“She’s the glue that holds us together.”
It’s not uncommon to hear these words spoken about moms, both young and old. When it comes to the family system, the reality is that many times, moms are the one who keep the day-to-day dealings of the family running smoothly. The physical and mental workload of raising a family is big, and moms are often responsible for much of it.
But what if mom doesn’t have anyone looking out for her own well-being? Worse yet, what if the mom is being abused?
Along with the many effects and fears of domestic violence that a woman faces, being a mother adds another level of difficulty, especially when it comes to leaving the abuser. As we educate the general public on why it can be so hard for women to leave an abusive relationship, one of the most important things to remember is that leaving an abusive partner is also the most dangerous time for a woman, and the risk of death is greatest at this stage. Many victims have a very realistic fear that if they leave, their partner’s actions may become even more violent, possibly even resulting in death. And if there are children involved, another serious and valid question arises: what if they hurt the children?
The decision on whether or not to leave an abusive relationship often becomes even more difficult, when there are children involved,. If the children are not being abused themselves, moms might not be sure that leaving is best for the children. Issues of custody arise: who will get custody of the children?
Financial decisions also come into play. The victim might not be sure how she will support the family and take care of the children. If the mother has been a stay-at-home parent or is not employed, the question becomes: who will support them? Will the mom be able to keep custody of the children?
Another factor that comes into play is family support and resources. If the victim does not have a strong support system or family nearby, her partner and children may be her only network. Breaking this network can feel devastating, to everyone involved. It also might mean that she does not have access to alternate housing.
What’s crucial to remember is that leaving is a process. It is not an easy decision, nor is always safe. Don’t ever assume that just because a women is still in a relationship, that she must be safe. Oftentimes, she realizes that leaving is more dangerous, for both her and the children, and feels she is staying out of necessity.
Rather than pushing a woman to leave an abusive partner, what we must do instead is understand the complexity of the situation. Offer steadfast support, compassion, understanding, and help wherever possible. Understand that leaving is a process, and can sometimes be a very long one, especially when children are involved. A safety plan is necessary, and this detail is paramount to protecting a woman and her children’s safety. If you have a friend, family member or even neighbour who is being abused, there are many community resources that can help her get the support she needs, both in leaving as well as healing and beginning a new life, for her and her children. We have a great guide on how to help abused women, including how to talk to someone being abused and the best steps to take in order to help.
Remember that we all have a role to play in ending violence against women and children. When women are safe, their children will also be safe, and we can all work toward ending the cycle of violence.