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Abuse After Separation
Homicide statistics show that the period shortly after separation is the time of greatest risk for severe post-separation physical violence for women. However, little has been written about emotional and financial abuse that many women face during this time.
Abuse is about control. When a woman leaves her abusive partner she is breaking the pattern of power and control that her partner will want to restore. This is linked to an elevated risk for women to be re-victimized by their ex-partners after they have separated.
An abusive partner wants to balance out the shift in power by sabotaging the motherchild relationship and by not paying child support. He may tell their children that their mother has broken the family, that she takes his money and that she is trying to separate them. Not paying child support empowers abusers and it gives them a new found sense of control. Shared custody and the new nesting custody agreements (where the children live at home and the separated or divorce parents take turns living with them there) contribute to further abuse after separation.
Any contact is an excuse for conflict and harassment. When a woman leaves, their partners feel deprived of the power of ownership; therefore they feel justified in their behaviour to regain power even if it means emotionally and financially hurting their children. Withholding child support is used for punitive purposes. Power-seeking individuals continue abusing their expartners after separation in a desire to retaliate, to restore or to reconcile.
Does this mean that women are better off staying? Definitely not, but they need access to resources and the necessary support during their separation. Strategic planning is vital and it is available through organizations like Yellow Brick House working with abused women and children to help them lead violence free lives.