1) Children are an abuser’s way of increasing and maintaining control
Ever wondered why your abusive partner pestered you for a baby? Why he wants to keep you constantly pregnant? Why he wants more children, even though he isn’t that bothered about the ones you already have?
It’s simple, really: he wants to add another weapon to his armoury.
In an abusive relationship, perpetrators ruthlessly use our children to control us. When we are pregnant, we are physically and emotionally more vulnerable and even more dependent upon him. There’s a reason that thirty per cent of abuse starts when we are pregnant – and that existing abuse usually worsens when we are expecting!
When we have children, our abusers can threaten to harm the children if we don’t do what we’re told. They make us believe we are bad or incapable mothers that could not successfully look after our children alone. They can turn the children against us: undermining us when we try to discipline the kids, or even conditioning our offspring to join in the abuse – “Ignore your mother, son. She’s a stupid b**ch.” Often, we become less likely to challenge abuse – we don’t want the children to see daddy get mad – and so feed the cycle of abuse and compliance.
It’s therefore not surprising that one of the most common justifications women give for staying, is the children. Here are some of the things that women say about the prospect of leaving. I’ve said and thought some of these myself!
My baby won’t have a dad – she needs a father in her life.
He’d never let me take the kids. I can’t abandon them.
He’ll go to court to get access to the children, and, I can’t protect them if I’m not with him.
He will kidnap my child. He said he would, and I believe him.
My children won’t want to come with me – he has made sure that they hate me and love him.
My baby will be taken away. He has convinced the police that I am the abusive one, and that I drink too much.
I don’t believe that I can make the right decisions about bringing up my children – he says that I can’t even look afer myself. How can I do the right thing for them?
He’ll never leave me alone and will use the children to continue to torture me. I can’t face it.
He made me lose my job, and I depend on him for money. I can’t afford to look after my baby alone.
I can keep my children safe if I stay in this marriage. I’ll put up and shut up until the kids have left home.
I can’t be a single mum. It’s too hard!
But, these justifications are – in fact – EXACTLY what our abusers want us to think. We are buying-in to his control, and becoming complicit in accepting his abuse.
In making a decision to leave, you are refusing to allow your children to be tools of control.
2) Children are always better off away from abuse
If you suffer abuse during pregancy, your baby is at real risk of sustaining physical injury. What’s more, the chemicals that are triggered when your ‘flight or fight’ response kicks in during abuse, may cause your baby to be born with enhanced sensitivity to fear – making babies harder to settle and soothe.
Your baby will find you are less available to them than you want to be, as domestic abuse saps your time, strength and energy. Your child will be more easily upset, and, in time will find it harder to make and sustain friendships, concentrate in school, and cope with everyday challenges.
The impact of witnessing domestic abuse is real and profound for children. Whatever we may tell ourselves, children are NEVER unaware of abuse. And, shockingly, research suggests that:
In 40 – 70% of cases where women are being abused, the children are also being directly abused themselves (Stark and Flitcraft,1996; Bowker et al., 1998.)
My baby witnessed daddy’s rages. Heard mummy being called horrible names. Saw her being slapped. And later, was in mummy’s arms when daddy pushed her over. If I stayed, how much longer until baby started to think this was normal? Or, was frightened by daddy’s outbursts? Or even (very scary), got injured themselves?
Children are always better off in a home without abuse. Your child’s mental and physical wellbeing will improve and their development will be unhindered once they get away from the source of repetitive stress and fear.
If you leave, your children will be safer and happier – and so will you.
© Avalanche of the Soul, 2013-14 https://avalancheofthesoul.wordpress.com