  So victims of the systems are caught between a tough place and a really hard place.  Go slowly, get involved in groups, if possible, but don’t let your lifeblood be stripped from you without a fight.  This book will help to get you back on your fighting feet.  You won’t change massive systems or reform your country in all likelihood.  However, when all of the trauma has been processed, you will become an empowered, effective individual again.
More and more, helping professionals are being confronted by “psycholegal” issues.  Patients are driven beyond rage over an extended period of time during which victims travel an isolated road.  The impact of the invisible assaults usually are ignored.
Vigilante violence results when the needs of the majority are not being met by the systems (Tucker).  What of the gentle and decent person who values a law abiding mode of life?  Unless the unique needs of these victims are identified and healing processes made accessible to them, the cost in pain, suffering, disillusionment, and shutdown of creativity to the individual and society is immeasurable.

http://www.legalabusesyndrome.org/synopsisof-legal-abuse-syndrome.php