The objective of the project, “Evaluating the State of Predatory Alienation in New Jersey,” was to identify the nature of predatory alienation and its effects on young adults and older adults. The Department of Children and Families and the Department of Human Services contracted the Center on Violence Against Women and Children (VAWC) at the Rutgers School of Social Work to study this issue. Principal Investigator, Dr. Jacquelynn Duron and Co-Investgator, Dr. Judy Postmus worked with staff to tackle this relatively new concept.
In 2012, a family in New Jersey began a nonprofit organization, NJ Safe & Sound, to advocate for legislation to protect families in cases of undue influence and predatory alienation. Their own personal experience with predatory alienation led them to their advocacy efforts. Their son was alienated from his home, family, and friends through coercion and manipulation by another family. Since their son was over the age of 16, there was no legal recourse for the family to pursue to protect their son.
As a result of the advocacy efforts of NJ Safe and Sound, Senate Bill 25621 and Assembly Bill 4244 were passed and signed by the Governor (P.L. 2017, Chapter 64) , requiring the Department of Children and Families (DCF) and the Department of Human Services (DHS) to conduct a joint study and make recommendations concerning predatory alienation. The Act defines predatory alienation as “ extreme undue influence on, or coercive persuasion or psychologically damaging manipulation of another person that results in physical or emotional harm or the loss of financial assets, disrupt s a parent - child relationship, leads to a deceptive or exploitative relationship, or isolates the person from family and friends. ” With this definition in mind, researchers at VAWC sought to answer the following questions:
1) How do online predators, human traffickers, con artists, gangs, cults, and other groups use predatory alienation to isolate young adults and senior citizens from their family and friends?
2) What are the grooming practices used to target and control young adults and older adults?
3) What are the high - pressure tactics used in scams and exploitative relationships to manipulate, control, and take advantage of older adults?
4) Why are young adults and older adults particularly vulnerable to predatory alienation?
5) What can young adults and older adults do to protect themselves from predatory alienation?
VAWC used a two - phased approach to gain a better understanding of predatory alienation and how it affects young adults and older adults, including a comprehensive literature review and key stakeholder interviews.