Usually, when you experience any form of abuse from a partner — whether that be physical, psychological, financial, or sexual abuse, people will encourage you to disconnect from your abuser. This can include stopping all communication, and seeking police support if appropriate.
However, with children, the process of separation is more complex and often means you need to remain in contact with the other party, despite harm that happened within the relationship. Having a child with an abuser is an unbreakable bond that you will share for the rest of your life.
It can be hard to have your own identity when you are struggling and trying to provide a safe place for yourself and your children. Like our survivor Megan who shared her struggle:
I take deep breaths. I have felt suffocated for years. Tried to catch my breath by leaving “him”. But I couldn’t breathe as they put the handcuffs on me for “abusing him” when I had been the one abused. I couldn’t breathe when they handed me the restraining order to not come within 100 yards of my kids because I was a “danger” to them. I couldn’t breathe in every court hearing being told I was a bad parent. I couldn’t breathe as I slept in the truck. I was able to take small breaths when I was able to fight the negatives and get them back. I could take deep breaths as I finally had them in my arms after two months of nothing. My breath was taken again when they pulled my three month old from my arms because of both of “them”. I couldn’t breathe when I sat in that room for 1 hour as not one but TWO social workers watched my every move as I “visited” my kids. I couldn’t breathe when the ER doctor told me I was pregnant. Short breaths and reflect and the choices I am making. Deep breaths as I secured my income and escaped the abuse, finding us a safe home. Full breaths when I was finally told I could have my kids back after a year and a half. Slow breathing as “he” disappeared for months leaving me to do it all, feeding them, loving them through their own pains and confusion. And again, small breathes as he returns and threatens to take them again because I decided to fight for “him” to pitch in for their survival. Preparing myself to deal with the ups and downs of co-parenting with an abuser. Life can be breathtaking in both ways. But the point is to Keep Breathing. I will continue to have my kids be my oxygen.♥
Client’s name withheld
Don’t forget to nurture your own identity and life. It may be difficult, it is important to build a broader identity outside parenthood and your relationship, to ensure you have a range of identities to draw solace from.
Work, friendships, hobbies, and other relationships can be sources of support and meaning and give you something to feel positive about at times when the co-parenting relationship feels particularly fraught.
For information on how to deal with the effects of trauma or to get help, please visit our website at havenhills.org.