Sometimes people call and they are unclear if they are in an abusive situation, if they’ve been physically, emotionally, or sexually abused, or if that has occurred with their children.
Physical abuse typically starts with somebody pushing someone else, someone restraining someone, not letting them leave the room, grasping their arm and insisting that they stay and finish the conversation. That person often will have bruising on their arms or they are literally being pinned to a bed or a wall and not being allowed to leave. That is abuse. If that is happening to you, you need to seek help. You need to get out of that situation, because statistics show that abuse only escalates. People don’t magically, suddenly become less abusive. Their behavior is going to escalate unless they seek help. Help may include counseling; there are batterers programs out there to help people with a history of abuse to change their behavior. However, if they are doing nothing, if they are saying to you “I’m so sorry, I’ll never do it again” and then next week or next month you’re having that same altercation again, that’s not going to magically improve, it’s only going to get worse. And you’re not doing any favors to your children by staying in an abusive situation.
Another area of abuse is sexual abuse, particularly with children. One thing that’s not obvious to people that does fall under this category is walking in on the children when they’re showering, walking in on the children when you know they’re changing, not allowing teenagers their privacy. And that’s an area where it’s not as apparent to a lot of people that that would be considered abuse, but it’s inappropriate, and that is typically how it would start. What I’ve heard in many cases is people saying, “It’s my house and I have a right to walk in there any time I want, and that teenager isn’t going to tell me not to come in while they’re showering.” However, regardless of the gender of the parent or the child, it is inappropriate for a parent to walk in on a child when it’s known that they would not be dressed. That is abuse.
Then there is emotional abuse. Emotional abuse is things like calling names, telling somebody they’re worthless, telling someone that they’re no good, saying things like, “If you leave I’ll take the children”. It is not healthy to stay in that situation and, again, it is not going to magically improve. So, if they’re doing those things to you and not seeking help, it is only going to get worse.
Sometimes people stay in a relationship because they think it’s better for their children. They don’t want their children to come from a broken family. However, studies show that it is not healthy for children to be witnessing that kind of relationship. Children will do better emotionally and developmentally if you get them out of that situation, even if that involves a divorce. There have been longitudinal studies that show that children turn out no better and no worse in divorced families than in intact families if the parties behave congenially towards each other post-divorce. So, if the adults can act like adults once they’re divorced, and can be polite to each other in public, and they don’t say things to the children like, “If your no good father/mother would only do x, y, and z then you could go to camp this summer”, then the studies show that children with divorced patents will turn out no better and no worse than children of intact families.
So, if you think you may be in an abusive situation, there are many resources available on our website for you to get help, to get advice, and to get out.