HomeLegislative Update | Letters to Legislators | Questionnaire

News | Video Presentations | Expert Interviews | FAQs | Privacy | About | Contact Us

NJ Safe & Sound - NJ Safe and Sound


For Every Person, for Every Family —
Protection Under the Law from the
Psychological Abuse of Undue Influence and Predatory Alienation

Frequently Asked Questions

What is undue influence?

Undue influence is the use of one’s role and power to exploit the trust, dependency, and fear of another in order to deceptively gain control over that person’s decision making.

What is predatory alienation?

Predatory alienation is purposefully disrupting an existing relationship, often through the use of deception, in order to isolate an individual — who is not being abused or otherwise in danger — from the people that he or she trusts, for the purpose of exploiting, controlling, or taking advantage of that individual.

Why do we need a law to against undue influence and predatory alienation?

There have been many instances when loving families have been broken apart by the manipulative, deceptive practices of outsiders. For example the external predatory force could be another adult, another family, a gang, a group, or even someone encountered on the Internet. If the person being manipulated is over the age of 17, family members have nowhere to turn for help in helping their own loved one.

According to the latest scientific evidence, the human brain does not mature until the mid 20s. There are other laws that protect New Jersey citizens between 18 and 21, and California has a law to protect the elderly against undue influence, so there is precedent for protecting those over 18. Some state-funded residential shelters serve young people to age 21, so New Jersey already recognizes the value of protecting people over 18. If the state can take care of someone to age 21, responsible parents should have the same right.

Isn’t it the parents’ fault if their children run off with others?

The individuals who are being manipulated are targeted by their manipulators. In some cases they are chosen precisely because they come from good families and have been raised to be respectful. They are groomed by predators who use manipulative tactics to influence their behavior, their feelings, and the way they think. They are systematically isolated from their families, friends, and favorite activities, and from any information that might help them realize that they are being taken advantage of. With technology, such control can happen at all hours via computer, text message, and cellphone, even while unsuspecting parents are in the next room. The parents are victims, too.

Aren’t those who leave their family behind just exercising their free will?

In some cases, yes. There needs to be a law that applies to instances when evidence shows that a family member has been maliciously alienated from his or her own family.

Would such legislation prevent young adults from establishing their own identities?

No. It is designed to allow responsible families to present their case before an impartial judge when they have evidence of undue or otherwise inappropriate interference in their families that disrupts a previously healthy relationship.

Would this law keep people from escaping abusive households?

No. There are already laws in place to protect individuals in those circumstances.

Don’t all families have differences? Is the purpose of this proposed law to legislate family squabbles?

No. This law is intended to give families who have a healthy relationship with their teenage and adult members to defend them against intrusion by deceptive, manipulative outsiders.

Isn’t it natural for some members of families to drift apart? How can you try to legislate such estrangements?

There is a difference between estrangement and alienation. According to Abe Worenklein, PhD, a clinical and forensic psychologist, certified family mediator, and parental alienation expert in Montreal:

   In an estrangement, the person does not want to have anything to do with his or her family for realistic, rational reasons—for example, “Every time I visit my father, he’s drunk and abusive to me.”
   In an alienation, the person has unjustified, irrational, or illogical beliefs or fears about his or her family that have been instilled by the manipulators who are trying to destroy a healthy family relationship to suit their own purposes.

Why don’t the questionnaires on the NJ Safe & Sound website address parental alienation—when one parent turns the children in the family against another parent?

Although we empathize with those who suffer in such situations, our focus is on the need for recourse from predatory influence outside the immediate family.
   When the questionnaires were created, there seemed to be at least the possibility of raising an issue of parental alienation through the state’s family court system, but no similar recourse when the alienator was not a parent.
   A number of advocacy and support organizations for alienated parents exist, and we encourage those experiencing this trauma to reach out to qualified legal and mental health professionals.

How is it possible to determine whether someone is being unduly influenced?

The Social Influence Model (YouTube video) may be used to explain “Extreme Influence” to legislators and jurists, particularly in light of the new understanding of the role of grooming and undue influence in situations involving human trafficking, terrorism, and extremist recruitment. It was developed by Alan Scheflin, professor emeritus of Santa Clara University School of Law, a specialist in law and psychiatry who has been judicially recognized in federal and state courts. Here are some key points:

  • When the concept of undue influence escapes fiscal confines, the issue of “Where do you draw the line?” arises. According to Scheflin, “the point of unacceptable interaction” is the answer to the question of “Where do you draw the line?” He explains, “This point occurs when you would say to yourself about someone’s conduct, ‘You can’t treat people like that, and if you do, the law will step in and you will be punished.’” Since each fact pattern is unique, the person making the claim would have the burden of proof, and evidence would have to support the claim.

  • In the court system, the SODR test of Undue Influence is used:
    Susceptibility to influence
    Opportunity to exert influence
    Disposition to exert influence
    Result of the influence

  • Scheflin proposes the following 6-point Social Influence Model as a framework for evaluating Extreme Influence:

           1. Influencer (Identity and status—Who is doing the influencing? What is the   
               relationship to the person being influenced? Is it an authority figure?)
           2. Motive (What is the purpose—Why is influence being exerted? Is there  
               financial gain? Behavioral acquiescence? Ideological adherence? Ego
               gratification? Social power?)
           3. Methods/Techniques (What is being done/how? Grooming; seduction; fraud?)
           4. Circumstances (Where is it taking place? Does the influencer control the   
               physical environment? Control information? Limit access to independent advice
               or frequency, duration, and nature of outside contact?)
           5. Influencee’s receptivity/vulnerability (What is the person’s personality type?  
               Hypnotic induction profile? Interrogatory suggestibility?)
           6. Consequences (What is the difference between the influencer’s and
               influencee’s pre- and post-influence status?)

Why would anyone alienate someone from his or her family? What could they possibly stand to gain?

In some instances, the controllers use their power over those they manipulate for financial gain. Sometimes, they do it merely to exercise personal control. Such narcissistic and sociopathic personalities can be quite charming and convincing in presenting themselves as “having all the answers” to someone who may be insecure, or going through a natural transition, such as from teenager to adult or from high school to college, or someone who has recently suffered the death of a loved one or other personal loss.

Will this law end up costing the state money?

No. The legislation would help prevent state-funded agencies from being defrauded by those who incite their victims to take advantage of social services intended to assist those who truly have no means of subsistence.

How can I tell if a loved one is involved in a destructive relationship?

Have you noticed troubling changes in your loved one’s personality, appearance, mannerisms, or habits? Read over questions 4 and 5 at http://www.njsafeandsound.org/questions-a.html. If you can check any of those boxes, your loved one may be involved in a dangerous situation, either with an individual or a group.




"The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society
and is entitled to protection by society and the State."

— Article 16.3, Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations


HomeLegislative Update | Letters to Legislators | Questionnaire

News | Video Presentations | Expert Interviews | FAQs | Privacy | About | Contact Us