CJS Seminar: Dr. Frances E. Chapman, Professor of Law, Lakehead University, Canada
From Iain Mcgee
Dr. Frances E. Chapman, Professor of Law, Bora Laskin Faculty of Law, Lakehead University, Thunder Bay, Ontario Canada
At the Intersection of Discrediting, Degradation & Denigration: The Criminal Justice System, Coercive Control, Parental Alienation and “Institutional Gaslighting”
In the 1944 film Gaslight, the protagonist deceptively persuades his wife she is descending into insanity. The colloquialism “gaslighting” has entered the criminal legal discourse and is used to describe those who find themselves victims of reality distortions within a coercively controlling intimate relationship. The intersection of domestic violence and “parental alienation” (PA) has confounded researchers because it difficult to determine whether PA is prevalent in dysfunctional family relationships or if the phenomenon is a strategic ploy in legal disputes. Feminist researchers have shown that the abuse suffered by children and the victim parent, usually the mother, has been discredited, dismissed, or greatly minimized by the courts, and the safety of mothers and children are sacrificed in dangerous parenting arrangements that favour the manipulator.
Parental alienation does exist but should be reserved for these rare and specific cases. At present, many women find themselves in the terrible position of choosing their safety or risking the safety of their children, and ultimately custody, when parental alienation is alleged. Criminal Law and Family Law judges need to be educated on parental alienation, domestic violence, and mental health interventions to dispel the myth that PA discredits allegations of intimate partner violence. Women are being mislabelled as disordered alienators at the cost of their children. This presentation will look at the history of parental alienation including the contributions of Dr. Richard Gardner who coined the phrase PA, and this session will close with one Canadian and one British case to bring these issues to life. It may not be the abuser but instead the legal structure that is gaslighting women who seek the assistance of the system.
About the speaker
After completing her articles at Cohen Highley LLP, in London, Ontario, Dr. Chapman gained a broad range of experience in family law, criminal law, personal injury and tort law, administrative law, contract law, and civil and commercial litigation. She was re-hired by the firm as an associate lawyer in the department of the senior litigation partner and was called to the Bar in July 2003. Dr. Chapman practiced for almost two years working with real property disputes, mortgage actions, wrongful dismissal, and class actions.
Dr. Chapman obtained her JD and LLM degrees from The University of Western Ontario in 2002 and 2006, respectively, and her PhD from Osgoode Hall law school at York University in 2009. Her graduate work focused on criminal law defences including automatism, duress, and necessity. She completed her Master of Laws degree at the University of Western Ontario while teaching part-time at Fanshawe College. She then moved to Toronto Ontario to complete her Ph.D. in law at Osgoode Hall Law School at York University. Dr. Chapman began teaching full time at St. Jerome’s University at the University of Waterloo in 2007 and completed her PhD in 2009. After six years at UW, in 2013 Dr. Chapman left Southwestern Ontario to become a founding professor at the Bora Laskin Faculty of Law, Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ontario. Her areas of interest are in criminal law and focus on defences including brainwashing, automatism, duress, necessity, intoxication, and mental disorder. Dr. Chapman teaches tort and criminal law, and she researches on primarily criminal law defences, coercive control, parental alienation, wrongful convictions, psychological coercion, violence against women and domestic violence.