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Film Synopsis

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Film Synopsis


We all get those pictures stuffed in amidst our junk mail. Most of us look at them "just in case." We read the essential details - name, date of birth, age, height, weight, hair and eye color, sex, date missing and location they are missing from - everything we assume to be the vital information required to identify the child. Then we toss them into the trash with the rest of the junk mail.

As a cultural phenomenon, child abduction is one of those terrible things we hate to acknowledge, yet we accept the fact of its existence. In so doing, we process a collective series of reactions:

Relief: Thank god it's not my child.
Responsibility: I've looked at the picture carefully but I don't recognize this child.
Denial: This could never happen to my child.
Blame: What did the parents/school/child do wrong to let something like this happen?
Fear: I hope this never happens to my child.
Confidence: This could never happen to my child.
Distance: This is not my problem so I don't have to worry about it.

Some of the pictures of abducted children come with additional information - Last Seen With. When a child is known to be abducted by a specific individual, their picture is listed with the same information as the child. The most essential piece of the puzzle - why did this person abduct this child - is impossible to explain so we subconsciously fill in the blanks. Always, we heave a collective sigh of relief when it is clear that the child was taken by a parent or family member. Now, we experience a second collective series of reactions:

Relief: The child isn't lying dead in a ditch.
Responsibility: I don't have to get involved with somebody else's domestic dispute.
Denial: This could never happen to me or my child.
Blame: The other parent must have been horrible to make this parent do this.
Acquiescence: This child will be fine so I don't have to worry about it.

Parental abduction tends to receive the least amount of media attention. Until recently, these cases were frequently dismissed by law enforcement personnel who were trained to focus on criminal events rather than become immersed in domestic disputes that would be relegated to family court as a custody dispute - in other words, a civil matter.

Yet, it is a little-known fact that children who are abducted by one parent and alienated from the other are likely to suffer emotional and psychological damage that impacts their entire lives. Rather than being perpetrated as a desperate act of rescue by one parent from another, most parental abductions are the manifestation of hatred. One spouse is so desperate to inflict pain upon the other estranged spouse that they are willing to prevent the hated spouse from enjoying the love of their child.

However, in order to successfully accomplish this act of hatred, the abducting parent must alienate the child from their estranged spouse. This requires a measure of psychological manipulation that convinces the child their other parent is a monster who will do significant harm to them - even kill them - if they don't flee and hide.

Ten years ago, the estranged wife of producer/director Glenn Gebhard abducted their twin toddlers - Glenn and Shannon - and fled to Germany. Although there are laws that would ensure the return of the children, Germany (and many other countries) have refused to intervene on behalf of the parent from whom the children were abducted. In an effort to find support for his quest, Gebhard located PACT (Parents and Abducted Children Together) a non-profit organization in the United Kingdom that was created by Lady Catherine Meyer, wife of the British Ambassador to the US. Lady Meyer's children had also been abducted by her first husband and taken to Germany.

Rather than tell the story of the parents who are left behind, Lady Meyer helped find a grant from the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation to fund the documentary to explore the subject of what happens to the children when they grow up. Through PACT, Gebhard was able to locate three adults who had suffered through this ordeal as children. This is their story - but it is the story of millions of other children.

According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, in 1999 - the last year for which statistics are available - 757,500 children were reported missing in America. 203,900 were victims of family abduction. In other words, in the ten years since Gebhard's children were abducted and alienated from him, more than 2 million other American children have suffered the same terrible fate. In the decades prior to this, millions more have endured the trauma and are living adult lives that have left them with extreme psychological trauma and emotional dysfunction.

This is new information on a topic that has never before been explored. It is only available now because these three subjects trusted the filmmaker. They are not looking for their 15 minutes of fame. They do not want to be the new reality-celebrity. They agreed to participate in this project because they wanted to help Gebhard and Meyer understand what their children were going through and to reveal the essential truth of this crime.

This is a ground-breaking study of a topic that can change lives. It is the filmmaker's sincere hope that any parent that is thinking of abducting and alienating their child will understand the ultimate ending of the story and reconsider their options for the sake of their children - and for themselves.

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