Research reveals the devastating effects domestic violence has on pregnant women, and their unborn children….

According to recent studies, a staggering 45% of abused women report that they are forced to have sex with their partner. When pregnancy results in an abusive relationship, in 50-70% of women the abuse continues during pregnancy. The National Institutes of Health reports that over 300,000 pregnant women in the U.S. are victims to domestic violence, with domestic violence being the leading cause of death among U.S. women of childbearing age.

I am one of these women the statistics speak of. I understand, firsthand, the horror of becoming pregnant as a result of abuse, and then enduring a pregnancy in a home where I did not feel safe. 

Pregnancy journal.. while other mothers are scrap booking the milestones of their pregnancy from the first pink line on the pregnancy test to hearing a steady heart beat for the first time, these are my sad milestones….

Common symptoms announced pregnancy –nausea, fatigue, sudden weight gain… and cravings for pickles. On the outside I looked like any pregnant woman but behind closed doors, I lived a life of fear and uncertainty, as an abuse victim.

4/5 Months Pregnant, while I was celebrating the first kicks – my abusive ex was calling me fat, and telling me I looked like “an old granny” in maternity clothes. I attempted to squeeze into jeans even as my belly stretched, and baby kicked in protest to avoid his angry outbursts… and secretly hoped baby did not hear what was said.

6/7 months Pregnant, while I am eagerly awaiting the arrival of my child, preparing a nursery, reading baby books and shopping for clothing and toys (tears in my eyes, goofy grin on my face) – my abusive ex is giving the baby the “silent treatment”. He has ignored every aspect of my pregnancy, and acts as if we are not expecting a baby. There is no emotion. No talk of the pregnancy. No planning. I feel like a single parent before the baby is even born.

8/9 months Pregnant, still working a job to support the family, finances are stretched thin… my abusive ex is addicted to prescription pain pills. While I am planning my trip to the hospital to delivery the baby, he is planning his next visit to the ER or to the dentist or to a round of doctors to get his next fix.

“..to think of all the babies whose pre-birth experience is one of fear and threat. I have worked with women for many years that have lived with domestic violence and other abuse it made me feel immensely sad for them and their unborn children..” ~ Laura Schuerwegen, author the blog, Authentic Parenting

Unborn children are harmed by domestic violence that they are exposed to in the womb, research confirms what many domestic violence victims and advocates have reported.

Exposure to domestic violence begins in utero, as does the harm it causes. Beginning in the 2nd trimester of pregnancy, babies can hear voices and sounds from the world around them. The clearest sound heard is the mother’s voice. What to Expect: Fetal Sense of Hearing offers a simple experiment to give you the chance to understand what noise sounds like to an unborn baby, “Try this for fun (really!): Put your hand over your mouth. Have your partner do the same. Then carry on a conversation – and that’s what voices sound like to your baby in the womb.

The louder a sound the more likely a baby is to hear it, which includes yelling or threats directed at a pregnant mother, the sound of crying or police sirens – all common in experiences of domestic violence.

Before birth, a unborn baby is not only hearing but experiencing the very emotions of fear – through the chemical process that happens in the mother’s body. Chemical processes in the mother’s body send emotional and physical messages to the unborn baby. A mother who is frightened, anxious or hyper vigilant as a result of abuse has higher levels of stress hormones in her body, that will also affect the developing baby; and over time will put extra stress on the brain and body (this is also reaffirmed by the ACEs study which says toxic stress damages the function and structure of a child’s developing brain, and can lead to other health consequences). In particular, the hormone cortisol is neurotoxic and has damaging effects on the brain, and may contribute to emotional problems in a baby after birth, says new research by Michigan State University scientists.

Other risks to the pregnant mother and unborn baby include: physical injury, inability to seek medical care or treatment, less access to support/friends/family and a higher rate of miscarriage.

To be clear – the problem is NOT the expectant mother but the abuse inflicted on the mother, at the hands of an abusive partner. By gaining a better understanding of how abuse affects unborn children, Alytia Levendosky, a study co-author at Michigan State is hopeful that increased education and awareness about domestic violence will send a strong message that domestic violence is harmful to unborn babies, and will encourage doctors and other medical professionals, and social workers, to screen and monitor for violence; and better be able to support victims – or provide needed resources for help. Research has proven that advocacy for abuse victims, in combination with providing resources for help, does improve outcomes.

A positive note – children’s brain can heal and create new connections; so early intervention can lessen some of the damage caused by domestic violence; and may also save a life.

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

Additional Reading: 

ACES = Adverse Childhood Experiences

Authentic Parenting: Effects of Pre-Birth Trauma on the Unborn Child

DOMESTIC ABUSE MAY AFFECT CHILDREN IN WOMB

The effects of domestic violence on unborn children (Includes a list of how exposure to domestic violence negatively impacts the emotional, physical and social development of children)

Partner violence during pregnancy: prevalence, effects, screening, and management

NCADV Pregnancy and Domestic Violence Facts

When Pregnancy Triggers Violence

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Public Source: https://www.pexels.com

Public Source: https://www.pexels.com

Divorce: 6 Things To Never Tell Your Children

‘When we choose our words carefully, when we look past ourselves, our own egos however wounded, and realize that our children’s healthy emotional well being should trump any and all manipulation, self-victimization, snide remarks, etc voiced to our children about our ex-spouse we will be doing our job as a parent.” -Grace Power Strength, 2013

Divorce 6 Things to Never Tell Your Children” is an article that delves into the emotional turmoil following divorce, and the difficulties dealing with an ex partner who is abusive, vengeful or harboring anger/resentment.  Toxic behavior the ex displayed during the relationship doesn’t just end because the divorce is final, or the relationship is over but continues post separation, and often spills onto the messages sent to the children or emerges in their parenting.

This article exposes “6 Things to Never Tell Your Children“, which are common statements made to children, that are unhealthy, and hurtful. And also reveals tips on how to detect manipulation, and hidden messages. The article offers tips on how to avoid playing into the manipulation, and mind games, so you can maintain your sense of peace, and give your child the sense of stability that they deserve. 

About: Grace, Power Strength is an insightful, and encouraging blog penned by Jennifer Gafford that blends stories from her personal experiences with practical tips and advice concerning abuse, divorce/custody, personality disorders, healing from abuse, and spiritual wisdom (and more).

Grace Power Strength

One thing I have learned from co-parenting with an abusive, personality disordered ex that NOT saying anything is just as painful, and just as dysfunctional as manipulating or saying inappropriate statements to a child. By “NOT saying anything” I am referring to an ex partner that refuses to communicate, refuses to share information and attempts to completely shut out or remove the other parent from the child’s life.

When your child goes to spend time with the other the parent, that child should just be able to enjoy their visit and grow their relationship with their parent, and family. When a parent refuses to communicate, and will not share any information on the child’s progress or well-being it creates a toxic environment that promotes hostility, secrecy, and hinders the child’s ability to trust or feel secure with the other parent. It also places an adult responsibility on the child – who is burdened with keeping secrets, or is put in the role of relaying information (or being brainwashed to only tell certain things, or told to give false information or told not to say anything at all).

Parents need to find ways to communicate and share information regarding the child. In cases where abuse is present, there needs to be boundaries on what information is shared (i.e. child focused and not getting into the personal life of the other parent, also maintaining address confidentiality if that is an issue) and a safe method of communication should be developed.

Judges, Guardian ad Litems, therapists and other professionals working with the family also need to be educated, and taught to recognize domestic violence and how it manifests post separation in order to properly address the family’s needs, and be aware of safety concerns. Family Courts and CPS have a responsibility to keep safety a priority, and recognize abuse to avoid actions that would unfairly punish a victim of abuse, or place the children in danger. Family Courts also need to be aware of their own actions so they do not enable abuse to continue, and so that orders do not empower tactics used by abusers.

In dealing with my abusive ex, the most important thing I have learned is to recognize his abusive, personality disordered behavior for what it is. I sought education and sought support from the National Alliance on Mental Illness and also sought help from abuse advocacy organizations.

In my relationship with my ex, I did not have the ability to speak for myself, and was dominated and controlled by his violence, or fear of what he would do to me or the children. When I escaped from the abuse, I was not truly free because I carried with me years of conditioning, where my survival depended on acclimating to abuse or adapting my true feelings, and true self to meet his selfish demands. There was no peace. I could not even voice what I wanted, or what I needed for myself. Getting support has helped me to heal, and reclaim my sense of self. So it was important is to recognize, and get educated, on domestic violence and develop a safety plan.

An additional resource, NAMI helped me to identify, and seek support, in dealing with issues regarding my ex’s personality disorder in a way that was informed, non-judgmental and offered peer support. I no longer felt alone in dealing with these types of behaviors, and felt better informed – which meant I was not reacting in a personal or emotional way; which in turn gave me a separation from my abuser that was needed to maintain my own distinct space or boundary.

I also would say that every person has their journey… the process of divorce, healing and re-creating your family is not easy, but no one has to be alone in this process. We can learn and grow from each other; and through our experiences, and insight, help to educate and inform others.

~ EJ

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What Messages or Words Would You Advise to Never Tell a Child?

And How Do You Cope With Co-Parenting, or Dealing With a Toxic Ex? Any Tips on How to Find Your Calm or Maintain Your Peace?

Plz Post Below!

 

 

“Trials don’t come cheap.

I think most people get all the justice they pay for.”

— The Devil Amongst the Lawyers by Sharyn McCrumb (p.151). 2010: St. Martin’s Press.

Scales of Justice