Parental abductions: 70 per cent of children suffer significant mental health effects, report finds


May 24, 2016

Source: abc.net.au

The fallout from the 60 Minutes child recovery saga in Lebanon last month has highlighted the consequences of parental abduction, but little is known about the impact on the children involved.

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The most comprehensive study into the long-term effects of international child abduction found more than 70 per cent of the children involved reported suffering significant effects on their mental health.

British researcher and family law specialist Dr Marilyn Freeman conducted the study which was released last year.

She found children who had been abducted spoke repeatedly about their confusion, feelings of shame, self-hate, loneliness and insecurity.

The study concluded more must be done to protect children from parental abduction and its effects.

‘It was like something was taken from me’

Gaudi Rubio-Thorne would be the first to admit what happened to him more than 35 years ago had an enormous impact.

Gaudi Rubio-Thorne

“It’s definitely influenced the way I think, the way I view the world, the way I interact with others,” he told 7.30.

In 1979, he was just a toddler, living in Launceston with his mother after his parents had separated, but just before Christmas, his Spanish-born father did not return him home after a day out.

His distraught mother, Kayleen Thorne, received a call the next morning.

“He was already in Spain. He said ,’Gaudi’s with me. He’s fine. We’re staying in Spain’,” Ms Thorne said.

She sprang into action. With a 60 Minutes crew along to film the operation, she raced to Spain to retrieve her child, well aware of the possible consequences.

“We would have been in jail, we would have been arrested immediately,” she said.

“We were frightened, but it’s something you do, it’s your mother instinct.”

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Gaudi was successfully returned to his home in Tasmania, but says those events shaped his life.

“I had a lot of anger, especially in my teens,” he told 7.30.

“Substance abuse, definite abandonment issues. I love my mother very much but I take it out on her, take it out on my partners.

“Even though I was taken, it was like there was something that was taken from me.”

He describes his relationship with his father as broken.

“I’ve seen him three or four times when I was growing up, and when I was 17, I went to Spain and spent three or four months with him,” Gaudi said.

“But he wasn’t used to being a father and I wasn’t used to having one.”

‘It really is a lose-lose situation’

Hannah Engdahl is 15 and lives in Canada, but 10 years ago, she and younger sister Cedar were abducted by their father at the end of a three-week holiday with his family in Australia.

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“It was the day after they were to return,” mother Melissa Engdahl explains.

“I got a call letting me know they wouldn’t be returning and that they had gone to the Middle East.”

Melissa Engdahl took legal action in three different countries to try to bring her daughters home, and eventually hired a team of ex-soldiers and went to retrieve them herself.

Hannah-Engdahl

Hannah’s father now lives on the other side of the world and for legal reasons cannot come to visit them in Canada.

She misses having him around on a day-to-day basis.

“He wasn’t here for my school plays when I was in elementary school and he’s not here now and he probably won’t be here for my graduation, so I am missing out on really having him here and present in my life,” Hannah said.

“It really is a lose-lose situation when somebody parentally abducts,” her mother, Melissa, added.

“I think there is a lot of guilt for myself, just guilt that I can’t do more to have him more involved in their lives.”

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