Domestic Violence/is this abuse?


QUESTION: My husband's dealing with the children can be rough. I feel concerned that his rough treatment is effecting the emoitional health of our children. When we discuss it he says either he is sorry or he debates with me that I din't see what I saw or he denies that it was rough at all. It leaves me questioning my perceptions. To give an example: I heard one of the babies crying (we have multiples) I asked what happened and he refused to tell me. He said I didn't need to know, when I demanded he tell me he says he pulled the babies hair to stop a fit.  He justified it by saying a book promoted this method for a baby biting during breastfeeding.Another time I was sleeping and I heard a baby yelp. Come to find out our son was trying to squirm out of his arms and my husband squezed our son to get him to stop squirming. he said he must have accidently squezed too hard.There are many situations like this but generaly he seems to be rough in his dealing with them. Yanking their arm, roughly and forcefully putting them in their carseat, and with our older son-demanding immediated obediance to commands that he inforces with yelling and threats of punishment.He has taken parenting classes and claims he didn't learn anything new. I don't feel like He will be willing to see it as a behavior that needs to change. He doesnt beat us or anything like that but I can't seem to help him realize a beeter way to deal with the children. Last night my older son was turning on a light and my husband thought he was doing something else and grabbed him by the arm. When I heard my son crying, My son said it was an "accident" this worries me that now our son is justifing his dad's actions and doesn't want to tell me when his dad hurts him because he doesn't want his dad to get in trouble. Really don't know what to do in this situation.

ANSWER: Dear Holly,
Thank you for your question and I am very sorry that you find yourself in this kind of situation.  You are correct, this is no way to treat children, let alone babies, and your perceptions are not incorrect.  It must stop.

No, he doesn't beat you and the children, but he grabs, pushes and intimidates.  On the scale of abuse, that isn't very far away from what is thought of as physical abuse.  Think about it for a minute....if you were out in public and someone grabbed you, pushed you or forced you in any way, that would be considered assault and the person would be arrested.  What makes it any different in a home setting?  He may not beat you physically, but he beats the family emotionally and most likely, verbally.  Emotional abuse is worse than physical abuse, simply because it takes more time to see the damage.  You are already seeing it so this has been going on for awhile.

If your husband was reasonable, that would be one thing, but you have said he doesn't see what he is doing and doesn't acknowledge new ways of parenting.  When a child begins to justify a parent's abuse that is a very serious situation.  That means the child is either fully intimidated by the parent or the child has come to accept as truth what the abusive parent has said about them.  Either one is highly undesirable.

In order to bring about change in any situation, there has to be consequences.  It does not sound as though your husband has any consequences for his actions.  There needs to be some. How intimidated of him are you?  Unfortunately, at this point, the only consequence you may have at your disposal is leaving until he cleans up his act. This is a safety issue. You might speak to an abuse counselor, a domestic violence evaluator or a police officer in order to find out what you can do and what you can't.  If he is leaving bruises on the children, you can probably call the police and press charges for child abuse.  However, if he is doing things like hair pulling etc to a baby, that is more difficult to prove.  You need to find out what the laws are in your local area and then act accordingly.

The thing to understand Holly, is that you are the only protection those children have and it is up to you to protect them.  If that means leaving the situation, then do so.  If it means having a heart to heart with your husband and explaining what you are prepared to do if he doesn't change, then do that. Just follow through if he goes beyond your boundaries. This is difficult at best, but children cannot protect themselves from an abusive parent, especially if the other parent is just standing by and taking no action.  Somebody has to be the hero in this situation for these kids.

In closing, I want to let you know that one of the main things abusers do is to blame everyone else for their actions.  They are not responsible for what they do or why they do it.  Also, they manipulate you into believing that they are correct and you are wrong.  He should not be in charge of both should agree on what the discipline is and he should not be telling you that you don't need to know what he is doing or how he is treating the children. He should not be allowed to touch them....his discipline should include other disciplinary measures, but not physical touch of any kind.  Abusers isolate their victims and that is what is happening with your kids.  

I wish you all the best as you make your decisions about what to do.  This is not easy and your decisions sound as though you are choosing between two bad choices rather than between a good choice and a bad choice.  If I can be of any further assistance, please feel free to contact me again.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: I really don't have financial resources to leave. I'm not sure what the criteria for all Dv shelters is. I have looked into some and it doesn't seem to fit. They all focous on abuse towards the women not children. (there has been a few physical altercations in the past)
Is there other resources to help me get out and possibly help me become financially indapendant? right now I don't have any family that can help.I have been looking for work and generally working towards becoming more indapendant, but without a work history the process is slow going. Thanks again.

Dear Holly,  I am not familiar with California resources, but the domestic violence centers would be a good place to start to get information.  They would know the resources available to you better than I. You are being abused, not just the children. If you are afraid of him, you are being abused.  You need to be able to speak with a social worker as they understand state and community resources.  It is a possibility that your local police department would have a child abuse unit that could direct you as well.  Child abuse is a huge thing in every community so there are resources available to help that. They could direct you to an appropriate abuse counselor who could discuss your options with you.   

It is possible that you are not understanding what abuse is.  If he has been physical with you or the children, there is abuse. It does't matter whether it is once or several times.  If he is verbally or emotionally abusive, that is abuse.  You may also want to look at divorce law in California.  You may be entitled to spousal support until you get on your feet, whether you need education, training or what. You definitely would get child support.  If you don't have a work history, you may qualify for training as a displaced homemaker.  This is not an easy process, but this is one of the things that abusers do...they isolate their victims and make them dependent.  When you don't have a support network, it is much more difficult to leave...however it is not impossible.

I'm sorry I can't be more specific, but not being located in your state, I am not privy to the laws and resources there.  California has many resources to help the under-privileged so I can't imagine that there isn't a resource that could help you.  You just need to speak with either an attorney or a social worker.  Attorneys usually provide a free consultation or there are legal aid attorneys that provide free services.

Thank you for writing back.

Domestic Violence

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Kriss Mitchell, M.Ed, CRC, CNHP


I am able to answer questions with regard to problems that result from emotional abuse or physical abuse in both dating and marriage relationships. Having been in an abusive relationship for many years, I know first hand the feelings, the questions and the doubts we go through as we try to make decisions about our lives. Often victims of abuse have deep faith based concerns regarding staying in these kinds of relationships which I am able to address as well.


My background started as a victim of an emotionally abusive relationship as well as having family members who were victims of violence and physical abuse. I have gone on to become a professional counselor and I work with abused women.

American Mental Health Counselors Association, American Association of Christian Counselors, International Association of Prayer Counselors

I currently maintain a blog at I also have links and currently written articles on my website at You can also follow me on TWITTER @livingwellcc, or on facebook at Living Well Counseling and Consulting. My writings have appeared in The Good News Northwest and the North Idaho Business Journal

Licensed Professional Counselor, Board Certified Professional Christian Counselor, Certified Rehabilitation Counselor, Certified Natural Health Professional

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