Children should never be left in an environment where one parent abuses the other

If there are children in an abusive household, I believe that it is imperative to leave. Some people, including some researchers, feel that it is best to leave children in an abusive parental relationship, than suffer the trauma of leaving and losing a parent. I do not agree with this view. I strongly believe that if children are in the presence of any type of continuing abuse, they should be removed, before serious psychological or emotional damage is done. As I showed earlier, the longer they are left the greater the harm they will suffer. Children are like sponges. They absorb the tension, anger, hostility, and fear in an abusive home. I am greatly concerned, when I see children who have become withdrawn, fearful, anxious, and insecure as they constantly witness the acrimony between their parents. Not only are these children deprived of happiness and contentment, but they also have poor role models in abusive parents. Non-abusive parents, like Linda, are very conscious of the potential damage to their children
“As much as I thought about Jack coming from a broken home, he was already in a broken home. I couldn’t have my son grow up and see his father call me a “bitch” or a “cunt” which were commonly said to me. I was so fearful for my son and his future that I didn’t want him emotionally damaged from what he saw or heard. There was little love in the house in the end, and it was unfair to bring him up in a house full of tension, and so unstable.”
Her fears for Jack’s emotional safety increased when Stephen physically abused her. On one occasion when he raged and destroyed furniture, she made the decision to permanently remove her child from the abusive environment
“He pushed me out of the way to get inside. He grabbed my arms so tight and pushed. I had marks left on my arms that day from him. I followed him and told him to get out. He kicked things around the kitchen, kicked the clothes-horse to the other side of the room. He was shouting and was in a complete rage. His face turned red. He then went to the bedroom and started pulling the wardrobe doors off in anger, and throwing them across the room. My son was sitting in his high chair when all this was going on, screaming with fright. I told Stephen to get out, that I was calling the guards and that I was leaving. But, he didn’t calm down. When he had his damage done, he went out the front door and sped off in his van with the tyres screeching. I ran and locked the front and back doors, and I called the guards. About 5 minutes later, he came back. The doors were locked, and he told me to open the doors or he would break the glass, as the back door was a patio sliding glass door. I told him that I had called the guards, and he said to me “of course you did, you twisted bitch”. This was crazy – how can he be calling me twisted, when he has done all this. He blamed me for this, just as he did for everything.”
Even if abusers are only targeting a partner, there is always the possibility that in time they will begin to abuse their children. It is also worthwhile recalling that emotional and verbal abuse frequently lead to physical violence. Firstly, it may be a push or a shove, then a blow or a kick, and finally severe beatings. Abuse invites retaliation, which, however justified, intensifies the tension and hatred in the home, and children cannot survive emotionally in such an atmosphere.

Adapted from Jim O’Shea’s book Abuse. Domestic Violence, Workplace and School Bullying published by Cork University Press

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