Myth #9: All Victims of Domestic Violence Get Custody of Their Kids


Fact: Despite the horrendous crimes of domestic abuse haunting homes across our globe, not all battered mothers have custody of their children. Rather, it may surprise you to learn many batterers have sole or joint custody of the couple’s children. It may also trouble you to learn some battered mothers need to leave their abusive homes without their kids. Furthermore, 1 in 4 women who seek abortions are in abusive relationships. While other abused women, make an adoption plan for the well-being of both the child and mother. Some, though, are left with the daunting task of raising children while being expected to co-parent with their estranged batterer.

Although some states provide judicial protections for mother’s fleeing abusive homes, many battered women are re-victimized through her batterer’s masterful manipulation of the courts and others. Domestic violence is all about power and control. What better way to control someone than through their children? Sadly, bitter and broken parents use their kids to harm the other parent in non-violent or non-abusive separations so it should not surprise us to validate the often unacknowledged truth that batterers use their children to re-traumatize their victim while feeding his overwhelming need for power and control rooted in entitlement.

Co-parenting, the preferred ideology of most courts today, works well for normal healthy individuals who mutually respect one another. However, for battered mothers, co-parenting further entraps victims in bondage as she constantly deflects her batterer’s manipulative assaults centered on his selfish need to demonstrate power and control.


Whether you are a battered mother jilted with visitation rights or are one of the fortunate women who maintained custody of your babies throughout your safe passage, we offer a few concise tips to maintain your “co-parenting” sanity.

1. Meet At A Safe Place – Not just physically safe but emotionally safe place. Picking up your kids at the batterer’s home may not only be physically unsafe, but emotionally unsafe as well. Batterers feel further entitled to taunt and bully their victims if the victim is on his turf. If you must pick up your child at your batterer’s home, take someone with you. A batterer is all about manipulation and most likely will not abuse you, whether physically, emotionally or verbally, when there are witnesses.  Similarly, consider not allowing your batterer to pick up the kids at your home. Your home is your safe domain. You do not need your batterer to bring his negativity into your sanctuary nor become familiar with it. Preferably, meet somewhere in public instead. Also, some states have visitation centers as a refuge place to exchange kids or carry on visitation rights.

2. Victim Beware: Batterers frequently try to provoke fights when exchanging the kids or emails. Their goals are to control you, of course, by enraging you. They desire to make you look crazy in front of the kids and others, which only further alienates you and feeds their chronic disease. Refrain from flipping out. Have you ever noticed when you respond by spazzing out, your batterer smirks in his victorious glory? Define and enforce your boundaries tactfully despite such outlandishness {easier said than done}.


3. Isolation Games: We know when a batterer and their victim were married or in an intimate relationship together, the batterer typically would isolate the victim from family, friends, co-workers and even the kids. Why would this tactic improve after their separation or divorce? Rather, batterers tend to “step up their game” by treading all over you further. They seek to isolate, manipulate, and damage you to their hearts endless content by charming your family, friends, employers, your children’s teachers, the child’s best-interest attorneys (if appointed by the court), psychological evaluators, social workers, judicial magistrates and whoever else enables them to further propagate the batterer’s obsessive need for power and control. We know the most hurtful betrayal is when family or friends or even employers seemingly side with your batterer. For your own well-being, you may need to succumb to the isolation if your loved ones in particular continue to empower your batterer while devaluing you. When we stop allowing people to re-harm us by removing ourselves from the equation, we have our answer. We can’t change others, we can only change our response.

4. Just Don’t Do It: As tempting as it may be, do your best not to speak negatively towards or about your batterer while your child’s ears are near. While you may temporarily feel good about such a choice, all it does is hurt your kids. Also, how did you respond when others would bad mouth your batterer when you were in a relationship with him? Most likely you defended him. Your kids will probably do the same. Instead, use the conflict you encounter with your batterer as a teaching opportunity for your kids. Teach them about healthy boundaries and the importance of mutual respect in relationships. Teach them love and that even tough love is still love.

5. Re-Evaluate Your Safety Plan. As a battered mom attempting to co-parent with her estranged batterer, you may need to occasionally re-evaluate your safety plan to continually build and maintain a new healthy home environment for you and your kids.

After writing this post, I discovered this clip by author Lundy Bancroft with tips on co-parenting with a batterer.

In conclusion, should you be a loved one affiliated with a victim of domestic violence, we applaud your efforts as you continue to educate yourself on the matters of such crimes. Should you be a person of influence, we implore you to speak out against domestic violence and seek alternatives to help prevent further victimization through domestic violence custody cases. If you are a battered parent, who either does not have custody of your kids or is learning to maneuver the maze of co-parenting with a batterer, know that you are not alone and we believe in you!

Myth #8: The Abuse Must Not Have Been That Bad Or She Would Not Have Returned To Him.

revolvingdoor2 FACT: On average, a victim of abuse will return to her batterer seven to nine times before permanently terminating the relationship.

For those oppressed in domestic violence,

leaving is a process not an event.

When a victim breaks it off with her batterer, she may be trying to decipher if she really can live without him and thrive on her own or not. As mentioned in Myth#7, leaving is an incredibly dangerous time for a victim. It may be in fact safer for her to return to her batterer. The old adage “Keep your friends close and enemies even closer” may prove true for some domestic violence victims. leavingisaprocess Remember, domestic violence is patterns of behavior designed to exert and maintain power and control. A huge factor as to why victims return to their batterers is due to what’s commonly known amongst advocates as “the honeymoon phase” in the deceptive cycle of domestic violence. After the explosion or abusive incident occurs, the couple enters “the honeymoon phase”, where the batterer apologizes, promises change, possibly gets help, etc. A batterer may claim he is a changed man or promise to change, promise to go to counseling, and it will never happen again. Meanwhile, the victim forgives and feels hopeful of change. Life is seemingly good again. cycleofviolence4 You need to understand batterers are not always monsters, which makes it so confusing for the victim. Rather, they may be good providers, hard workers, and most definitely fantastic manipulators. They may even be sincere in their promises of change after the explosion. But more often than not, their promises for change, if it ever was sincere, wears off and the couple enters what’s known as “the tension building phase“. Over a period of time, the victim will eventually notice distinct patterns in their relationship that will signal an explosive moment is in the works. We call this “the tension building phase. Sometime thereafter, another explosion occurs. The victim may once again attempt to terminate the relationship only to be lured back in with grandiose promises of change and vain hope. Cycles of abuse can take place over years, months, weeks, days, or even hours. Couples will often progress through the cycle faster and faster with each episode.

Emotional and verbal abuse are common precursors to physical abuse.

Furthermore, with each cycle, the abuse often worsens and is possibly enhanced with more impacting life events, such as pregnancy or birth of their child. Women who are married to their batterer, have children with him, are pregnant, or have other substantial ties to their batterer have an especially difficult time breaking free from the cyclic patterns of domestic violence. Furthermore, women of faith wrestle with complicated emotions of guilt and shame as more often than not congregants fail to support her and her children’s overall well-being. Rather, some may encourage her to demonstrate grace to her abusive husband while minimizing and enabling the sin of abuse. To further complicate matters for some women of faith, their husbands are not only batterers but even clergy! The same could be said for women married to law enforcement, attorneys, judges, etc. It is less likely a victim will be believed and get assistance from others if the batterer holds an authoritative title. Subsequently, the cycle continues.


Additionally, you will see in the diagram pictured above, that denial propels the cycle. Sadly, there is little to nothing loved ones can do to help victims escape the toxic relationship if she continues to live in denial. The best thing loved ones can do is to educate themselves on domestic violence so that they will be able to assist when she is finally ready to acknowledge the truth of the relationship. One tool that a victim could use to help her identify these patterns in her relationship is to document behavior (i.e. fights, promises of change, good times, etc.) on a private calendar such as on her phone or in a journal.  With such creative and secretive tools, the victim may finally begin to discern and accept the reality of the relationship and seek help. In some ways though, the cycle of abuse becomes like an addiction. A difficult cyclic addition to break; subsequently, it is not uncommon for the victim to experience seven to nine relapses, if you will, before finally moving on to give herself a life free from abuse. It is often easier to embrace a lie than to surrender to the truth.

Myth #7: If It’s THAT Bad, A Victim of Domestic Violence Would Just Leave.


FACT: Contrary to popular belief, a victim of domestic violence cannot usually “just” leave for in doing so it often jeopardizes her safety further as well as her children’s safety.

Many who have never been in an abusive relationship have difficulty understanding why the victim can’t just pack her bags and end it. After all, in normal relationships, where fear is not a factor, one can terminate the relationship without repercussions. However, in a domestic violence relationship, the repercussions are often serious… even deadly.

In fact, studies have shown the most lethal time for a victim of domestic violence is when she does leave.

  • Approximately 75% of women who are murdered by an intimate partner are killed while trying to leave.
  • On average, 3 women are murdered by their partner every day in the United States.
  • Additionally, females are more likely to be killed by a former intimate partner or current partner than any other person.

Besides the valid threat of potentially being murdered, there are numerous other reasons as to why a victim can’t always leave an abusive relationship.

Moreover, typically abusive relationships usually develop over time. In other words, most batterers do not announce they intend to abuse. Some batterers don’t even realize they are batterers. While others have learned somewhere along the way that abuse is acceptable behavior. Regardless, throughout the course of the relationship, much of the victim’s power has been stolen by the batterer.

Domestic violence is about power and control.

If a batterer has used fear to control her through a variety of forms (emotional abuse, verbal abuse, physical abuse, financial abuse, spiritual abuse), then it isn’t difficult to understand that fear is a valid factor as she decides if, how, and when to leave the relationship.
A victim may not leave for any one or a combination of the following valid reasons:

  • Fear of her abuser (Retaliation in whatever shape or form)
  • Financial fears (How will I provide for myself? My Kids?)
  • Fear of losing custody (Sadly, this is a common factor in domestic violence cases. Remember, the batterer is manipulative, cunning, and brutal. Also, many in law enforcement and our judicial system are tragically uneducated in the matters of domestic violence.)
  • Fear of him hurting their kids in her absence (during visitation).
  • Fear of him fulfilling his threats of hurting the kids, her family, or pet if she leaves.
  • Fear of him kidnapping the kids or killing the kids.
  • Fear of him killing her.
  • Fear of him killing himself (as he’s threatened).
  • Fear of finding and affording a place of her own.
  • Fear of living in hiding. Fear of being found.
  • Fear of being misunderstood. Fear of being judged.
  • Fear of losing friends, family, or her religious congregation if she speaks up.
  • Fear of being alone.

Before you unknowingly blame a victim by asking her, “Why don’t you just leave?”, consider asking more appropriate questions like, “Why does he batter?” and “What is being done to hold him accountable for abusing her?”

{ NOTE: If you are being abused, please use wisdom as you decide if, when, and how to exit the relationship. Consider using this tool to help plan for your safe passage. Be safe and smart…Have a plan! DV_Safety_Plan }

Myth #6: He’s “saved” so he must be safe.


What If He’s Found Jesus?
One common mistake those of faith make is falling for the batterer’s plea of “I found Jesus…And because I am now saved, I am instantly safe” or some other form of new found faith. A faith leader should not fall for such classic manipulation nor encourage a victim to reconcile with her abuser now that he has “found Jesus” or is suddenly professing to be more involved in religion, whichever religion that may be.  Although we can respect any new found faith in whomever, it will take the renewing of a batterer’s mind and behavior before the batterer can be in an intimate relationship with his victim again {if ever}.

Batterers need to be held accountable for the sin of abuse. We want to be careful not to enable the sinful behavior of the batterer nor send messages to our congregations and communities that abuse of any sort is permitted or swept under the rug simply because a batterer is suddenly repentant and claims to follow a faith. If a batterer wants to demonstrate change, he could enroll and attend a “Batterers Intervention Course”, which is not the same as “Anger Management”, and whatever law enforcement allows. A batterer needs to reinvent himself and be held accountable over a span of years before true transformation is manifested.

Myth #3 : Abuse only constitutes physical injury.

FACT: In order to maintain power and control, domestic violence, also known as intimate partner violence or domestic abuse, can present itself in a variety of forms, not just physical injury. In an abusive relationship, one partner will use whatever methods he / she needs in order to maintain such power and control rather than sharing a mutually respected relationship. Batterers exhibit patterns of behavior through means such as harassment, put downs, neglect, intimidation, withholding,  force, or manipulation.  Abuse presents itself in many forms, such as sexual, physical, verbal, emotional, financial and even spiritual. Commonly, batterers seek to isolate the victim from family and friends. They may threaten to harm the other partner, other family members, pets, or even themselves should the victim attempt to leave the relationship. Abuse, in whatever form a batterer chooses to manifest, is designed to dominate and control the other partner.

power and control wheel2