To parents who have been in abusive relationships

One of the largest reason people stay in abusive relationships is their concerns about the impact leaving the relationship will have on their children. However, being that they are in abusive situations, their perspective can be a bit distorted on what thos impacts on the children will be. This document was put together to help remove some of that distortion. If you are a parent in an abusive relationship, these are things you would do well to take into account.

Your children have learned abuse from watching the way your relationship has worked. They have learned that there are to be power differentials in adult relationships, and that abuse and violence are appropriate ways to handle disagreement. They have learned the patterns of abuse from your example, whether or not they have been physically abused themselves, and they will carry those patterns with them the rest of their lives just as you will.

You can not heal this damage for them. You can’t undo what has been done to them. But you can give them an example of coming out of an abusive situation to live a healthy and abuse-free life. You can show them that abusive behavior in a relationship need not be tolerated. You can show them that, when adults make mistakes, they take responsibility for those mistakes and do what they can to make them right. You can show them a priceless example of healing and growing out of difficult situations.

Your children may need additional help later in their lives to sort out what they have experienced through the abuse in your home. Be prepared for them to need counseling. Improving your parenting skills and learning new discipline methods that may be more effective that what you’ve been using is also a good idea (parenting classes at your local community or technical college, or groups such as Parents Anonymous can be helpful in this process).

Leaving their other parent if he or she is abusing you or them will do them harm. This is certain. If you are the abuser, you’re certain to feel that this harm being done them (and you) is a great wrong. But that harm has to be balanced against the harm they will experience from witnessing you in an unbroken cycle of abuse for their entire formative lives. Your children may hate and resent you for this for some time, perhaps forever, because of the hurt this has done to them. They are the most innocent victims in this situation — they never asked to be raised in an abusive home, and never had the power to leave it no matter what. If they do hate you forever, this is a consequence of what you have already done. You can not undo it anymore than any abuser in your home can undo the abuse that has already happened. Do not let that stop you from doing the right thing.

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