"Intimate Terrorism"

"Intimate Terrorism" – a phrase originally coined by researcher Michael P. Johnson, Ph.D., which refers to actual or inferred physical or mental violence by one spouse against another.

Host Gemma Allen, a partner at Ladden & Allen, Chartered, welcomed guests to the 10th anniversary Think Tank and set the stage for the discussion with a quote from Tolstoy, which paraphrased, infers that all happy families are alike but that every unhappy family is unhappy in differing ways. The opening remarks led to a group discussion about domestic violence and the many forms it takes in unhappy families.

She introduced Leslie Star, Ph.D., a Chicago clinical psychologist and frequent expert witness in custody/visitation cases, who discussed the term "intimate terrorism" as a behavior, not a diagnosis.

Ronald Ladden, who had delivered a white paper on "The Phenomenon of the Intimate Terrorist: What To Do with Him and About Him" at a conference of the International Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers in St. Petersburg, Russia, on September 7, 2007, spoke about the favorable reaction he received from the international legal community. Among his comments, he said that the behavior may not involve actual physical violence. It cuts across psychological diagnostic lines and can be so skilled and subtle that sometimes its perpetrator would not even be measurable on the DSM scale. Therefore, it has often been either confused or underestimated in its potency.

Nonetheless, "intimate terrorism" is a true form of violence that most professionals in the "family" field have encountered. It is especially destructive to its victims ? both adults and children. Intimate terrorism involves elements of psychological and financial control, manipulation, and disinformation designed to posture the terrorist as the "good guy" and the victim as extreme, hysterical and a liar.

Think Tank Outcome
Based on comments delivered at the meeting, an action plan was developed that includes these steps:

  1. Investigating, discussing and lobbying for the need of amending the Illinois Domestic Violence statute to include a presumption against the suitability for sole or joint parenting of a parent convicted of domestic violence;
  2. Continuing an effort to heighten the consciousness of both state judges and lawyers who represent the children of divorce to the very real family dynamics of "intimate terrorism";
  3. Follow-up is needed with regards to the related issue of the growing multicultural nature of the family law field and those cultural considerations and effects on the practice as we know it;
  4. A continuing interest in the concept of a "triage team," composed of family law practitioners, psychologists and perhaps a retired judge with family law experience to assess a case within some few days of its filing to evaluate whether it appears to fall within the high conflict spectrum and what resources are needed to address it ....rather than having all cases presumed to harbor high conflict with the presumption in and of itself causes escalating uncertainty.

SAVE THE DATE: The next Think Tank will be held on Saturday, January 19, from 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. at the Rosewood Restaurant, 9421 W. Higgins in Rosemont. Free parking. A complimentary breakfast will be served.

# # #

Attending the October 27 Think Tank were (listed alphabetically):
Gemma B. Allen, Esq., Ladden & Allen, Chartered; Dr. Gerald A. Blechman; Karen Bloomberg, Ph.D.; Shirley Burnside, MSW; Kimberly A. Busch, Esq.; David B. Carlson, Esq.; Robert Downs, Downs & Downs, P.C.; Randy W. Franklin, Esq., Franklin Law Offices; Brian James, Mediator, C.E.L. and Associates; Dorothy Bertram Johnson, Esq., Johnson & Associates, P.C.; Ronald S. Ladden, Esq. Ladden & Allen, Chartered; Patricia McMahon, Psy.D.; Albert J. Nader; Jerry Porzemsky, PhD., Chris Ruys, Chris Ruys Communications, Inc.; Merilyn M. Salomon, Ph.D.; Dr. Leslie D. Star, Ph.D.

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