Since leaving the abuse, I have really started to see how our system works (or doesn’t). There are flaws in our legal, health and victim services systems, and the ways things are handled when it comes to survivors of abuse, both adults and children. Here are my experiences in brief of what my children and I have encountered over the past several years.
After being subjected to several years of emotional and physical abuse in the home, I left with a ten-month-old, a two-year-old, and a seven-year-old, and all that I could fit in my truck. We left late in the evening while he was in police custody for assault against me. My middle son was also injured during the altercation when his father stepped on him, while attacking me, as I was holding the baby. This was not the first time it happened, but it was the first time he was taken away in police custody and I had the chance to get out.
As my boys have grown into super-awesome little dudes, unfortunately they have started to show signs of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and severe anxiety. The other day I finally broke down and took my oldest to the doctor to see if we could get medication for his extreme anxiety. If you knew me, you’d say wow you must be desperate if you’re willing to go to that extent to get heIp. I do not believe in taking medicine for everything; however, I do understand there are situations that require it. The doctor looked at me and said, “We live in a small town. Our resources are swamped. There’s nothing I can do for you really. I can give a referral for a pediatrician, but it’s a wait to see them as well, maybe 2-3 months.”
We have been on the waiting list for the program, Children who Witness Violence, for nearly seven months, and we have been told it will probably be another month or two before they get to us. My son’s anxiety is debilitating, for himself and the entire family. There are days he can not choose between a fork and a spoon and must breath in a paper bag to stop from passing out.
My middle son has PTSD as well and is suffering. He yells, acts out violently, and says things like “I wish I was dead.” He is only five years old. It is lucky that my four-year-old was young when we got out; however, he sees his older brothers’ behaviour and, of course, mimics a lot of it. He will also say in the same sentence “I want to go to my dad’s house, but he is a bad man and hurts mommy, so I don’t want to go to my dad’s house.” A four-year-old should not be having these thoughts or be this confused.
As time goes on, things don’t get better or go away…they get worse. I read, I have taken courses, and I have done as much online research as I think one could stand, in order to find ways to help my children and be a better parent, but I am not a therapist or psychologist. We, as well as thousands of other children, need help, and need it now. These children are growing up before our eyes and they will have mental health issues their entire lives unless someone steps in and helps them. Did you know, according to http://canadianwomen.org/facts-about-violence#RISK, The Facts about Violence Against Women
- Each year in Canada, an estimated 362,000 children witness or experience family violence.
- While not all children who witness violence suffer direct physical abuse, they frequently develop long-term behavioural and psychological problems.
- Exposure to violence can affect children’s brain development and ability to learn, and lead to a wide range of behavioural and emotional issues such as anxiety, aggression, bullying, phobias, and insomnia.
- Children who witness violence in the home have twice the rate of psychiatric disorders as children from non-violent homes.
When are judges going to stop forcing a parent to deliver their children to someone who has beaten the crap out of them or held a gun to their head? Just this past spring, a woman in the United States was murdered in front of her children during a child exchange. My ex threatened to kill me in front of our children last October. He was holding our youngest son proudly on his right hip when he did this. This happened when I was delivering the children to him for his access time. This was two years after I left him.
Abusers use the children as a form to keep contact and abuse us. They have mental issues themselves and don’t realize or care about the damage they are causing the children. If the abuser is a sociopath/narcissist they are incapable of empathy or remorse. They say they care, but they don’t. A sociopath presents himself as the most charming, upstanding citizen, and can fool even the best of us…hence the reason we fall for these people. Judges believe them, and we are made to look like the “crazy ex trying to alienate them from their children.” Shame on us.
So, we are bullied in court. And typically, this is done during a time we are at our weakest. We’ve just escaped; we are scared; we have no financial support or emotional support. And we are terrified of losing our children. But we agree and we listen to our appointed lawyers, who for some reason like to leave out the abuse part of the picture during custodial battles. I am still unsure why this is the case.
Then you have a judge tell you that this matter is now set for a case conference or mediation. Right. Stick me in a tiny room with the guy who abused me for years and told me he wanted to kill me in front of my kids. Just to “talk this out.” What person could gather themselves and sit there and “talk it out” with a clear head? “Oh don’t worry. You’re safe. There will be a marshal in the room with you.” Sure, I will be physically safe, but how do I stick up for myself and the best interests of my children when I am the only woman in the room and my ex is staring me down.
This can’t go well. Firstly, your ex won’t be agreeable to anything you say, no matter how realistic your request. And secondly, you now have to wait for another court date. And this is just the beginning. And your Legal Aid has run out, so you are representing yourself or spending your children’s education fund to keep fighting for what you feel, what you know, is right. And you’re doing this all while living in a women’s shelter with your three kids.
Your ex takes you to court for fun. It’s a game. To waste your resources, to waste what little money you have. Because they know you’ll fight to the end for your children. It’s your weak point. This is their way of keeping control. Why don’t judges see this happening? Why can’t the process be sped up? Why can’t they look at criminal history in Provincial Court? Why are all the important factors missed? A judge should have to check for a history of K files (a K file is a domestic abuse file in the criminal court). If there is a past K file, the whole process of how these custodial battles are handled must be changed. For the sake of the children, for the sake of the mothers or fathers trying to protect themselves, and at the very least, for the waste of millions of government money, K file history should mean using a different procedure. Judges must be informed of the repercussions of their orders. Just because you are a biological parent does not give you the right to abuse your children…. or does it? Seems this is the case.
Being forced to co-parent with an abusive ex turns the children into pawns. There is no talking around this. It happens. They become the “middle-men” for the abusive ex to pass hurt back and forth. The children become confused, hurt, angry, and many times they turn on the protective parent because of the head games and manipulation from the abusive parent. The abuse towards the children actually gets worse after leaving the home. Without a doubt. Yet we are forced by the court to keep subjecting the children to it.
Lets briefly talk about a thing called “Views of the Child” report. Please tell me where in the world a four or five-year-old knows what his views truly are? Apparently a four-year-old’s views are completely acceptable in a court room and a five-year-old knows what’s in his best interests. And let’s just add that these are children with mental instability at the time. They are confused, hurt, and angry. One simple comment from them can land them back in the grips of the abuser. And we start all over again.
As Julie Cole, author and mother, writes: “Court Ordered Abuse. Unfortunately, co-parenting gives an abusive or narcissist parent a clear path of unintended court-sanctioned abuse, power and control of the ex-partner and the children, instead of protecting the well-being of the child. Co-parenting can give rise to all sorts of emotional terrorism when involving an abuser.”
“Until the lawmakers and judges of the land begin to see that the pendulum might have swung too far and in the wrong direction, we all have to make the best of our situations for our ourselves and our children.” **Co-Parenting vs. Parallel Parenting With an Abusive Ex – Author Julie Cole – https://goodmenproject.com/families/co-parenting-vs-parallel-parenting-whats-difference-abusive-ex-shesaid/
This is wrong. For the love and sake of the children, please do something. Forget the adults; we can fight for ourselves. But for the sake of these children who will one day run our world, let’s give them the best opportunity to do so. Please.
I encourage you to read more by Julie Cole. Her views are amazing, and her writings have motivated me and helped me immensely.
LINK: Shockingly, every year in America 58,000 children are placed into the hands of documented abusers. This injustice, termed Court-Ordered Child Abuse, is responsible for the physical and mental torment, disappearance and death of so many of our smallest citizens.
I have been involved with Victim Services a lot. They are great. I am in counselling and receiving much needed therapy for my PTSD. It has been a saviour. We have a surveillance system on our house, thanks to the victim of crime assistance program. Funding to cover therapy for my children is available…if we could find an available therapist. Having an amazing woman to attend court with me and talk me through my roughest times, was a god-send. This service is fantastic and much- needed. I feel there is a shortage of support workers in this area though. How about we save money in the courts by cutting back on the wasted court appearances where judges have to sit and listen to to these abusers complain about how they just want to be a good parent, we need to recognise that these abusers use the court system as an actual form of abuse, and exploitation of our civil rights.
One month in a wome’s shelter is all you’re allowed. How about a shelter for fathers? Men are not the only abusers in this world. But, unless you are super-resourceful and happen to get through court quickly enough to obtain a child support order and division of assets and your ex actually pays you, getting your feet back on the ground in four weeks, after you’ve lost everything, is nearly impossible. Remember, you’ve left with nothing. You need to find a house, furnish it, buy clothing, food, diapers, toys etc. to make a new home for your children and yourself, in four weeks. And, you’re doing this all while in a deep state of depression, despair and fear. Good luck. I wish you all the best. I am pretty sure If I could have curled up in my mother’s bed and fallen asleep forever, I would have done so.
If people want to keep turning a blind eye to us “crazy, over reacting, alienating, emotionally effed-up women” or even a father claiming abuse by his ex, that’s fine. (I can only imagine how a judge would look at him) But someone needs to help our children because the courts aren’t helping them, and the police can’t help them. And if I do what I feel is right, I am facing court punishment, fines or even possible jail time. I face losing my children.
Taking quick reference to http://www.cbc.ca/strombo/news/7-sobering-stats-about-violence-against-women-in-canada:
7 Sobering Stats About Violence Against Women In Canada, December 6, 2013
- Thousands of children are exposed to partner violence: Estimates of the precise number of children in Canada exposed each year to partner violence range widely, from about 120,000 to a high of 800,000. Regardless of the exact number, there’s a body of research that suggests that children who witness such violence are more likely to experience a range of negative outcomes, according to Statistics Canada. These include increased risk of emotional, behavioural, cognitive and social problems, with more severe outcomes for younger children.
- Half of all Canadian women have experienced physical or sexual violence
- More than 3,000 women stay in shelters on a given night to escape abuse
- Sexual assault and partner violence costs the country $9 billion per year
- At least 668 aboriginal women and girls are missing or murdered
- Women are 11 times more likely to be victims of sexual offences
- Young women are most at risk