Wednesday, June 29, 2016

8 Ways Controlling Men Make Mothering Even Harder: Children suffer fear, uncertainty and trauma

8 Ways Controlling Men Make Mothering Even Harder
Being a mother is the most challenging job in the world, even with the help of a loving partner or other family member. We must recognize the additional difficulties facing mothers in abusive andcoercive control relationships so we can give them the support they need to parent successfully. Most mothers who are being controlled by their partners make heroic efforts to keep their children safe and raise them well, despite the abuser's interference.
Whether he is the biological father, stepfather, or the mother’s boyfriend, a controlling or abusive man poses a risk to the well-being of any children in the couple’s life. If he uses physical violence, he might directly assault the child, emotionally or physically injure the child while assaulting the mother, or even obligate the child to hurt his or her mother. Below are some of the other ways a controlling partner might make the job of mothering so much harder.
Creating Distance. Connecting with their children makes many women feel stronger. If the mother's partner is controlling, he will drive a wedge between the mother and her children. He might obligate the mother to work extra hours so she has less time with her children. He might try to persuade the mother that her attachment to her children is unhealthy or unnatural.
Making Her Choose. A controlling man often forces his partner to choose between siding with her child and siding with him, or between spending time with her child and spending time with him. He might deliberately schedule “couple time” for moments when he knows she wants to be with her child. Women sometimes retreat under all this pressure and their relationships with their children deteriorate.
Undermining Her Parenting. Controlling men undermine women’s parenting by finding ways to become the only authority in the house and by encouraging children to disrespect their mother. They may do this subtly by breaking the mother’s rules. Or they may do this overtly by calling her names, criticizing her, or physically abusing her in front of the child. Sometimes controlling men will tell children to respect their mother, while at the same time doing whatever they can to reduce her influence in the home. Children come to see the abuser as the source of “real” power and their mother as weak. Children then cease to follow the mother’s instructions and seem out of control, making her feel less and less capable.
Threatening the Children. An abuser often controls a woman by threatening her children’s well-being. The father or father figure may refuse to spend money on a child’s medical treatment, clothing, or other expenses, or make the child’s mother do specific things if she wishes to support these necessities. He may threaten to hurt the children, take the children and disappear, or report the mother to child protective services for imagined offenses. He may throw things, stomp around, drive too fast, or threaten violence including suicide. Mothers often give in to their controlling partners, to protect their children.
Overly Harsh Discipline. Controlling men often tell a mother that she is too “soft” with her children. He might obligate a mother to use harsher discipline than she thinks she should. Or if the children are frightened of his discipline, they may blame the mother for not shielding them from this mistreatment.
Sexualizing the Relationship with a Child or Teen. Some controlling men flirt with their partners’ daughters (and sometimes with their own daughters). This flirting alienates a woman from her daughter if it makes one or both of them uncomfortable. A woman’s partner should not flirt with her daughter, and an adult man should not flirt with a teenager. The adult is always responsible for keeping this relationship non-romantic and non-sexual.
Sexually Abusing a Child or Teen. An abuser will create rifts between a woman and her child if he plans to sexually abuse that child. The more strained the relationship between the mother and child, the greater the likelihood that he will be able to sexually abuse the child (or teenager) undetected. The child feels forced to lie to the mother to cover up the abuse and then grows angry with the mother for failing to protect him or her.
Turning Children Against Their Mother. Children learn to accommodate the behaviors of a controlling man as a survival strategy. To satisfy the adult they perceive as powerful and possibly dangerous, children often laugh at a controlling man’s putdowns of their mother and gang up with him against her. Children may be bribed, pushed, or just inspired into degrading or spying on their mother or even hurting her physically. In effect, the children are forced to extend the reach of the controlling man.
Even without physical violence, when a controlling man deprives a mother of the resources she needs to protect and provide for her child properly, he is placing her children at risk. For instance, her children suffer if he denies her access to education, transportation, or a job.
The above ideas are meant to improve understanding of the predicament of women who are dominated by their partners and stimulate commitment to providing them with the safety, resources, information, and support they need to break free. Of course most men are not controlling in this way, and abuse can occur in same-sex relationships, too. This list is not exhaustive. If you have seen this problem show up in other ways, please feel free to add your observations below as a comment.
Interested in learning more about Coercive Control and its effects on children, including how to help children recover after such a relationship ends? Please check out my book Invisible Chains: Overcoming Coercive Control in Your Intimate Relationship.
Editor's Notes: Lisa Aronson Fontes, PhD, Senior Lecturer, University of Massachusetts and Author ofInvisible Chains: Overcoming Coercive Control in Your Intimate RelationshipIllustration by Liz Bannish.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Domestic Violence Shelters: State Summaries

State Summaries

There are 3036 organizations in the U.S. and Canada that provide domestic violence programs at some level and that are represented in the database. A total of 2143 organizations have provided complete information about their program. To explore the statistics of any particular state or territory, and to look up programs by city, simply select a state or territory below.

About Domestic Shelters

We make finding the right shelter and information about domestic violence easier. Instead of searching the Internet, it is all right here. We’ve painstakingly verified information on shelters in LA to shelters in NY, and every domestic violence program in between. If you or a friend is suffering from physical abuse, emotional abuse, psychological abuse or verbal abuse, this free service can help. Select domestic violence programs based on location, service and language needs. Find 24-hour hotlines in your area, service listings, and helpful articles on domestic violence statistics, signs and cycles of abuse, housing services, emergency services, legal and financial services, support groups for women, children and families, and more.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Barriers to Leaving, Part 1

Barriers to Leaving, Part 1

Law professor and DV survivor says there are at least 50 reasons a survivor may not be able to leave an abuser

Barriers to Leaving, Part 1
Sarah Buel, JD, clinical professor of law at Arizona State University, has worked for more than 30 years with domestic violence survivors and their children. She’s also a domestic violence survivor herself, having escaped an abusive husband with her young son many years prior. Now an adult, he runs a Teen Dating Violence Intervention Program in Boston.

Buel defied the stereotype of a “battered woman.” She was a Harvard law student when she was with her abusive husband. She says people asked her how she could get a full scholarship to Harvard but stay with an abusive man for three years. “This question has been fueled by those who believe that remaining with a batterer indicates stupidity, masochism or codependence,” she told The Colorado Lawyer. “Far from being accurate, such labels prove dangerous to victims because they tend to absolve batterers of responsibility for their crimes.”

There is nothing survivors can do to stop the violence, Buel says, nor is there anything they do to deserve abuse. From her three decades of experience, she complied a list of 50 reasons why she’s seen survivors stay with their abusers, reasons Buel says “must be understood by lawyers, judges and the legal community if they are to stem the tide of homicides, assaults and other abusive behavior.”
Below, the first 10 reasons.

1. Lack of an advocate. When the survivor doesn’t have a tenacious advocate, he or she often feels intimidated, discouraged and ultimately hopeless about being able to navigate the complex legal and social service systems needed to escape his or her abuser.

2. Abuser’s influence. If the abuser is wealthy, a politician, famous, a popular athlete or otherwise a powerful player in his or her community, he or she can generally afford to hire private counsel and pressure the decision-makers to view the case with more leniency. Some wealthy abusers not only hire private detectives to stalk, terrorize and frivolously sue their partners, they do the same to the advocates who assist their victims.

3. Threats. The survivor’s life and the life of his or her children are often threatened by the abuser if the survivor attempts to leave. Statistics show survivors are more likely to be killed when attempting to leave an abusive partner than at any other time. It’s dangerous to advise a survivor to simply leave without ensuring there is an extensive safety plan in place.

4. Children’s best interest. Some survivors believe it is in the children’s best interest to have both parents in the home, particularly if the abuser does not physically assault the children.

5. Pressure from children. Children putting pressure on the abused parent can be quite compelling, especially with those abusers who are manipulate the children into begging the survivor to “just let daddy come home.” Children are often torn, wanting the violence to stop but also wanting the family to stay together. Read more about childhood domestic violence in “When Children Witness Violence.”

6. Cultural and racial defenses. Cultural defenses may be used by both offenders and survivors to justify abuse. Some people conform to common stereotypes about their own or other cultures, but the bottom line is that domestic violence is against the law, regardless of what behavior is permitted in the “home” country or what may be sanctioned here in various communities.

7. Denial. Some victims are in denial about how dangerous their abuser may be, believing that if they could be better partners, the abuse would stop.

8. Disabilities. Survivors who are disabled or physically challenged may face greater obstacles, not only in gaining access to the court and social services, but also to basic information about existing resources as they are more likely to be more isolated from these options.

9. Elderly. Senior survivors tend to hold traditional beliefs about marriage. They believe they must stay, even in the face of abuse. Others are dependent on the batterer for care and finances and may be more afraid of being placed in a nursing home or having no one to assist them than remaining with an abuser.

10. Abuser’s excuses. A survivor may believe the abuser’s excuses to justify the violence, often blaming job stress or substance abuse, in part because the survivor sees no one holding the offender responsible for his or her crimes. Domestic violence is not caused by stress, alcohol or any other substance abuse, although these things can exacerbate the problem. Most individuals, when under stress or the influence of alcohol or drugs, do not batter their partners.
The next 10 barriers from Buel’s list of 50 will appear in Part 2 of this series.

What barrier did you come up against when you thought about leaving your abusive partner?

Monday, June 20, 2016

When Children Witness Violence

When Children Witness Violence

They’re more likely to abuse or be abused as adults, unless adults step in and stop the cycle

When Children Witness Violence
It’s one of many unfortunate statistics surround domestic violence: 15.5 million children in the U.S. live in families in which domestic violence occurred at least once in the previous year. At last check in 2008, nearly 16,500 children were living in a domestic violence shelter or transitional housing facility. [1]
According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, witnessing violence between parents is the most influential risk factor for children to carry violent behavior from one generation to the next. Boys, especially, who witness domestic violence are twice as likely to abuse a partner as an adult. [2]
“There is emotional trauma when a child has been subjected to that type of experience,” says Juanito Vargas, associate vice president of Safe Horizon, a New York domestic violence nonprofit and the largest victims’ services agency in the U.S., speaking about kids in violent households. “It’s due to no fault of the survivor, but [the violence] does emotionally and physical affect children. It puts them in places of complete chaos. Later on in life, there is a propensity for this child to be violent because of this.”

Children of Domestic Violence, a nonprofit aimed at helping those who experience domestic violence early on in life break the cycle, states that 90 percent of parents who are currently with a violent partner believe their children don’t know what’s happening. But when asked, 90 percent of children are aware of what’s going on.

Children respond to domestic violence in various ways, and the effects will vary by age, but some signs to watch for include aggression, behavior problems, trouble interacting with peers, emotionally withdrawn or detached, separation anxiety, fear, anxiety, low self-esteem and difficulty concentrating. [3]
According to the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN), the most important step to take when children are exposed to domestic violence is to remove them from the situation and place them where they feel safe, as well as making sure they see their abused parent or caregiver is safe. Also, helping them to plan strategies for staying safe gives them a sense of control and helps them feel less vulnerable.
Next, counseling is recommended. Based on their age, this could include group counseling or support groups, individual counseling and counseling in tandem with the nonoffending parent. Says NTCSN, “For most children, a strong relationship with a parent is a key factor in helping a child heal from the effects of domestic violence.”