Children Become A Powerful Avenue For Abusers To Keep Their Targets In Line By Barbara Jones*

I met my ex husband in 2006 and he seemed like one of the good guys, hard working, stable, nice, considerate, and honest. I should have picked up on the little things, but I looked right past them because everyone around also thought and commented about how wonderful he was. When I got pregnant with my son in 2007, things started to come to light. We did not get married until my son was 9 months old and I probably should have listened to an acquaintance when she said don't do it. However, I wouldn't have my daughter if I had walked away. My ex's verbal, mental and emotional 'beating' just continued to get worse by the day. Part of the reason I didn't face them is because they were more indirect and damaging. While he would yell and scream, and throw things, the worst part was that he continually placed me in a position of feeling like I could not survive or support my children without him. His anger and aggression constantly undermined my self-worth and my confidence to the point that I feared I would lose everything if I didn't stay. I constantly feared not having money to feed and cloth my children or keep a roof over their heads. I became uncomfortable even being around my family and closest friends out of fear of them knowing what was really going on, fear that they would think less of me. My ex continued everything he could to keep me in a powerless position. It took me until February 2014 to wake up and realize I needed to do something and I was terrified. But there was a realization that I would not and could not allow my children to grow up thinking that treatment was acceptable nor that it was acceptable to treat anyone that way.

We attempted counseling, but that was useless as I learned, after dealing with multiple counsellors, they just wanted to address common things and never really wanted to get to the bottom of the problem or actually put fault where it needed to be, and that just made everything worse. My ex was a rampant cheater, frequenting bars to pick up women and even enlisting the services of prostitutes. What I did not realize at the time, was how powerful of a tool this was to keep me in 'my place'. Every time there was an incident, the blame was placed on me for paying too much attention to my children and work and not paying attention to my ex. The mental and emotional impact of his cheating was one that always left me in a position of feeling worthless, a bad wife, and fearful that I would end up alone, so every time I forgave, and I sunk lower in a pit. No counselor wanted to even get near the damage that was being done or the abuse that was being dished out. And it left me feeling like I was just plain crazy. 

Once I finally woke up, it hit my like a brick wall. I was not a bad or unworthy woman. I had done nothing wrong, other than try to make things work. The abuse was NOT my fault, the blame was not on my shoulders. Everything rested squarely on my ex. They claim it takes two to tango, but that simply isn't true. Sometimes it is just as simple as what we allow to be will continue. I chose to stop it. My ex continued to attempt to make me believe that I could not raise two children on my own, not be their sole provider financially, emotionally, physically, etc. But once I stepped back and looked in from the outside, I discovered what I knew deep down. And now, I provide more for my children on my own than I ever did being married. 

Obviously because of my particular situation, I am most drawn to wanting to help women, and even men, who find themselves in similar positions in their relationships especially if they have children. Children become a powerful avenue for abusers to keep their targets in line. I am also keenly aware that a major key to stopping this kind of situation is to go on the offensive and help ensure that others have the strength, skills, and awareness to avoid these situations or get away before they get buried under the weight. 

I am completely free and open with talking about what happened to me, and have managed to come out of it far stronger than most, simply by being ok with putting the fault where is should be and by really understanding that my ex's words and actions were not about me or what I said or did, they were completely about him and his very twisted mind. Once I realized I could not and would not own his issues, words and actions, I was free. I think that is the single most difficult thing for any person who is abused. 

*Name changed for privacy