distraught woman

Leaving an Abusive Relationship & Protecting Children From Alienation

Making the decision to leave an abusive relationship is difficult for those victimized by domestic abuse. From the outside to observers, the decision may seem like a simple one, to just get out. However, as with most things in life it is never that cut and dry. Of course, I strongly encourage all victims of abuse to find a way to leave as soon as possible and utilize available resources. Leaving often takes time and a very solid plan, so please never judge someone for not “just walking away.” None of us ever knows the details of a relationship and family dynamic. The most dangerous point of an abusive relationship is when the abused person leaves the relationship and the abuser realizes the power he or she holds over that person is about to be broken. As soon as they realize that, they try to tighten the control grip in any way possible.

When a partner turns abusive, they are seeking control over an individual. This desire for control comes out in physically harming a partner and anything else that will help to further that goal. One way for an abusive partner to gain control is by manipulating the victim and children. If an abuser finds out the person is trying to exit the relationship, in addition to physical harm he or she first tries to convince the victim and children that they will not be able to survive without him or her. Unfortunately, for many the abusers control all the finances putting the victim they may not have been able to work and unable to currently provide for themselves and the children financially. Once the abuser realizes the financial tactic isn’t going to work, he or she will try to manipulate the kids into thinking that the victim was the one that caused the abuse or problems in the marriage. They say things like, “Mommy or Daddy is selfish and doesn’t care about you and what you need.” The abuser starts planting seeds of doubt about the parent to begin the alienation process. He or she often frightens the children into alignment with them and enmesh the child into alignment. Alienation of children is an outcome of coercive control, enmeshment, and other complex psychological and psychiatric issues. Understanding all of this is the first step to protecting yourself and your children when you leave an abusive relationship. The best way to counter this ideology is to maintain a positive and loving relationship with the children and depending on their ages and maturity discuss that the other parent’s behavior and let the children know it is not an acceptable way to treat anyone.

I have thought about the use of my words in this blog post and I sincerely hope no one is interpreting it that I am encouraging an abused partner to stay in a violent relationship because that is not at all what I am trying to say. My hopes are that for those that have been blessed by not being in an abusive relationship that they have compassion for those that are and not judge them for decisions made. The last thing a victim of domestic abuse needs is to be judged. They need support and understanding. My other hope is that those suffering from an abusive relationship know that there are people and resources available for them and genuinely want to help get them out. We at Hickey and Hull Law Partners are here to help victims obtain the appropriate law protections as well as to help our clients avoid further control of the abuser by using the children to alienate them. Call 479.434.2414 to reach our River Valley office or 479.802.6560 for our Northwest Arkansas office to speak to one of our understanding, knowledgeable and licensed family law attorneys. We also encourage you to call the National Domestic Violence Hotline 1.800.799.SAFE (7233) to find out about the resources available to you.