October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and although I would rather not be, I am proud to say I am a DV survivor.
But with all the victories that being a survivor affords, it’s also a bitter-sweet time for me.
A big part of me rejoices in the fact that I have gotten out. I am not in that scary, everyday walking-on-eggshells situation anymore.
What a lot of people don’t realize is that just because I am no longer with my abuser, it doesn’t mean the abuse has stopped. Most abusers, especially when they share children with their victims, will not give up and just let it go. The abuse just takes on a new form.
That is the exhausting truth of it.
Many of my single mom friends go through a really tough period during separation and divorce. Things start to smooth out, however, and get better for their family once things have settled down.
This is not the case for most women who leave their abusive husbands. Most family courts don’t understand the complexities of domestic abuse. When writing the divorce decree, many times they’re not written to protect the children and survivors from continuing abuses.
Living as a Domestic Violence Survivor
Because of this conflict continues to run high. Here lies the bitter part of being a DV survivor who has two amazing kids with my abuser.
I do everything in my power to make sure my boys know I am okay, we are okay, and their life is as “normal” as possible.
Over time, I have learned how to survive abuse on this side of marriage. I am hopeful that someday my life will know peace when my kids are grown. (This is also bittersweet because I want to savor every moment of their childhood and not wish it away)
Mommas who share custody with your abuser: I see you. You are not alone.
Encouragement for Life After Abuse
I want to pass on some encouragement and tips I’ve learned to make life a little more bearable.
- Don’t attempt to co-parent like parents who do not have a history of domestic violence. That does not work. Instead, try parallel parenting.
- Only communicate through email. There are websites specifically designed for high-conflict situations. I personally use and love Our Family Wizard. There is a yearly fee for this one, but there are free sites like Talking Parents or WeParent. Talking or texting with an abusive ex opens the door for more abuse and trauma. Communicating strictly through email takes your power back to respond when it is necessary, and only about the children.
- Respond using canned comments and BIFF (Brief, informative, friendly, firm) communication. Think of how you would professionally address a coworker. Keep emotions and reactions out of communication. Most likely, if you show emotion, negative or positive, that is exactly what the abuser is aiming for. Don’t give them the satisfaction. When my ex belittles me through an email (because yes, that still happens) my favorite response is: “Your attempt to portray me in a negative light is noted.” When my ex straight-up lies and believes that if he says it, or writes it, it’s the truth, my response is simply: “Your recollection of the event differs from mine.” It’s a beautiful way to shut the back-and-forth arguing about what really happened.
- Surround yourself with people who understand what you went through and what you are going through. I have a wonderful group of single moms (some have remarried) who understand my struggles, and that is SO important. This is hard and you don’t have to do it alone.
- Give yourself some grace and don’t compare yourself to others. This is the hardest tip for me to follow myself. We have been through trauma, and that has changed us. However, I know that everything that has happened to me has made me capable and ready for what is to come ahead for me. That is a freeing realization.
Although being a survivor is celebrated this month, survivors who share custody of their children most often endure post-separation abuse. If you are dealing with this reality, try these tips and know that you are not alone. If you know a single mom who still deals with this in their life, reach out. Let them know you are there and you see them. Maybe offer a hug or a coffee date.