Smart Parenting During and After Divorce: Protecting Yourself and Your Children Against Violence in the Family
Family violence is a massive problem in our country. This includes men being violent against women, women being violent against men, men and women being violent against children, and children being violent to their parents and grandparents.
Understanding Domestic Violence
Family stress increases the potential for violence. Violence often escalates in a predictable pattern that goes from arguing, to cursing, to screaming, to pushing, to punching and kicking, to severely injuring, and then to murder. There is sometimes a family violence component associated with high-conflict divorce. The most important piece of advice I could give to anyone living with violence or abuse is to get help. Tell your story to a counselor, a lawyer, a minister, or a close friend. You can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, at 1-800-799-7233.
Some forms of abusive behavior do not involve physically striking someone but can be just as painful and damaging psychologically. Emotionally abusive behavior includes the following:
- Constantly criticizing
- Daily name calling and cursing
- Demeaning the co-parent in front of the children
- Encouraging the children to demean the co-parent
- Encouraging the children to view the co-parent negatively
- Demeaning the children
A single push, shove, or slap is a sign that there is something terribly wrong in any intimate relationship. The moment that single push, shove, or slap is ignored, the relationship goes from bad to worse. You will hear no fancy psychological talk or theorizing about this topic. In my mind, it is very cut-and-dried. By the time a relationship becomes physical in any way, the lives of the participants are in jeopardy.
I present this topic in such black-and-white terms because I have seen what happens when family violence is allowed to escalate. I have evaluated family homicides, attempted murders, ritualistic beatings and torturing of children, marital rape, and horrific emotional abuse in hundreds of cases. The perpetrators of violent family crimes have been men, women, and children. The victims have been men, women, and children.
The extent to which the judicial system will "believe" allegations of abuse varies tremendously. Some courts protect the alleged victim even when it is clear that the story is completely fabricated; some ignore indisputable signs of abuse and violence. There is no guarantee that one who has been abused will be believed, and no guarantee that one will be found innocent of abuse allegations that are based on lies and misrepresentations. That is not because the judicial system is crooked or dishonest, but simply because the skills that even the most competent human beings have for evaluating the truth in these cases are faulty and unreliable.
You must do everything in your power to protect your own safety and the safety of your children, but remember that if you are behaving out of spite and malice and are not abused but say you are, you are risking losing custody of your children in the process.
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