Linda was fortunate in that she had never lost contact with her parents. Her father was particularly supportive
“My father came to me one day, and said that he had got an interview for me with his colleague in my hometown, if I was interested. I look back now and I think that maybe my dad was planning a future for my son and me. Maybe he could see what was going to happen. I wasn’t sure, because it would involve commuting. On the other hand, I would be around people in my hometown, instead of living in an isolated area, not knowing anyone. So, I went for my interview and I got it. My mother had a local childminder sorted out within a few days near my home. Everything fell into place very quickly. Maybe it was fate. I think my angels helped me to be some way prepared for what was to come. I was happy in this job and could call home and stay a night or so when I wanted to do that. I was quite happy. If only my marriage had been so happy.”
As Linda shows, leaving an abusive relationship can be traumatic, and the abuser may resort to all sorts of controlling behaviours to torment you, and re-establish power over you. It is, therefore, not always easy to ensure protection. The first step is to establish physical boundaries. This means getting as far away as you can. It also means having as little contact with the abuser as possible.
There are other practical steps you can take to maximise safety, although some of these are more feasible in cities. Renting a post office box or using the address of a friend for mail is one suggestion. It is always important to hide the new address from the abuser, so only close friends should know it. I would suggest changing the number of a mobile phone, and having it cloaked. The phone company could also issue a caller ID facility on your phone, and your landline could be blocked and unlisted. Children also need protection, and so school authorities should be alerted to the situation. If you have moved a long distance you will have changed your children’s school, and the head teacher should be advised of the situation. Alert neighbours, and ask that they contact the police if there is the possibility of danger. A motion-sensitive lighting system is somewhat of a deterrent, and could be part of the overall strategy to prevent contact with the abuser. Of course, he may have rights of visitation to the children, and in such cases, some of the above suggestions are not relevant. However, if you feel that the children are again at risk, you can take steps to have such rights withdrawn.
Irrespective of the measures you take, your erstwhile abuser may use unscrupulous methods in his desire to keep control over you. He may refuse to contribute any maintenance for the children’s support, and use the children in other ways to distress a mother already worried about the possible destructive impact of the abuse on them. Some abusive fathers, who have every right of access, may use them to undermine their mother. They use them to get information about her, neglect them when they stay with him, try to divide them from her, threaten to take them from her, seek increased custody, and generally make every effort to disrupt the family. Female abusers resort to similar tactics.
Adapted from Jim O’Shea’s book Abuse. Domestic Violence, Workplace and School Bullying published by Cork University Press
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