Abusive Relationships/a safety plan
After 12 years of questioning whether or not I was in a emotionally abusive relationship with some physical abuse (mostly toward the children) counseling has helped me realize that my husband is not a safe person. My older 9 year old son just told me that his two year old brother had spilled water and that my husband rubbed his nose in it for punishment. My son felt scared to tell me (in the past my son would get in trouble when he would "tell on his dad) Of course if i brought this up to my husband not only would my son get punished but he would deny it. He denies things I have seen with my own eyes (caused me to question my sanity). I don't want to go home or ever have my children near him again. I am staying at my mothers house at the present moment. What is the next step to take to make sure I can protect my children? Do I report? My husband is very charming-studying to be a pastor-friends in law enforcement-sister was a lawyer-He has the sympathy of the community behind him. When I got a restraining order in the past he was able to convince everyone I was crazy even though I had a picture of my bleeding lip. He said it was just a "dismissive gesture" and he needed to clip his nails and accidentally scratched my lip. Anyways, I'm scared to take any legal action (protection order) without a plan. What steps should I take to protect us? My plan was to get out without him knowing what i was doing by playing nice, but now after my son told me that, I just want to leave now. any advice?
Thank you for writing and asking what is needed in a safety plan. First of all, I am very sorry that you have to deal with such a situation but hope you understand that you are not the only one going through this and there are many resources available to help you. Reaching out to these resources can benefit you greatly.
Your question of what steps do you need to take to protect yourself and your children and the answer is first to teach yourself to RESPOND instead of REACTING to his abusive tactics. Understanding that his behavior is NOT your fault puts the responsibility right back where it belongs—on him. Once you truly understand that his behavior is a CHOICE and he is choosing to behave this way helps you see that he is behaving in ways that give him power and control over you and your children and not acting in ways that are truly loving and caring. He probably has been behaving this way for a very long time and will continue to do so because he has gotten his way with this type of behavior.
With that said, it is important to understand that confronting folks as such can be very dangerous as you have experienced with you getting hit or receiving harmful verbal abuse. Even when you try to talk and express how this hurts and negatively impacts you, this type of communication usually goes nowhere. People as such usually NEVER change so leaving an abusive situation like you have is usually the only way to get away from such abuse.
Disengaging and ignoring him is usually the only way to remove yourself from his harm. But you need to understand that this means he is losing control and he may intensify the situation with threats, verbal abuse or physical contact to try to regain control. This means that you should NEVER be alone with him if you have to be around him when he is seeing the kids. Always meet in a public place with lots of people around or the police station and keep your conversation ONLY on the kids. Ignore any and all comments that don’t involve the kids.
Second, always carry a cell phone with you so if he tries to talk with you without your permission, you can call the police. And do call the police if he shows up which he most likely will. Ask your neighbors to call the police if they see him around your house uninvited. He will learn very quickly that you mean business if you take this action. If you allow him to show up without permission and talk, then you are teaching him he can call the shots and this just teaches him he has control over you.
These are some of the things that you MUST teach yourself to protect yourself and the children. Contacting an attorney ASAP to know your legal rights in regards to the children is necessary so you know what the laws are in your state. Your attorney will help you create a legal parenting plan that you both need to abide by. If you have facebook, One Mom’s Battle is an excellent website to learn from others on how others have created an effective parenting plan as well as reading Divorcing a Narcissist: http://www.amazon.com/Divorcing-Narcissist-One-Moms-Battle/dp/0615720552
If you google, “safety plans,” you will also learn other things you need to do such as get all financial and legal documents in your possession such as birth certificates, passports and other important paperwork that you will need.
Contacting your local domestic violence shelter will also help you learn how to create a safety plan and provide you with resources as needed. Call the clerk’s office at your county court house and ask them for phone numbers. Or look at these websites to find local help: http://www.thehotline.org/
Just remember, you deserve the very best and hooking up with others how can help you move forward will be very beneficial for you. These steps that you will need to take will be scary and having support and guidance will help you deal with the anxiety and fear that you will be feeling. This is how abusers have been able to control you by using fear and pain to get you to do as they want. RESPONDING effectively will help you overcome your fear and give you strength to disengage and take back control in your life. Your children will learn to do the same but it will take time.
Please keep writing as you move forward and keep asking questions to get the answers you are looking for. But always remember to keep yourself in public places or around people to reduce any attempts of violent behavior. You can do this. Reaching out to domestic violence shelters for assistance and contacting an attorney should be the first things to do.
Much peace to you,
Cathy Backlund, Life Coach, Specializing in Abusive Relationships and Domestic Violence Education