The first part of the series on ‘why women stay’ covered isolation and manipulation by their abusive partner. This week I’d like to talk about children involved in the abusive relationship.
Children play a key role in determining when/if a woman leaves an abusive relationship. Are her children witnessing the abuse? Are they being abused? Is he a good father to them?
All of these questions will influence the victim. If the children are not witnesses to the abuse (which is rare), then the woman has less of an incentive to leave her abuser. By leaving, she potentially takes her children away from their father, out of their neighborhood, and subjects them to a lower standard of living. Any time a household is split, the finances will be split as well, and both parties will suffer financially. If the mother is returning to work because of the split, the children might enter daycare for the first time.
If the children are witnessing the abuse, the mother is incentivized to leave the abuser so her children do not think the abuse is acceptable. Sons or daughters—it doesn’t matter. A mother wants her son to understand that abuse is unacceptable. Daughters need to learn that respect is key in a relationship and being abused is wrong.
If the children are being abused, there is even more incentive for the woman to leave to try to get the children away from the abuser. This can be difficult because sometimes the court system sides with the father and he gets partial/full custody. We will discuss this issue more in part 6.
Sometimes, while the father is abusing the mother, he is good to the children. The mother may feel guilty for changing the family dynamics and taking the children away from someone they love and admire.
As you can see, children in an abusive relationship further complicate the woman’s options. We need to be available to support the woman and her choices.
Remember, if we can help just one woman, we’ve done our job.
Please note: If you are in an abusive relationship, please reach out to your local domestic violence organization or call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233.