For many years we have had the belief that when you left an abusive relationship the abuse would end. Of course, we now know that this isn’t true. The control from the perpetrator will simply transition. When a victim leaves it can be the most dangerous time. The perpetrator has lost control and wants to gain it back, it is when stalking or even murder can happen. The perpetrator sees their partner and often children as possessions and they will often feel angry if what they believe belongs to them tries to leave. It’s a psyche that is entitled, manipulative and very controlling.
It can continue through many forms. This is where coercive control is also important to understand. Coercive control can still be used by tugging at those invisible chains. (see blog on coercive control). Making it hard to break away from even after leaving.
Post Separation Wheel & tactics:
*harassment & stalking
*Child abuse or Neglect (including emotional)
Having children means that there is an avenue for contact to continue, the perpetrator has a way in. Children often become a part of that control and abuse. We must challenge the belief that if you abuse one parent then you can still be a good parent to that child or children. There is enough knowledge to prove that the impacts of any form of domestic abuse including post separation abuse will effect that child.
If the child favours the safe parent (which often they will) it can lead to false allegations of alienation, leaving the child extremely vulnerable especially if this allegation is used in family court cases. Many survivors I speak with are wary of this term often used in court cases to undermine or counteract the perpetrators abuse. It has spread a well know fear amongst protective parents going through this process. A fear that if a judge doesn’t understand how this term is being ill used that it could mean the perpetrator gets more contact with the child not less, leaving the child in a dangerous position.
My ex-husband even now still uses our daughter as a pawn to control and uses litigation to inflict control. When I first left him, he withheld child maintence, eventually I contacted the CMS however when he got a chance, he found a loophole and managed to only pay £20 per week. Every time I managed to achieve something, like when I moved into a new property, he would try sabotage it or would be become angry. He was intent on still controlling and even destroying me and didn’t really care if our daughter was a part of that.
He told me if I ever met anyone else, he would stab me and stab them. He wanted to still know what I was doing on a Friday evening or who I was messaging.
When I divorced him, he took a long time to sign the papers, he would say he didn’t receive them and then even tried to contest the reasons for divorce. He didn’t want it on paper that he was abusive.
I was dragged through years of court proceedings for child arrangements which was traumatic. I was a LIP and had to do my own cross examination while he had solicitors and barristers to speak on his behalf. No safe measures were put in place and the control and imbalance was clearly still there. This was also a time where DARVO (deny,attack,reverse victim offender) was used and this is a tactic that most perpetrators will use throughout to confuse and manipulate. The perpetrator will deny any abuse, they will try and discredit the victim and reverse the roles by playing the victim. This tactic can be used throughout and even while still in the relationship in my case it was used through the litigation process. The victim will all of a sudden be accused of being the problem, or causing issues, their mental health will be scrutinised, parenting questioned and even accused of being abusive themselves. It takes a judge who is very educated on DA to spot this.
Because of the lack of understanding and lack of representation post separation wasn’t even considered despite my evidence. It meant that all abuse was considered historic. This is something that happens far too often within the system. This diminishes the victim, downplays the abuse and in turn empowers the abuser. Leaving the abuser to feel they can use the courts to further abuse. I still get threats of court to this day, anytime my ex wants to flex control he will use this to cause stress and intimidate. In one message I have he states, “He will try and get as much contact as possible and take a hit finically to gain 50/50 custody”. Another time he threatened to have an enforcement put on my if I didn’t comply for the second time, please don’t be fooled in to thinking that he just wants to see his daughter more this is a clear act of control. He frequently misses contact on his days for various reasons. He is also driven by jealousy, if I take my daughter away this will be a trigger for these threats.
Many survivors will tell you how hard it is to cope with this, and it can feel like a life sentence. Parenting under this form of abuse robs you of a normal experience of parenthood, you are constantly trying to navigate the abuser’s control and avoid consequence or punishment from doing nothing wrong. It can leave you feeling anxious and afraid. And then you must hand your child over to the person inflicting this.
I urge anyone going through post separation abuse of any kind to seek help and support. Especially if you have children. Support workers, groups, therapists are all important to help manage this. Having people around you to talk to and inject positive reinforcement for you and your child. i.e. Those around you being positive about your parenting with that child in front of the child, often an abuser will put the victim down to the child or undermine them. Positive reinforcement counter acts that. Spending quality time and empowering the child is also important and reinforces a strong bond and relationship between you.