real life

“My children are innocent, they know nothing of the real risk their father poses to them.”

I am trying to move away with my children after being in an abusive marriage for 13 years. To relocate, because he opposes it, the Court tells me I must wait here eleven more months until they make a decision. In the meantime my children must see their father despite him being a controlling, alcoholic abuser, who’s violence escalated to the point that he repeatedly tried to strangle me. My life only saved by my son, just in the other room, running down the hallway.

Ending a relationship does not end the violence. People are dying because Courts have found it in a ‘child’s best interest’ to spend time with both parents, even violent ones.

The main stumbling block for (mostly) women in my situation is that domestic violence is that exactly, domestic – behind closed doors. And if, like me, you have remained silent all those years – out of first love, then manipulation and then fear – you have very little evidence.

Though my ex-partner caused significant physical damage to me, repeatedly for years and years, it could be adequately covered up and so remain a secret. Toward the end, as deeply unhappy as I was, I stayed in the relationship also to protect my children, as I always had, rather than risk leaving them unsupervised in his care.

I stayed in the relationship also to protect my children. Image via iStock.

My children are innocent, they know nothing of the real risk their father poses to them. They are innocent as only children can be. Sadly however, they are not unaffected.

I wish so much that they were completely oblivious to it all but I also know, this isn’t true. They have witnessed him being violent toward me. They have experienced him being aggressive and violent toward them. They have bore witness to his rages and torrents, they have been in the car when he speeds for control, they have had to have conversations young children should never have, about the dangers of living with an abusive father.

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They have spoken with Psychologists and attended the police, solely as a result of their father. They are not completely unaffected and that makes it harder. To what extent are they afraid to tell the truth out of fear? How much are they intimidated by him? If I don’t raise these questions, if I am not their advocate, no-one is. And then my children have no voice.

Just like I didn’t. I got out, but my children are/can still be subjected to his abusive behaviour and if I don’t make noise to try to protect them, who will?

And so, I believe the boys love their father. Just as I once did. But I also believe they are fearful of him. Just as I still am.

How can I prove this? I can’t. If I tell the Court they don’t want to see him, I’m making it up. If the children tell a psychologist they don’t want to see him, I’ve made them say it. As a domestic violence victim my honesty is constantly called into question. Is it any wonder that women are afraid to come forward?

I sit at home anxious, listening to every police siren or ambulance – he lives only a suburb away. Is that him, has he hurt them? Are they safe? You tell me I must live like this for another 11 months.

Is it any wonder that women are afraid to come forward? Image via iStock.

I ask your advice – what can I do to protect my children? It is not, I believe, about the ‘children’s best interest’, it is about evidence. And without it, where do we stand?

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‘He loves them and they love him’ – but what of the situation where a parent is capable of hurting those they love? He told me repeatedly that he ‘loved me’ after he tried to kill me. All of his actions from the outside looking in, made it seem as if he was devoted to me, loving and kind. But every picture hides a story.

A parents ‘perceived’ relationship with their children has been allowed to over-ride the children’s own safety. How do you know if the worst is yet to come? How will you reassure me?

I feel like I’m waiting with a ticking time-bomb.

I know there are many others like me.

I know him intimately better than anyone else. And yet my opinions will get discounted and diminished because all ex-partners of domestic abusers are apparently ‘out to get them’. No, actually I just want to get away where we can be safe.

As domestic abuse victims we are continually told ‘to leave, to get away’, but now I am being told, no, I must stay, I must wait, in fear and in uncertainty. Where does that leave my children? Innocently believing in a father that has the potential to be lethally violent toward them. Where does that leave me? Holding my breath that he will behave?

I have the choice of no choice. If I try to stop him from seeing the children in any way, I run the risk of being seen negatively in the eyes of the Court with dire consequences and I raise the risk of harm to the children by inadvertently upsetting and provoking him to perhaps ‘retaliate'. If I allow the children to see him, I live with the real and ever-present risk that they are now in.

My honesty of the reality of the marriage is put on the line against his. But if I can’t convince the right people, the risks are great to my children. And not only the risk to the children, but to myself as well. I picked the wrong man, but when will the punishment end?

The abuse was consistent. Where is the control and anger going now? I do not believe it is gone. Is it building up? The anger was never balanced, he would explode over little things. Moments turned ugly in a split second. The violence was escalating – increasingly in public and without alcohol.

This was followed by the bruises on the children, now alone in his care, and their stories of his rage – my worst nightmare coming true. Huge red flags. That his abuse was transferring to the children was an unimaginable horror to me. His flat denial of his aggressive behaviour with the children, despite their protests, another red flag. A DVO was filed, yet still he must continue to see his children, unhindered.

This was followed by the bruises on the children, now alone in his care, and their stories of his rage. Image via iStock.
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The future is uncertain. The best predictor of future behaviour however, is past behaviour. He is on his best behaviour at the moment because he is under scrutiny, but what does the future hold for us? If we are forced to live in the same town? Who will protect us when he has a ‘bad' night? When I get a new partner and he finds out?

I have noticed other divorced parents appear able to 'let go' of their children, why do I hold mine so closely? It is not solely because we are so emotionally close. It is because I intrinsically feel fear. I do not feel this fear irrationally or without reason or motivation. He tried to kill me. He showed me what he is capable of. I would be a fool to ignore this.

When he was around, he needed to control every aspect of every moment of my life. It is not possible for me to ignore this when regarding his motivations in the present situation. Because of his control, I relinquished all my rights as an equal partner in our marriage through fear. In now trying to take back some of that control, I am at great risk just for that alone.

I am sick of living in fear. I don’t wish to anymore. Tell me, when I will feel freedom?

He is allowed, by other people, who I believe know the truth, to make mistakes. Abusive people need only one person to ‘make excuses for them’ to provide justification in their mind, to continue doing what they do. And to those people I ask, why do you stay?

First and foremost, the children must be safe. Ending a relationship does not end the violence.

If you, or someone you know, is being subjected to domestic violence, call the White Ribbon hotline on 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732).

Image via iStock.

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