Emotional Abuse


Do you feel “stuck” in your marriage? Is there a nagging sense that something is wrong between you and your spouse but you don’t know what? Have you tried “everything” to “fix” your problems but still, nothing seems to change?

Dave Willis tackles the 7 common patterns of dysfunction that wreak havoc on his marriage in an article on Family Share: The 7 Types of Dysfunctional Marriages

These are the most common patterns, but it does not limit the other types of problems that may exist. Willis is not a therapist; this article is based on his experience as pastor who has interacted with other married couples from all over the world. Willis is also married.

In brief, the common types Willis mentions includes (there is more detail in the article):

1) The Scorekeepers – Who keep score of the other partner’s behavior and use that to control or manipulate.
2) The Fantasizers – Live in a fantasy life, not reality.
3) The Outsourcers – Escape into other people, careers and personal pursuits at the expense of their marriage.
4) The Blamers – Blame their partner for anything and everything that is wrong.
5) The Separatists – A marriage where both people are living two separate lives, and have lost the togetherness and equality that marriage requires.
6) The Deceivers – A marriage that lacks trust and is troubled with secrecy and lies.
7) The Quitters – A partner that quits when things get tough.

The article does not talk about domestic violence (which includes emotional abuse, a strong theme in these patterns of dysfunction) but I think the warning signs should be mentioned to raise awareness of the possibility, in case abuse is happening in the relationships. Early detection of domestic violence is crucial in helping a victim be safe, and get needed help.

Warning Signs of Family Violence (Fulton Co. Violence Task Force)

You do not have to live in chaos or dysfunction! Recognizing there is a real problem in your marriage is the first step to getting help. You do not have to make these choices alone, nor do you have to be trapped or stuck in a situation that seems out of your control, there is help and support available to break free from the dysfunction, and live the life you were meant to have.

— EJ Perth, 2015

211 is a free and confidential phone line for people in North America to find local community resources. Open 24/7: 211 Resources

Crisis Call Center: 1-800-273-8255 or 775-784-8090. Or, text “ANSWER” to 839863.
Staff and volunteers are available 24/7/365. This is a confidential and free service. Crisis Call Center’s 24-hour crisis line is here to provide safe, non-judgmental support for individuals in any type of crisis. In addition to our 24-hour crisis hotline, we also offer crisis intervention through text messaging. Text “ANSWER” to 839863.
Crisis Call Center

Crisis Text Line serves anyone in any type of crisis, providing them access to free, 24/7 emotional support and information they need via the medium they already use and trust: text. Here’s how it works:
Someone texts into CTL anywhere, anytime, about any type of crisis.
A live, trained specialist receives the text and responds quickly.
The specialist helps the person stay safe and healthy with effective, secure counseling and referrals through text message using CTL’s platform.
Crisis Text Line

The National Domestic Violence Hotline: National Domestic Violence Hotline
1-800-799-7233 | 1-800-787-3224 (TTY)

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255

EJ Perth:

“A child who grows up with a parent who has NPD, has no parent at all… The child’s life is consumed with pleasing the parent in a way that no other child, not sharing the same type of parent, can understand. Your childhood revolves around this parent. The opposite parent must revolve around the NPD spouse. Your needs and wants must be that of the parent with NPD.” Includes tips for children who are the scapegoat of a narcissist.”Jeannine K. Vegh, M.A., I.M.F.T. Psychotherapist and writer

The only part I do not agree with says, “Keep in mind that this isn’t the worst parent you could be dealing with. You could be dealing with a substance abuser or a severely mentally ill parent…” Narcissistic parents can be abusive parents, and can inflict severe mental, emotional, psychological or psychological damage onto their children. Narcissistic parents can also neglect their children because they put their own needs first. I don’t think it’s fair to judge what is the “worst parent” but better to protect the child from harm, and offer support and love. xo

Originally posted on Transformative Psychotherapy, LLC:

Sometimes I get ideas in my head and know that I must get up and type; otherwise I will never get to sleep.  Having been one of these children and having recently had very moving conversations with another person who also felt this dread, I knew I must write about it.  As a therapist, I feel responsible for airing out all those things which give us torment, so that we have a place to share, cry, and be heard.  For having a parent who has Narcissistic Personality Disorder, you do not get the chance to do so.

A child who grows up with a parent who has NPD, has no parent at all.  In fact, they have no self as well.  The child’s life is consumed with pleasing the parent in a way that no other child, not sharing the same type of parent, can understand.  Your childhood revolves…

View original 1,252 more words

refuseintimidated

It is important to refuse to be intimidated. That refusal must not be based simply on a calculation of the odds of succeeding.

At times, in my case, multiple lawsuits and an ethics charge seemed overwhelming, and the fact that I knew my work to be accurate and responsible was only partial solace. l was well aware that court, like the National Football League, is an arena in which, on any given Sunday, anybody can win.

The refusal to be intimidated must come, in the end, not from a sureness of succeeding but from a knowledge of the cost of scurrying for shelter through fake retractions and disowned truths. It is a question, in the end of self-respect.

Who among us could, in good faith, ever face a survivor of childhood abuse again were we to run for cover when pressed ourselves? Children are not permitted that choice, and the adults who choose to work with them and with the survivors they become cannot afford to make it. It would be a choice to become. Through betrayal and deceit, that to which we object. Our alternative, then, is not to hide. not to refuse to treat adult survivors, not to refuse to go to court in their defense, not to apologize and retract statements we know are true, but to cultivate endurance and tenacity as carefully as we read the research.”

“Confessions of a Whistle-Blower: Lessons Learned by Dr. Anna C. Salter. Ethics & Behavior, Volume 8, Issue 2 June 1998” https://ritualabuse.us/research/memory-fms/confessions-of-a-whistle-blower-lessons-learned/

I highly recommend “Confessions of a Whistleblower”: In 1988 Dr. Salter began a report on the accuracy of expert testimony in child sexual abuse cases utilizing experts Ralph Underwager and Hollida Wakefield as a case study. In response, Underwager and Wakefield began a campaign of harassment and intimidation, which included multiple lawsuits; an ethics charge; phony (and secretly taped) phone calls; and ad hominem attacks, including one that Dr, Salter was laundering federal grant monies. The harassment and intimidation failed as the Dr. Salter refused demands to retract. In addition, the lawsuits and ethics charges were dismissed. Lessons learned from the experience are discussed.

About: Dr. Salter received her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology and Public Practice from Harvard University and obtained a Masters Degree in Child Study from Tufts. She was a Teaching Fellow at both Universities. Dr. Salter has lived in Madison Wisconsin since 1996 and consults half time to the Wisconsin Department of Corrections. In addition, she lectures and consults on sex offenders and victims throughout the United States and abroad. She has keynoted conferences on sexual abuse in Australia, New Zealand, Scotland and England. In all, she has conducted trainings in 50 states and 10 countries. Dr. Salter also evaluates sex offenders for civil commitment proceedings and other purposes.

http://www.annasalter.com/annasalter/Welcome.html

(Jan 22, 2015, North Dakota) In a rare and extraordinary move, the North Dakota Supreme Court removed district court judge, Cynthia Feland, from a child custody case after it was determined her custody order was not in the best interest of the child, and that she ignored significant evidence of domestic violence.

In their Jan. 22, decision, the justices, ordered that Judge Cynthia Feland be removed from the custody and child support case of Nicholas Law and Danielle Whittet. The unanimous opinion signed by Justice Daniel Crothers read, in part, “A change of judge is ordered upon remand because of Judge Feland’s inability or unwillingness to follow our mandate, and out of concern for the tumult from and cost of litigation.”

Nicholas Law and Danielle Whittet began dating in 2010, they were never married. Ms. Whittet also has two older children from a previous relationship. In 2011 Ms. Whittet gave birth to their child. Mr. Law was proven to be the father through a DNA test.

In July 2012, Mr. Law filed a motion for custody and requested primary custody of the child. Mr. Law requested primary custody citing the Best Interest standards favored him, and a number of factors endangered the child if put in the care of Ms. Whittet.

Following a trial, Judge Feland granted joint custody to the couple and “ordered the parties equal residential responsibility for the child, each having the child on alternating weeks with exchanges taking place on Sunday”. (I will go into the evidence and arguments cited at trial, further in this article).

After the trial, in Nov 2012, Ms. Whittet plead guilty to disorderly conduct, assault and escape. The assault charge was later dismissed. The incident happened in September 2012. At 3 am, officers were dispatched to Ms. Whittet’s home because she was “very intoxicated” and was outside yelling and screaming at her boyfriend. When Ms. Whittet refused to stop screaming, the officers gave her the choice of going into detox or staying with a friend or family member. Ms. Whittet chose to go to her mother’s home for the night, where her 3 children were staying. At 4:30 am, officers were dispatched to the mother’s home. Ms. Whittet was screaming, throwing objects around the house, and had woken the children, who were witnessed to be crying. The screaming was so loud that a neighbor came to the home to investigate. The mother suffered an injury to her arm after Ms. Whittet pushed her against a bed. The mother requested that the officers take Ms. Whittet, and she was arrested.

Mr. Law then filed a motion based on the new evidence of the Sept. 2012 incident and conviction, requesting primary custody. Judge Feland denied Mr. Law’s motion and instead entered a permanent joint custody judgment.

Mr. Law appealed Judge Feland’s custody order to the Supreme Court, and won (Law v. Whittet, 2014 ND 69, 844 N.W.2d 885, filed 4/7/2014). The Supreme Court found that Judge Feland, “simply ignored the significant evidence that was favorable to Law and detrimental to Whittet” and “The district court in this case, without explanation, failed to acknowledge or address evidence which clearly indicated several of the best interest factors favored Law.”

The Supreme Court made its decision based on factors NOT considered in Judge Feland’s custody order, that were entered into evidence. Evidence included the following: Ms. Whittet lived in 10 different residences in the past 4 years, and was living with various men, at different times, who provided financial support. One of these men had physically abused Ms. Whittet’s older child. Ms. Whittet did not have stable employment.Ms. Whittet comes from a dysfunctional family background, and was found to have gotten into physical fights with her mother on several occasions; many of these fights happened in front of the children. In contrast, Mr. Law was found to have a stable job, owns his own home, and is soon to be married. Mr. Law was also has a supportive family and his parents share a close relationship with the child.

The Supreme Court struggled to understand how Judge Feland found these parents to provide an equal quality of care to the child, and struggled to understand how Judge Feland dismissed the Best Interest factors, “We are at a loss to understand or explain the court’s finding. On the basis of this record, Law has demonstrated a markedly stable home life and an extended family which has had a demonstrably positive impact on the child. Whittet’s home environment, however, demonstrates remarkable instability, averaging a move every few months, and has subjected the child to constant change and inconsistency. In addition, Whittet’s home environment subjected the child to a live-in boyfriend who physically assaulted one of Whittet’s other children, and her extended family life subjected the child to a physical altercation between Whittet and her mother requiring intervention by law enforcement and Whittet’s arrest. On the basis of the entire record, we conclude the district court’s finding that factor (d) was equal was clearly erroneous, and factor (d) favored Law.”

The Supreme Court was also troubled that Judge Feland ignored domestic violence happening in Ms. Whittet’s family, meaning the ongoing fights with her mother that the children were a witness to. (The record does not show, but evidence suggests, the children may have witnessed fights between the mother and her various live-in boyfriends).

Judge Feland found that neither party engaged in domestic violence and ignored Ms. Whittet’s troubled history with her mother. The Supreme Court argued that domestic violence statutes (N.D.C.C. § 14-09-06.2) require the Court to consider violence on a family or household member and that “the legislature intended the factor to apply whenever violence is directed at any member of the household or family, and domestic violence is not confined to instances in which the child or one of the parties is the direct victim of the violence.” Further, “A trial court cannot simply ignore evidence of family abuse, but must make specific findings on evidence of domestic violence in making its decision on primary residential responsibility.” Which means that even if the statute did not apply, Judge Feland should have considered the violent altercations between Ms. Whittet and her mother when making a custody determination. Also supporting this argument, is that the children were being cared for by their maternal grandmother at different times, and Ms. Feland’s acts of violence directly impacted the well-being of the children. Clearly, the children were put in the middle of these disputes, and had suffered emotional distress–and were at risk for real physical harm. (Just my thoughts–if the mother has this chaotic of a lifestyle, she should be required to sober up, and demonstrate stability before having any extended visitation with the child. This is clearly a case where supervise visitation is warranted).

The Supreme Court found that Judge Feland’s ruling was “clearly erroneous” and remanded with instructions that Ms. Law be “given primary residential responsibility of the minor child and to consider limited parenting time for Whittet”. The safety of the child was a major factor in the ruling, the Supreme Court writes, “In determining a parenting time schedule for Whittet, the court must bear in mind the presumption that any domestic violence, even if not directed at the child, negatively affects the best interests of the child. Accordingly, the court should consider limited parenting time for Whittet.”

Instead, Judge Feland drafted an order that required Mr. Law to pay child support, and gave Ms. Whittet parenting time with the child every other week. “Primary custody” means one parent has custody of the child more than 50% of the time. Further, Judge Feland issued an award of child support, with Mr. Law paying the majority of support, which did not support the fact that he has been awarded primary custody. The Supreme Court found that, “The child support was not calculated in proper consideration of the primary residential responsibility award to Law. The district court did not carry out the terms of this Court’s mandate.” In essence, Judge Feland’s custody order did not truly reflect primary custody, and continued to put the child at risk.

Mr. Law then went back to the Supreme Court, seeking relief because Judge Feland had not followed the ruling (Law v. Whittet, No. 20140268, filed 1/22/2015). The Supreme Court sided with Mr. Law, and ordered the removal of Judge Feland from the case, “A district court amended judgment will be reversed and remanded for failure to follow the mandate of the Supreme Court. A change of judge may be ordered on remand when a judge is unable or unwilling to follow the mandate of the Supreme Court.”

Ms. Whittet has two older children, it has not been made public if those children remain in her care.

About Judge Feland: Cynthia Feland is a judge for the North Dakota South Central Judicial District seat 5. Her current term will end on January 1, 2017. Prior to her election to the court in 2010, Judge Feland was an assistant state’s attorney for Burleigh County for 11 years. She was the Grant County State’s Attorney from 1992-1998, also worked in private legal practice in Mandan.

Prior Misconduct: November 2011- The disciplinary board of the Supreme Court investigated Judge. Feland and determined misconduct for an incident that happened when she was as an assistant state’s attorney. Judge Feland did not reveal a document during the prosecution of the director of the North Dakota’s Workforce Safety and Insurance agency, Sandy Blunt, who was accused of misspending funds. Blunt was convicted of a felony which was upheld by the North Dakota Supreme Court. Blunt says that Judge Feland withholding the document contributed to his conviction.

The North Dakota Supreme Court ordered that Judge Feland be admonished and that pay half of the expenses of the disciplinary investigation (about $5.600). Judge Feland denies any wrongdoing.

Sources: Law v. Whittet, North Dakota Supreme Court Opinions, No. 20140268, 1/22/2015 : http://www.ndcourts.gov/court/opinions/20140268.htm

Law v. Whittet, North Dakota Supreme Court Opinions, No. 20130241, 4/7/2014 : http://www.ndcourts.gov/court/opinions/20130241.htm

Judgepedia: Cynthia Feland: http://judgepedia.org/Cynthia_Feland

“N.D. Supreme Court removes judge from custody case” by Andrew Sheeler, 2/3/2015, The Bismark Tribune: http://bismarcktribune.com/news/local/crime-and-courts/n-d-supreme-court-removes-judge-from-custody-case/article_1e441522-d7d4-503c-a399-fa1adf646c54.html

Covert manipulation is a tactic used in corrupt family courts…

Are you involved in a family custody issue, and it seems your divorce or child custody issue got ten times worse since the litigation began? Do you feel that you aren’t being heard, perhaps your words are being twisted and used against you? Has a Guardian ad Litem, Mediator, Evaluator, Judge or other court personnel taken sides and seems biased against you, that no matter what you do or say, they always side against you? As a result of the court proceedings do you feel overwhelmed, yet unable to talk about what is happening in fear that what you say may be used against you in court, that you may lose custody or parenting time with your children? Do you feel abused, have high levels of anxiety, fear for the safety and well-being of your children?

So what is happening? Are these thoughts and feelings all in your head OR is something more going on…

Covert means secret, a hidden agenda. Manipulation is using words, gestures, behavior to provoke a reaction, get a particular response or send a message (usually a threatening message). Covert Manipulation is using and taking advantage of people through deceptive, implied or subtle methods; the perpetrator is usually in a position of power over the victim. Covert manipulation is a direct attack against your judgement, thoughts and personal identity.The intent of covert manipulation is to gain power and control over a targeted person, and to get that person to do things they would normally object to by breaking down their will. Covert Manipulation is so underhanded that the victim may not initially detect that they are being played, and may feel they are the cause of the problems–or may even feel that they are going crazy! According to Dr. Simon, “Covert-aggression is at the heart of most interpersonal manipulation. What the artful, subtle fighter knows is that if they can get you to doubt yourself, feel like you have to explain yourself, and question your perceptions and judgment, there’s a good chance they can get you to back down, back-off, or better still, cave-in…”

Used in family court, covert manipulation can be used to force the targeted parent to agree to a custody or legal issue they would not normally agree to (which happens under extreme duress or pressure). Covert manipulation may be used to threaten a person into silence–to back down from filing complaints against court officers, to remain silent about abuse, to stop questioning the actions of the court. Covert manipulation may be used to influence rulings. Or gain the sympathy or support of professionals and experts involved in your case so they take one side or play into the agenda of the manipulator. Covert manipulation may even be used to turn your children against you.

Common Tactics of Manipulators in Family Court Include:

#1 Turn on the Charm aka “Love Bombing”
How this works: At your first meeting with the Manipulator, they appear to be extremely pleasant, sympathetic, interested in what you have to say, encouraging you to come forward with information. They work to get you talking, and take notes on everything you say. They show fake sympathy for you and your children. They may try to impress you talking about their professional experience or background.
The Intent: To win your trust, and get you to divulge information. Sociopathic manipulators enjoy the “hunt” — preying on people to win their trust, and having the power to destroy their victims by using their trust against them.
How You Can Protect Yourself: Understand that anything you say or do to Court Personnel can be used against you. Consult with a legal professional, advocate or other professional to prepare for any meeting with a family court officer. If you don’t have a lawyer, speak with someone you trust. Prepare an outline or notes of what you plan to discuss, and possible responses to tough questions. Remain neutral, as the Manipulator may use emotion against you. Do not disparage your ex, and if you have concerns, try to get as much evidence or proof as possible to validate your concerns, reference that evidence or collateral contact in your comments. You may also consider have a witness come with you to any meeting.
Important** You are the best advocate for your family–you may also consider sharing brief information about the strengths of your family, the things you enjoy, and other positive attributes.
As human beings, we have a natural need to talk about our feelings, and the issues affecting our lives. I cannot state strongly enough– DO NOT vent, confide or seek the confidence of anyone in family court working on your case! You must remain professional at ALL times. If you need to talk, seek the counsel of someone you trust–friend, family, religious support, support group etc. Also discuss confidentiality with your counselor, and how your records are protected from family court litigation, what would be released and why etc.

#2 Lying, Manipulating or Twisting Evidence to Make You Look Unfit, Crazy, Like an Abuser or to Portray You as Being the Sole Source of ALL the Problems in the Family (Which justifies the actions later taken against you.. this is commonly done when a parent is labelled with Parental Alienation Syndrome, a Malicious Mom etc)

How this works:After the target parent has confided in the Manipulator or shared sensitive information, they will be ambushed when the Manipulator twists the information in such a way that the targeted parent did not intend. The parent becomes the target–falsely accused of being mentally ill, an unfit parent, making up abuse allegations, etc The Manipulator may used information shared to shock or silence a parent so they can be easily controlled. The trust you had in this person is totally shattered as their agenda begins to unfold and they work against you–inventing evidence, violating the law, refusing to communicate, and other actions where their sole pursuit and interest is about their own agenda, not the well-being of your child or your family.
The Intent: Manipulators fight dirty. They will break the law and ethical rules of their profession. They will lie. Accept bribes. Use political connections against you. Threaten you. Impose financial sanctions. Impose gag orders. Force you into mental health treatment you do not need.
How You Can Protect Yourself: There is nothing you alone can do to appease the corrupt Court Officer. You cannot fix things. You cannot impose justice in the Court. It does no good to play their games. It is better to detach, and focus on your goals and stay true to what you are fighting for.

#3 Provoke a Reaction, Provoke Strong Emotions then use those reactions against you
How this works: These expert manipulators use the appearance of power over you to push buttons, provoke a reaction and even use your children as pawns in an attempt to get you to lose control. If you are emotional and unguarded, you are not only vulnerable to their manipulation but unable to protect yourself (those without legal representation are especially vulnerable). Threats are common–including threats of loss of custody, threats to limit access to the children, threats to send your children into state care. Other times, the Court will not allow you to speak or allow you to present evidence.
The Intent: If the Manipulator cannot prove their false allegations against you, or is called to produce evidence, and none exists their only hope is to make you look bad so you give them the material they need. Others enjoy watching people suffer. Prejudice and bias may also shape their behaviors.
How You Can Protect Yourself: Document everything, and keep your paperwork organized so it is easy to refer to. Bring witnesses to meetings or court appearances if possible. Bring comfort items to court to help you deal with stressors. Comfort items should be routine items, not detectable, but whose significance is known to you. Examples: a photo of your children taped to a folder, essential oils dabbed on the wrists, wearing religious or spiritual jewelry, taking a deep breath as needed, saying a Bible verse or positive afir
Trust your instincts. Take the time to repair your self-confidence, and participate in activities or surround yourself with people that boost your self-esteem. These are important to developing your instincts, and developing a strong resistance–both need to protect yourself from Manipulators.

#4 Controlling How You Think and Feel
How this works: The Manipulator is hypersensitive to everything you say and do, followed by an implied threat or real harm if you do not comply or meet their expectations. Harm can take many forms– financial sanctions, loss of custody, loss of visitation with children, jail time, loss of your reputation..not to mention the emotional battering, trauma, and real injustice/violation of the law that also occurs. Abuse victims forced to interact with their abusers often suffer further abuse, some are even murdered. In turn, you become hypervigilant, anxious, self-critical and unable to think without judging yourself against their standard; your thoughts and emotions are being controlled.

Another tactic: A seemingly innocent action or word will be exaggerated or result in harsh consequences so, to protect yourself, you avoid that action, thought, behavior or others like it. Example: A parent is told their religious or cultural beliefs are evidence that they are “crazy” so that person stops participating or avoids normal activities for their religion or culture.
The Intent: To gain control. To break down your resistance. To normalize, and get you to accept the abuse and injustice perpetrated against you. To avoid responsibility, and trick you into thinking you actually did or said something wrong.
How You Can Protect Yourself: Stop blaming yourself! When you feel guilty, overwhelmed, anxious or want to blame yourself…STOP. First, take a moment to ground yourself--go for a walk, call a friend, exercise, listen to music, read a book, etc. This will move you from hypervigilant to a calmer, more rational state of mind. Then ask yourself what are you blaming yourself for–does it make sense? Are these actions a normal human being could accomplish? What were your intentions? How did the other person make you feel? Was the other person treating you fairly, with respect? Asking questions generates critical thinking, it sparks judgment. With judgment, you will be better equipped to see the manipulation, and protect yourself from it. If there is something you did, of course deal with that. But if you are blaming yourself for irrational things, totally out of control, or things based on lies–recognize the manipulation for what it is, and put the blame where it belongs–on the abuser. If you find yourself going into self protection mode, or retreating to tactics you used while in an abusive relationship, that is a huge red flag that you are being mistreated.

FOR MORE INFO:

“Covert Emotional Manipulation Tactics” by ‘Psychopaths and Love’: http://psychopathsandlove.com/covert-emotional-manipulation-tactics/

“Eight Easy Ways to Spot an Emotional Manipulator” by Fiona McColl & Heartless Bitches International (heartless-bitches.com): http://www.heartless-bitches.com/rants/manipulator/eighteasyways.shtml

“Throwing You on the Defensive: The Covert Art of Coercive Manipulation” by Dr. George Simon, Jan 24, 2014:

“23 Covert Emotional Manipulation Tactics” by Psychopaths & Love: http://psychopathsandlove.com/covert-emotional-manipulation-tactics/

As many as 10 million children per year witness or are caught in the middle of domestic violence. Domestic violence, and the resulting trauma, has a profound effect on a child’s physical, emotional, behavioral and social health. Children who have witnessed or experienced domestic violence commonly suffer from: anxiety, depression, social withdrawal, nightmares, flashbacks and feelings of guilt/remorse.

A relationship with a stable, caring adult is one of the most important factors in a child’s recovery from abuse or trauma, and can help to break the cycle of violence.

Some tips on how you can best support an abused child, and be a positive role model :

*** If you are working as a mentor, “Big Brother/Sister”, peer support, spiritual support, advocate or family/friend to this child, be consistent in scheduling regular visits. Don’t over commit your time then miss a visit. Don’t schedule a large number of visits then decrease the visits unexpectedly. Consistency is crucial to a child’s sense of safety—so schedule visits on a regular basis that is realistic to what you can offer, and what your time/energy allows for. Then put those visits on a calendar so the child knows what to expect, and can plan for your visit.

*** Working with an abused child can be triggering, exhausting or very emotional for the support person—so make sure you are caring for your own physical and emotional needs. This may involve a “check-in” with your supervisor. Or taking classes or attending support groups with the organization you are working for. Or it may involve self-care such as taking a walk/exercise, listening to music, reading, enjoying a hobby etc. If you feel the need to talk about your day, keep the privacy of those you are working with—do not reveal their real name or sensitive personal information about their case or family situation. If there is an urgent issue, go to a supervisor for help, if there is no supervisor you may consider calling a domestic violence shelter for advice or calling 911 in an emergency or if you feel the child’s life is in danger.
The National Domestic Violence Hotline for victims is 1-800-799-SAFE (7233), 1-800-787-3224 (TTY) or http://www.thehotline.org. Information about local is also available through the hotline.
NATIONAL CHILD ABUSE HOTLINE: 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453)
Crisis Counselors Available 24/7 or http://www.childhelp.org/

*** Use community resources as needed, this may include children’s support groups for victims of abuse, parenting classes, religious/spiritual support, food shelves, housing support, case management etc.
A good place to find resources is United Way 211: http://www.211.org/

*** Creating a welcoming, child-friendly environment will reduce anxiety and help foster trust. This may include offering toys, books or games (that are non-violent). Opening a window to allow sunlight in the room. Including pets in the visit. Greeting the child in a way that is comfortable to them—soft voice, smile, avoiding direct eye contact, calling them by a preferred nickname etc (you will learn these over time, as your relationship grows). Or being sensitive to cultural needs. Be consistent in your routine. Allow the child choices. And be open to trying new things, in a creative way.

*** Listen with an open, neutral ear. Refrain from judgment, shame or blame. Be open to hearing the child’s unique way of expressing themselves– their voice may not come out in a direct conversation but may be revealed in a game, in playing with toys, relating to a song or art/drawing a picture etc.

*** Domestic violence and trauma can affect a child’s mood, behavior and ability to socialize. If needed, develop a “safety plan” with the child, their parent(s) and therapist to address behavioral problems if they arise. Work with parent(s) and care providers to become aware of the child’s emotional or behavioral issues, their triggers so you can better meet the child’s needs.

*** “Kids Helping Kids: A Guide for Children Exposed to Domestic Violence” by Mental Health Programs, BC Children’s Hospital is a valuable resource and support for kids, parent(s) and caregivers.
“Kids Helping Kids” offers testimonies about domestic violence told by children in stories and pictures, which validates to children that they are not alone, and the feelings they have are okay.
“Kids Helping Kids” offers tips on how to support abused children, and gives general advise on commonly available community resources. It also offers child-friendly tips on how to talk to children about their feelings and the changes happening in their family.
I highly recommend “Kids Helping Kids” – it’s written in child-friendly manner to educate children about abuse and help prepare them to cope with the trauma, and the changes occurring in their family (which may include out of home placement or court involvement).

Any more tips? Please share your thoughts, resources or links in the comments box!

For More Information and Tips:

“Helping Children Exposed to Domestic Violence”. American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, “Facts for Families Pages”, #109, April 2013: http://www.aacap.org/aacap/Families_and_Youth/Facts_for_Families/Facts_for_Families_Pages/Helping_Children_Exposed_to_Domestic_Violence_109.aspx

“Honor Our Voices: A for Practice When Responding to Children Exposed to Domestic Violence.” Presented by MINCAVA, Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare and Avon Foundation for Women: http://www.honorourvoices.org/docs/GuideforPractice.pdf

“How Can I Help a Child Exposed to Domestic Violence?”. National Online Resources Center on Violence Against Women, Casey Keene, 1/2/2013: http://www.vawnet.org/news/2013/01/child_exposed/

“Kids Helping Kids: A Guide for Children Exposed to Domestic Violence” by Mental Health Programs, BC Children’s Hospital:
http://bcsth.ca/sites/default/files/Kids%20Helping%20Kids.pdf

Talking to a “Protective Mother” Who Lost Custody of Children
Due to an Unjust Court Ruling: 10 Comments to Avoid & Why

PART TWO COMMENTS #5-1

These tips are for family, friends, community supports, professionals and others who are in a position to help or support a “Protective Mother”. It is devastating for a Mother to lose custody of her children—especially in a family court proceeding where she may feel victimized, violated and abused (and there no recourse for justice). Those closest to the Mother often struggle with what to say or how to help. Sometimes comments made to help actually hurt the Mother. Other times, those making comments struggle with their own emotions and/or grief and their actions and behavior causes hurt or harm because they are also struggling or don’t know what to say. Some just don’t believe that a court of law would make a mistake, and believe the Mother must have done something wrong to lose custody. These 10 Comments are commonly reported among Protective Mothers to be hurtful, and traumatic. I am sharing these comments to raise awareness, and offer tips on how to better offer emotional support to Protective Mothers.

grief

5. Don’t tell a Mother how you want to hurt or get revenge on the ex. And don’t vent or dump anger, hatred or plotting revenge onto the Mother. This happens when a Mother tells her story and there is a strong reaction that involves harming the ex or fantasies of getting back at him.
The Reality: Holding in hurt, anger, hopelessness and other feelings intensifies those feels, and will ultimately cause more hurt and pain in your life—or that of someone else if you lash out. Words and actions to hurt or get revenge on an ex will negatively impact the custody case of the Protective Mother, and may cause her to be punished by the Court—even if she did not commit any crime or wrongdoing.
I heard a lot of anger towards my ex after I lost custody of my children; it made me afraid of talking about my situation because I felt I had to take care of and protect my friends and family members from the bad news. As a result I felt alone. Or hearing intense anger about the abuser intensified my own feelings or triggered memories of abuse.
If you are a friend or family member of a Protective Mother, and witnessed her being abused or losing custody, it is normal to feel empathy—to feel hurt, anger or frustration but don’t dump or project those feelings onto the Mother of the ex. Recognize that in your role as a support, at times, you will need support or rest—the loss of the child and trauma of family court will affect you as well.
Another tip: Take time for hobbies, recreation, social activities and other activities that are important to you, don’t withdraw or isolate. It is important to have an outlet, and to keep a connection to the things that bare a positive for you. When you can use your energy in activities or ways that make you feel good about yourself, or offer a way to vent frustrations in a safe, healthy way—that will help you work through the pain and hurt, and lead to healing. It may also be something you can enjoy together with the Protective Mom, and be another way of offering support.

4. Don’t completely Ignore the Situation and Act Like Everything is Fine.
The Reality: Acting like everything is fine, and ignoring the most traumatic loss a Mother can experience—her children—IS NOT HELPFUL! This will make a Mother feel alone, isolated and that she has no one to turn to for comfort or support. It is better to be honest and up front about your own feelings and limitations, so the Mother knows what to expect.
Then again, if the family or friends are acting like the loss of your children is no big deal, and seem unable to empathize with you, this may indicate an unhealthy relationship. You may have to reconsider this relationship and what your role in it.

3. Should’s… Don’t tell a Mother what they “should” have done differently in Court or in their marriage/divorce. Or criticize the mom’s lifestyle, appearance, employment, religion, etc. to excuse/blame/justify what happened.
The Reality: See #6. Similarly, don’t give a Mom “shoulds” if her appearance, demeanor, habits etc change after losing her children. Be understanding the loss of a child is incredibly painful and traumatic
—it feels like a death even though your children are alive, especially when you cannot have contact with those children. So be sensitive and understanding to the needs of the Mother, and allow her time to grieve and process. If you see the Mother is struggling, gently ask to help or offer support but also respect her answer, don’t force yourself onto her. I remember that after I lost my kids, my church sent me a postcard that said “We prayed for you” and the prayer team signed their names to it—that meant so much to me. Simple gestures go a long way, and one of the most profound gestures is loving acceptance. Give the Mother your love and acceptance—not your “should’s”,

2. Comments that you must have done something to make the Court take your kids/Good moms don’t lose custody of their children. Comments that Insist a Mother must “prove” her case. Examples: I don’t believe you//Judges would never award custody an abuser/Courts are always fair etc …

The Reality: Fit, loving Mothers who are primary caregivers lose custody at alarming rates—this is happen across the US, and all over the world. Your initial reaction may be disbelief, and for good reason, but don’t project that disbelief onto the Mother—take some time to process your own feelings before approaching the Mother or take time to educate yourself on the issues. The Mother will be hurting, and will need your support. The questions you have are probably are ones running through the Mother’s mind over and over. And are questions family court reformers are struggling with now. Even if you don’t have the answers for what happened in court or in her custody situation, focus on what you do have control of and ways you can offer support or help—make a cup of hot chocolate, suggest a support group or day at the spa, lead a prayer, bring her a meal, offer to help with housework.. etc When the Mother is ready, she may open up and talk more about her situation, for her to do that she must have trust in you, and feel safe. That process begins with offering support, and being present with her in her pain—not questioning, just being available.

1. Don’t say or do things that jeopardize the current custody case, custody situation or the Mother’s relationship to her child(ren).
This may include: Social media posts that threaten, criticize or harass the ex. Contacting the ex or making deals in order to see the children (or for other reasons). Publicly criticizing the Mother or showing a lack or support. Not respecting the Mother’s wishes or requests regarding her children or need for privacy. Breaking court orders. Talking negatively about either parent in front of the children. Putting the child in the middle of the custody dispute. Attending court hearings and showing emotional displays or outbursts in court, threatening either party, being disruptive or dressing provocatively in court. Publicly criticizing, harassing or naming the judge, attorneys, or other involved parties. Publicly naming the children, and revealing sensitive information about abuse allegations or information that should be private (legal name, address, date of birth, where they live, etc). Getting revenge on either party.

The Reality: DO NOT take the law into your own hands! Even though the Court situation can seem hopeless or that there is no justice, do not make it worse with aggressive, hostile or crazy behavior and actions that may cause the Court to further punish the Mother or restrict her parenting time—this is NOT helpful.

Consider seeking support and finding a safe outlet instead. Support may come from friends, family, community. Church, Professional help (lawyers, support group, counseling, religious support, classes, grief group etc).

Lisa Copen Quote

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