Abusive Spouse

Parent Q&A

  • Hello community, 

    Seeking legal advice and recommendations for skilled family law mediator or litigator.

    My husband and I separated in 2017 after my discovery that he had sexually molested my daughter from my first marriage (his stepdaughter) more than 10 years prior. We also have a daughter who is his biological daughter, now a teen. After a failed attempt to try to heal the relationships with not very effective therapeutic treatment, we are going to divorce. I did not alert the authorities because he agreed to go into intensive counseling and the psychologist assessed he was an “opportunistic” offender and not likely to reoffend. Thus far he has steered clear of the criminal justice system, but he never “paid” for his crimes. And, now that we are on the brink of actual divorce, he imagines we should divide our assets equally, and I disagree; I do not think he morally has any right to a share of the home or marital assets when he has destroyed the marriage and our whole family with his actions, causing my daughter irreparable harm. I earn more money than him and recently he expressed a fear of being indigent if I do not share assets with him, and alluded to pursuing what he feels he is legally entitled to: half our house and half of my retirement savings. We are not well to do and have very little to begin with. He doesn’t have a job and has very little money, and has been living rent-free with family members these past few years while I have been paying the mortgage with full custody and care of our daughter. His assertion feels manipulative, predatory, even.

    I do not want to see him in jail because of the impact on our daughter, but after  causing us so much emotional and psychological devastation, his move to take what I see very much as property for our daughters feels repellent.
    What legal solutions do I have? We can involve the criminal justice system, as I could have done from the very beginning—I did not want to see him in jail because of the impact on our daughter, but now that he is expecting financial support from us, his victims, I will do whatever it takes to stop him. Can my daughter bring a civil suit for damages against him and thus prevent him from from preying any further on our family? 
    When you divorce a person who has committed criminal acts, does that person have to be convicted first to have the court find in your favor when it comes to dividing the assets? 
    Thanks for any advice, sharing of similar experiences, or recommendations for mediators or lawyers.

    You need legal advice from a lawyer. I hope you get recommendations for a good lawyer.  

    My friend was in a similar situation and did involve the police. The husband ended up using most of the joint assets (including selling the family home) to fund his high-priced defense attorney. Is there any way to separate the assets first with a legal separation?  Definitely you should talk with an attorney and best of luck.

    I suggest you do some reading before seeking legal counsel or advice. This is based on my own experiences as a victim of Family Court and subsequent academic research. Start with the book Mothers on Trial: the Battle for Children and Custody by Phyllis Chesler, Emerita professor of psychology and women's studies. Explanatory text explains: "Mothers on Trial remains the bible for all women facing a custody battle, as well as the lawyers, psychologists, and others who support them. This landmark book was the first to break the false stereotype about mothers getting preferential treatment over fathers when it comes to custody. In this new edition, Chesler shows that, with few exceptions, the news has only gotten worse: when both the father and the mother want custody, the father usually gets it." I recommend chapter 6 "Children" in the book: See What You Made Me Do: Power, Control, and Domestic Violence (2019) by Jess Hill. You can read this for free using your public library card and the Hoopla app. I recommend the book by Bill Eddy (2011) called Splitting: Protecting Yourself While Divorcing Someone with Narcissistic or Borderline Personality Disorder. Although the titles do not specify sexual abuse, they are the most accessible entries into family court and bibliographies will lead you to your exact situation. I am remaining anonymous here (hopefully?) but I have been embroiled in family court since 2004. My daughter now lives on another continent and I pay a lot of child support - I was a fantastic mother (loads of evidence to back this up, no drug/criminal record, primary emotional and financial supporter) up against a terrible father. I have been in Family Court over and over again - paying lawyers, receiving pro-bono help from individual lawyers and agencies. Good luck. 

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Coming to terms with abusive husband & father - should I be documenting?

March 2008

I'm finally coming to realize I have to do something dramatic about my husband's behavior. He flies into rages in the worst case (slapped my son across the face the other night at dinner, kicked my daughter when she had fallen on the ground as he was about to grab her to give her some punishment last October), just picks away at all of us -- complaining about what we do and how we do it -- in the best case (the best case of bad behavior -- he has good behavior too). Obviously we've talked about this, we've come up with a set of rules. Sometimes he denies and it is a very long conversation, sometimes he agrees. But the end result is that he still does it.

He has a wonderful side too, playing and inventing games with the kids that are really great for them -- and much more. That isn't relevant here as it doesn't erase the problem. The worst cases mentioned above are far and few between, but they are still there.

I don't know if I'll leave him or not, or when. Here's are my questions:

1. If I do leave him, in California are we talking 50/50 custody? Because my kids would clearly be in a worse position (I wouldn't be there to intervene). I wouldn't do that to them.

2. What is the best way to document/keep track of this behavior in case it does come to this and I need to prove that it is a bad idea that my kids be with him unsupervised?

3. I don't believe either kid has either had a bruise from him -- but I have seen red marks after he's slapped them; they go away quickly. What happens if someone sees something on them? Are we equally blamed? Note that if I saw something on them, I would take a photo and give it to the pediatrician or something as documentation. But I haven't seen anything lasting yet. I'm just acknowledging that it could happen -- and in that event, what I would want is that it is used against him, not against us both, and thus putting me in a position of not being able to help the kids.

He refuses counseling, partly because he is not American and he thinks all Americans are soft on discipline. I of course don't think what he's doing is discipline, it is abuse. Even just the verbal remarks.

Need help

I'm cringing reading your post, and am very sorry you even had to write it.

Please call your pediatrician and ask for a confidential interview about how to proceed. They probably need to report anything they personally witness, but you could ask about how to proceed proactively and they could probably council you anonymously. Maybe they could recommend an anger management class, and maybe you could talk to him (in as non-threatening a way as possible) about how it is absolutely non-negotiable that he attend, if he does not want this to go any further toward either divorce or olice/child protective services intervention. Maybe he has no idea how serious his behavior is?? Best of luck to you! anon

PLEASE contact a domestic violence program ASAP. there are so many issues re: documenting abuse, restraining orders, visitation if you decide to leave, possibilities that YOU woudl be charged with 'failure to protect' if your husband hurts your children. it is complicated. you deserve help. it is not your fault. you are not alone! you have choices. used to work with battered women

Please do not stay in this relationship for your kids. If they are not already, soon they will be old enough to decide to stay with you if they need to. I grew up with a Mother who was abused and allowed us to be abused (emotionally more than physically) and I believe that her example haunted me for many years. You have to ask yourself if accepting emotional and possibly physical abuse for yourself and your children is the example you want to provide to your children. It sounds very strange to me that you want advise on documenting abuse that you think will probably occur in the future instead of deciding to leave the abusive situation. If you know you need to document I believe the best choice for you and your children is to LEAVE. take care of yourself

Go on line to bals.org...great website for information. There's ndvh.org, silcom.com. mayoclinic.com/health/domesticviolence. Lastly, safeplaceforhelp.org. can be of help.

Seek a family therapist for yourself and the children, your minister, rabbi, family member or close friend.. Most of all if at any time you or your children aren't or don't feel safe, you must go!!! Don't wait for anything worse to happen. A lasting mark doesn't excuse this either. Physical and verbal abuse are unacceptable. Don't worry about custody right now. Write everything down, get a small tape player and have it somewhere where you could turn it on. Tell someone every time something happens=no matter what it is (This is from a previous Oprah show). Please don't wait for him to hurt you or your children anymore. If you're worried about custody, check these websites, seek free legal counseling (it gives you a documented conversation, etc).

No promises, good behavior on your husband's part excuses his behavior -- not you or your children deserve to be abused, hurt or fearful ever. THis is his problem, not yours or your children. If you have family to stay with or good friends, go.

You can contact me if you need help. But whatever you do, don't stay if you fear for your life or that of your children's. If he won't go for help, nothing will ever change, people don't change unless they want to!

Oprah's website might just have some information from past shows on domestic violence. Check it out. Good luck. km

Contact the Center for Child Protection at Children's Hospital Oakland. 510-428-3742. They will protect your anonymity, ask all the right questions, and give you the best advice possible. anon

I think in order to be able to have full custody if you do leave him, you need to prove that he was abusing the kids/you. You might have to call the police the next time something happens. It will scare him for sure, and you will have a police report. You might need to do that everytime something horrible happens. I wonder if you said to him that going to counselling is the only way you are staying with him if he would go? I'm sorry this is happening to your family. You are right in wanting to find an end to the abuse. Good luck. anon

Hi -

You're playing with fire if it's about the degree to which a mark shows. You're right to plan realistically.

1. Document in writing. Keep a journal by date, time, incident, details, quotes. Start now and go back as far as you can, even if you have to estimate dates. Be as exact as possible. Keep this hidden.

2. Take pictures of holes in walls, god forbid marks on yourself or your kids, etc.

3. Make an escape plan, tell someone trusted and make up a bag with everything you and the kids would need in case you have to run. Stash money too. Keep this hidden at a friend's or off your property. Tell as many trusted friends (nobody he knows!) as you can and keep a network of these people available by phone at least. When I went through a rageaholic, I used his need to seem like a great guy to the outside world and I would call this older male friend every time he started and report loudly into the phone what he was doing and saying, staring at him. I was in touch with my anger and he didn't hit. Or I'd take my child and walk out to the sidewalk. No way to live, but as a stop-gap measure it worked.

4. Get help. If you can't afford a therapist, find a community abused women's group... I think they're free. From there I'm sure you could get other practical help or legal references. Legal help is crucial. Check the bookstore for info on the abuse cycle - educate yourself.

5. Think ahead to how you would survive financially without him. Begin to take whatever steps you need to do that. Hopefully he has wages that could be garnished but even if he could hide wages still do whatever you have to do to become independent. This may mean moving away to live with family, finding child care and getting a job, whatever. Don't have another baby.

I'm sure someone knows whether you would be held responsible if a doctor or teacher saw marks. It's bad that it's happening at all, that you're anticipating it, and I have a feeling not being able to protect your child is just as bad from a social worker's standpoint - even if unfair.

The off and on nature of this is part of the craziness that keeps you off balance - it's not a good thing. Whatever wonderful things he does do not counterbalance the damage to your kids. This will get worse, not better. Count on that. Be strong. Get away as soon as possible. A lot of women have been through this and have changed their lives. You can do it. Good luck. -Don't let them be touched again

There are several things you can do to make sure this is documented (I would do as many as possible as the more reports Child Protective Services gets, the more likely they are to investigate): 1. make an appointment with a therapist and discuss - the therapist is mandated to report; 2. make an appointment with your pediatrician and discuss - the pediatrician is also mandated to report; 3. ask for assistance from someone at the school, preferably a counselor or principal - they are mandated to report. You can also call Child Protective Services yourself with your concerns; they may not reveal their source. If you need to get out because you fear for your children's/your safety, there are shelters and other resources such as A Safe Place (crisis line 536-7233; office 986-8600). They can assist you with identifying resources and getting help. If any of your children is hit and has a mark, you can call the police but know that they make take your children out of the home for safety. Finally, you can also consult with an attorney without charge. Alameda County provides mediation services for family court for child custody and visitation matters at no charge as well. Although my child wasn't abused when I left her alcoholic parent, I was able to get a restriction for supervised visitation through those services so that I didn't have to worry about my child being alone with that parent. Pediatric Nurse

Document the abuse by writing down the date, time, location, witnesses, a description of what your husband did/said, a description of the situation, and a description of the result (red mark, bruise, etc.)

If you could videotape the abuse, that would be even better.

This method works at work, too, if your boss or coworker is harrassing you or asking you to do things that are not legal.

Documentation believer

It sounds like your husband comes from a country where slapping children in the face and kicking them is considered normal behavior. That doesn't make it right and it has to stop.

I would advise you to ask him one more time to come to a counseling appointment with you. The therapist should be sensitive to other cultures as this is a factor. If he won't go, you should go yourself. You should make this appointment immediately. In a worse case scenario, you may need to remove your children and yourself from the home. But see a counselor first so you can make the choice yourself. If you wait and he hurts your children, CPS will take them away from both of you. Make that appointment fast

I typically don't read and/or respond to postings, but I read yours and felt compelled.

I am the product of a household where physical and verbal abuse was the norm. My step-father beat my mother and me for many years. As a result, I spent eight years as an adult in therapy mostly dealing with why my mother DID NOTHING. Despite all the years of therapy, I still battle insecurities. Now that I am a parent, I struggle trying to understand why my mother let it happen. I understand that she was very young at the time. I understand that we had very little money. I understand that she was beaten into submission. I understand that she was afraid. I DO NOT understand why she did nothing. Every morning as I bathe my child, I think of the one time he tried to drown me in the bathtub. While my child is forming wonderful memories, I still envision those awful ones.

Having said that, I ask only one question. What the hell are you waiting for? Michael

Fortunately, there are many resources available to you from contacting a private attorney to seeking support from resources within your county such as child protective services and the police. If you are seeking protection from an abusive man who is hurting your children you will be provided support and guidance. It appears from your note that you may be attempting to reconcile your husbands behavior which is a classic symptom of someone who is being abused. Contacting a resource such as the Battered Women's Hotline may help you work through issues you are having and emotions you are feeling in finally confronting the situation with your husband. Take it one step at a time. Leaving an abusive relationship is very difficult on many levels. Do not feel that you need to have every detail figured out. Your first step is to stop the abusive behavior and to place your family and yourself in a safe place until you know what you want to do. Your family may be able to work this through or not but that will be understood after everyone is safe. As for documenting, keep a diary showing date and time and detail of everything that has occured. If you ask the police or CPS to intervene they have a very specific process for investigating these situations. You may want to seek advice from the local police agency to understand what sort of documentation is necessary. anonymous

Return to abusive relationship? He is showing contrition.

Jan 2006

Hi -
I left a 16-year marriage 4 months ago, and am now thinking of returning. Obviously there were many good things there. But my spouse routinely mistreated me emotionally, and occasionally physically. It encompassed unfriendliness, belittling me, demands for his own way, anger when that didn’t happen, pre- emptive behavior, and two hard slaps. These worsened during the serious stress of the past 3 yrs. So, to anyone who has been in, or seen, something like this: What does it take to develop a healthy marriage out of such a mixed history? Is it possible? What should I look for as I consider reconnecting? How can you judge the depth of a person’s change? Doesn’t there have to be room for forgiveness? On a practical level, I don't know how to hold myself back in phone calls and emails (which we’re having because of shared responsibilities.)

Some detail: Four months after I said I wanted divorce, he is *very* contrite. He has seen our joint therapist alone a dozen times. He has asked me to talk candidly about my feelings. He has acknowledged the abuse, and apologized for it, more than once. I have taken these events to represent deep change, and am tempted to return. I love his energy and creativity. We share history, friends, values, and an intuitive closeness. No kids, but important nurturing relationships with others, who see us as a couple.

But I am prone to wishful thinking/denial, and realize I must be cautious. I’m still angry and mistrustful. Things that concern me: (1) I don't think he's probed much into the genesis, nature or consequences of his abusive behavior to me, but rather, avoids thinking about it (who wouldn't?) (2) he was abusive to his partner before me(3) he does not want to continue seeing the therapist alone but says he'll get benefit if we resume couples counseling (which we've done a few times since the split) (4) he has an unusually strong (assertive/aggressive) personality; and (5) structural challenges in our life are not improved: specifically, I have a satisfying work life, and he feels insecure and without direction.

I have seen the good advice so many of you have given others, hence this email.
sign me, Uncertain

Run, do not walk, away from this relationship.

He is NOT going to change. Maybe superficially, for a little while -- just long enough to suck you back in -- but the habits you have described are deeply ingrained.

Is this the life you want for yourself???

Sure, forgiveness is a beautiful thing ... and I suggest forgiving him from a safe distance. Sara

Hi uncertain,

I must say, if you were my friend - i would be very concerned and upset with you for even considering going back to this fellow.

The things that stand out to me very clearly and i hope more clearly to you are:

He's been this way a LONG time, and in PAST relationships - he hasn't changed and probably will not. He probably knows exactly how much and for how long he has to ''appear'' he's changed in order to get you back. i'm not even saying he's being directly manipulative, he could very well believe his own intentions - but the reality and track record speak for themselves.

the second stark reality - again this is what i'd say to you if we were girls (homies!) - why do you have such low expectations for yourself? if you don't even have kids with this guy, what are the reasons to even continue to be friends with someone who hurt you, emotionally and physically? because you're ''used to him?'' I'm only saying this from experience myself and with other girlfriends - we all prefer mediocre at some point in our lives - but this is your opportunity to strive for something better - TAKE IT AND RUN.

i think 4 months is not a terribly long time to be away from the relationship to make a decision about going back. because you've known him so long you haven't had enough DISTANCE to have 20/20 hindsight yet. you probably still have longings for his company (good or bad, it's company) and miss some of the decent or even good aspects of the relationship.

PLEASE heal yourself first either thru therapy, find a supportive group of friends, go out more, do things - create a new life that has nothing to do with him. then, you're 20/20 hindsight will kick in and see which of the memories/experiences tip the balance.

you're going through a tough time that can be very lonely - but fight for yourself and have confidence that you can make your own way out of it.

my heart goes out to you. you deserve better - we all do

Your title said it all. You did not say, for instance, ''Return to a formerly abusive relationship?'' As the Buddha said, ''When someone reveals themself to you, believe it the first time.''

You have had sixteen years to get to know the inner being of this individual. If he were capable of this deep change, he'd be a different person by now. I have an exercise I sometimes do, borrowed from Steven Covey of the ''7 Habits of Highly Effective People.'' It's called ''Begin with the End in Mind.'' Jump ahead about ten years. Really plant yourself in the future. Really think about where you are, what your life is about. Then look back from that vantage point to today, and think about what you brought you forward to where you want to be in ten years. In ten years time, is this the man you want to be with? Is this the life you want to be living? Has your relationship gone from abusive to supportive, loving, fulfilling, safe? Are you enriched and living your best life? You've done so much of the hard work these past four months, and I hope you can sustain that. As one of my mentors said to me, ''We're only here for a weekend.'' Life is short, live it well.

Here's to a healthy life-affirming choice

First off take a look at the heading of your post, why would you ever want to return to a relationship you know in your heart is abusive? You have made it out! Don't go back!

Okay, okay, I know. Im in one of those relationships too. I don't know how an intelligent confident woman like myself ended up there, and what's even more baffling is why I stay. As you point out, there is love and good times (and for us children). I also know the connection to being part of a couple is hard to give up.

As a therapist said to me the only thing that will change my husband is the fear of my departure. Sadly this works only as long as I'm gone. Having left on 2 occasions and come back to a man who has promised to change, I can tell you things have improved a little bit (no more physical abuse) but for all intents and purposes, my husband remains the same. Consequently I live with the constant fear that I'll do something wrong which will lead to the insults and the screaming I supposedly deserve.

I this sounds familiar then you have to ask yourself if this is that anyway to spend the rest of your life, even in exchange for the intuitive connection?

From the information you have given there is no way to tell whether your partner will change, but there's a lot of evidence to the contrary, especially in consideration that he was this way in a previous relationship.

Move on. You deserve better and it's out there. wishing I were strong enough to leave

Your husband fits the pattern of the abuser so well! I want to warn you not to return to him unless he enters an anger management program and stays in it for a good 6 months.

One thing that concerned me in your post was, naturally, that he actually slapped you. Do you know that you could have filed a police report for that? A good D.A. would have required anger management classes. The fact that he won't go to therapy without you sounds like controlling behavior typical of someone who cannot control himself. Bottom line is that HE has the problem, NOT you, unless you make it your problem.

If he won't go for help, then I hope that you will, because you deserve to be treated with kindness, respect and love and you deserve to live without fear of physical abuse and the ability to reject emotional abuse. Do it for yourself. anon

Unless BOTH of you go through some kind of transformational change in your personalities or your lives, I honestly do not think the dynamics of your relationship will change in the long run (they might in the short run, while he is contrite, but it won't last). I say this based on my sister's experience. She was in an emotionally abusive relationship for 8 years. She finally left, then they tried again, and she left again.

Thankfully they didn't have children. The thing is, they are still very close in many ways. She considers him one of her best friends, she often asks for his advice on life decisions, and they email and talk on a regular basis. Yet, over the 20 years that she has known him, there are still moments when their old abusive dynamics emerge unexpectedly, either in an email exchange or phone call. Something that she says or does triggers him; or something that he says or does triggers her, and it's as if nothing ever changed.

He is now happily married to someone else, without the emotional abuse that appeared in his relationship with my sister (as far as my sister can tell). There is just something about the chemistry between the two of them that prevented them from having a healthy romantic relationship. cclocke

I have to say your post disturbed me greatly. I was in an abusive relationship in high school. I wasn't even married to the guy, but he was still able to slowly wear down my self esteem, isolate me from friends and family, emotionally destroy me...long before he started hitting. And, once he started hitting, it got worse. I thank God or the Godess or whatever for giving me the strength to get out of it.

I also volunteered in battered women's shelters for a long time. I thought I had escaped. I thought I had overcome it. But then, 10 years later, I had an encounter with a guy who started freaking out on me and all the abuse stuff came back. I finally decided to go to therapy about it. Not realizing it, I had developed some very bad behaviors (promiscuity, drinking, etc) as well as being unable to form romatic relationships with people without drama.

Finally, after years of seriously working on myself, I learned about codependency and I broke the cycle and ended up married to a wonderful person.

My gut reaction to you is DO NOT GO BACK. Sounds like the abuse has only begun for you. Like your husband, my high school boyfriend was very contrite whenever we broke up and for the last breakup, he was ''destroyed'' and weeped all over the place. DO NOT LET THIS GO ON ANY FURTHER. At the very least, get some therapy and do not stop until you feel fixed!!!

The sad thing about abusive relationships, is, from my experience, they tend to all follow a very exact pattern. When you're in the situation, you think it's unique. The abuser will apologize, promise to change but every time you go back, they get to dig deeper and deeper. If you have children, you must not allow them to grow up in this environment or they too will suffer this.

Please do not go back. For your sake, your kids, and, your husbands. Becuase he needs help too. anon

I feel for you because I was in your shoes several years ago. Please tread VERY slowly...this is a period for him to come to terms with the issues and to develop tools to help him manage his anger and the way he treats you. It's great that he's acknowledged and apologized for his behavior but that in itself does NOT mean that he's a changed person. My ex-husband acknowledged and apologized for his abuse for the 7 years prior to my leaving the relationship. But his behavior didn't change (it got worse) and he didn't take the steps necessary to try to change, i.e., attend individual therapy sessions to address/resolve the underlying causes before we could continue our couples therapy. Obviously I don't know you nor your husband, but he sounds like he's in denial that he has a problem because he doesn't want to continue with his individual therapy but instead wants to go back into couples therapy with you. Please don't compromise on this particular issue. It's the core issue that will lead to true change. The problem is that it's going to require him to open the baggage that he's been carrying around and it's often a painful, overwhelming process. Please don't put your own safety and relationship needs below his needs. He may still be trying to get his way in this instance. You have more control now than you did when you were in the relationship. Don't relinquish this control until you see concrete changes in him. That means going through individual therapy, learning to control his anger, learning different relationship approaches and then actually seeing him handle situations that have historically triggered abusive behavior in a non-abusive manner. Follow your intuition - until you feel 250% confident that real change has occurred in him, please don't go back. If you do, you run the risk of dealing with his anger that you left when you return. Also, recognize that it may take several months or years to reach this point. You deserve to be treated with respect, to be valued and to be appreciated. Until you start receiving this on a consistent basis (and again you see a change in his reaction to things that used to trigger a response), don't go back. Been there

Having worked with victims of domestic violence for several years, I would like to share what I have learned and offer some advice. First of all, congratulations on having had the courage to see that your husband's behavior is abusive and be able to leave him after 16 years of marriage.

From my experience, it is very difficult for men who abuse their partners to change. I am not saying it can't be done. But the only ones who I saw that were able to change were the ones who fully took responsibility for their anger and how they dealt with it. They recognized that they did not lose their temper because they were drunk, provoked, stressed out, etc., but because they had learned to treat their partner this way and had somehow internalized that this behavior was okay. Unlearning this and relearning respectful and nonviolent communicating is no easy task.

I believe that a good therapist would identify the domestic violence in the relationship and insist that your husband seek counseling that is specific to his abusive behavior- i.e., anger management classes and/or a therapist who specializes in men who abuse. I would advise you to see a therapist who also specializes in working with abused women. My experience and research shows that couples therapy is inappropriate in most DV cases. Couples therapy focuses on each partner's role in the conflict. However, my belief is that a person who hits has to be totally resposible for the hitting. I am not saying you do not have work to do in this regard, but how your husband chooses to express himself is not a couples issue, it is his issue and only he can change this.

So, my advice is to wait! Give it time to see if he really changes. 4 months is too soon IMHO to determine if he can learn non-abusive ways of communicating and behaving towards you. Since he abused his previous partner, he has been doing this a long time and it will likely take a long time for him to change. Despite what may be his good intentions, please do not go back until you have seen more proof that he wants to stop hurting you and is doing everything in his power to control his behavior. Leaving is so hard and you have already done it. anon

No, you should not go back to this abusive relationship! I am one of the women in an unhappy marriage that is on the verge of ending because of cheating (his, repeated). My h and I have been through this cycle more than once, I'm embarrassed to say. Four months is not that long- not long enough to bring about lasting change in someone. The last time I separated from my h, it was for a year and he was contrite the whole time. It took about another six months to faintly begin the old behavior, and then in about another year it was right back to where we had been. The rebuilt trust and pain that I went through were entirely wasted.

I strongly urge you to not go to a therapist or marriage counselor on this topic. Why ? Because IMHO they are very susceptible to socially skilled abusers claiming they are sorry, offering up their humble wishes to change, and then not changing. As far as I can tell a marriage counselor is not interested in declaring a relationship unworkable but in claiming that it can be fixed if you are forgiving. However, one cycle of forgiveness is enough- possibly more than enough.

If you are lucky enough to be out of this relationship, please take further steps to stop wasting your precious time. Anon.

Your email made me feel so sad, and I hope you will listen to the advice everyone here gives you because I imagine nearly everyone will tell you the same thing. Your ex will never, ever change. He is an abusive man. If you return, you will be in the same position you were in before, or worse. You so clearly demonstrate the signs of an abused spouse that it may be hard for you to realize how bad things are. You deserve better. There are other creative, artistic people out there who are KIND and RESPECTFUL and NOT ABUSIVE. I strongly urge you to get counseling and stay away from this man...do whatever it takes, but live the rest of your life without him. You will be happier and healthier. It may not seem like it now, but with work, you will be. Don't Do It

I grew up in a family where there was abuse, worked with it as a psychotherapist, taught CA Probation Officer classes on it , and have been successful in helping people end abuse. I suggest:

1. Being contrite is one part of the ''abusive cycle.'' It likely will not last.

2. Before re-entering an abusive relationship, insist on different (respectful, not clingy) behavior OVER TIME.

3. A few sessions with a therapist are not enough to end such an ingrained, deeply-rooted pattern.

4. It takes two people to be in an abusive relationship. You need to understand your part, get stronger. Get new tools and behaviors yourself. Focus on your own learning.

5. Insist that your partner go to a program, like the MANKIND program (Marin Abused Women's Services--it is one of the best anywhere). Do not reconcile until after at least 6 months of participation.

6. The real issue in abusive relationships is co-dependence. Learn about it. Change your own patterns of co-dependency.

7. People who abuse operate like an alcoholic--lots of promises/good intentions, especially when there is something s/he believes s/he needs (like you), but once returned to the comfort of the relationship, a quick return to old habits.

8. Your point of power in getting things to change is to become the ''carrot,'' obtainable once specific changes are made by your partner (for example, speaking to you with respect in every situation for 6 months, getting a good job and becoming more established, etc.)

9. Get my book ''Bouncing Back After Energy Sapping'' to help you understand this pattern. It's downloadable and inexpensive.

10. DO NOT return until you have experienced the person you want to live with for AT LEAST 6 months, while BOTH people make big internal changes.

11. Frequently, someone in your position is unable to view the ''whole picture.'' Don't ''give in'' regarding what you really want. Don't think I'm ''overblowing'' the problem. I promise you, by following this advice, you can end the pattern. It IS possible for people to end abusive behaviors and their willingness to live within an abusive relationship, with lots of work, careful guidance and major changes inside both people. Ilene D

my advice? cut him loose and move on. anon

Hello, All my instincts tell me you should NOT return to this relationship, at least not this early! Four months isn't much for a lifetime of behavior. The fact that he is not interested in continuing his therapy independently, sounds like he is not really willing to work on himself. In couples therapy, he may have the opportunity to try to manipulate things and make it sound like you are at fault for his behavior. I'm not saying that you shouldn't seek couple's therapy. But co-dependent relationships exist because each person has developed an unhealthy view of relationships. If both of you don't break from your bad habits, then couple's therapy won't get either of you very far. At the very least, give it some more time, give yourself more time and allow yourself to find out why you are willing to put up with some of his behavior through your own therapy. I don't doubt that there have been very wonderful things in your relationship. But the point is, there have been enough difficult things that you felt compelled to leave. Trust this instinct. Anon

This is a response to 'uncertain': Well, of course, he is very contrite. He wants you back so he doesn't have to feel bad that you left, and so he can continue his abusive ways. I don't know you but just knowing about domestic violence statistics and patterns, my vote would be 'don't go back'. I am wondering why you would even consider it. You were strong enough to get yourself out of there! Good for you! Stay strong!

You had a lot of questions about whether or not an abuser can really change; what role does forgiveness play, etc. You might want to contact 'Stand!' and talk to a counselor. You can call them and talk to someone for free. Here is their info: http://www.standagainstdv.org/ 1-888-215-5555

My prayers are with you and I wish you the best outcome. Anonymous

Abusive relationships have been studied, and there is a very predictable cycle at work here. First is the honeymoon period, the ''good times'' you were talking about. This period is no less dangerous than the other parts of the cycle, because it's what lulls you into thinking that maybe you'll be safe now, that maybe he's ''changed''. You may receive flowers, promises, etc. It is NOT real - it's part of the cycle. The next phase is the tension-building period, when you are walking on eggshells. Maybe you feel like you have to be perfect all the time to avoid a blowup from him, but deep down you know it's not you - it's that he is a ticking bomb. The third phase is the actual incident - the slap, the violence. He does something so horrible to you that you want to leave him forever. But then the honeymoon phase comes back again, and you start thinking that maybe he's changed. He hasn't. He's actually just continuing his behavior, and the honeymoon phase is part of it. Some women experience this cycle so frequently that when they get to phase 2, they may even try to provoke phase 3, just to get it over with and get back to the honeymoon. The problem is, every time you go through the cycle, two things happen. 1) The acts of violence get more and more violent. 2) The acts of violence start happening more and more frequently. Obviously, this information leads to one conclusion: Stay out of this relationship, and don't look back. Please find a qualified therapist to help you with this. Have a plan for what you can do if you get into an emotional crisis and start feeling like you should go back. If you have children, all the more reason to leave. Even if he does not hit them, they are certainly wounded by watching him hurt you, their mother, and you have no guarantee that his violence will not turn their way at some point. Think about staying out of the relationship for their sakes if not for your own. Concerned

Although all the advice you were given is good, having survived two violently abusive relationships, I just wanted to put my two-cents in: don't go back, don't give in, and don't ever believe you have to settle for anything less than respectful, loving treatment from anyone ever again. It's not your job or responsibility to seek therapy to salvage an abusive relationship, even though you may need it for your own issues, it is HIS problem now. Let it be his. Why put yourself at risk for emotional, verbal or physical abuse ever again? You get to choose who you spend your time/life with. Choose wisely, and don't expend one more minute of energy on ANYONE who does not treat you as you deserve. No matter who you are or what baggage you carry, you deserve better than that. And please don't think you wasted 16 years. You didn't: you learned a lot in those 16 years, and you can spend the next 16 plus years applying what you've learned in a positive way.

Please allow yourself a happy life.

-- been there, done that, ain't going back Anon

Husband is shoving me and threatening violence

Jan 2003

I am in a verbally abusive marriage that has gotten out of control since our son was born 3 months ago. My husband is irrational and threatening and has started to shove me and while Im sure he didn't mean it, in a recent fit of anger he actually threatened to kill me and the baby. Anything I say or do to defend myself is ultimately turned around and used against me.

The only solution I can see is for me to leave, since there is no way he'll ever go. I have family in Southern California and Colorado that can provide me and my child with a place to stay until things can get sorted out. I'd leave now but Im afraid that if I just go somehow Ill be accused of kidnapping.

Can anyone tell me how far, how long and under what circumstances I can legally take my child without my husband's permission, OR how I can make him go.

Seperately if anyone can recommend an AGRESSIVE but honest divorce attorney I'd be grateful (I have reviewed the digest list of divorce attorneys). Not gonna take it anymore

GET OUT RIGHT NOW!!! I know it's easier said than done, but it is clear your husband has some serious issues. Contact the nearest women's shelter (I only know the one near my home in Newark)and find out what they can do to help you out. I don't recommend going to a relative's house, only because he'll know to look for you there. Generally, abusers enjoy seeking their ''prey'' at any cost. You need time to settle in and seek legal help and not worry about him finding you.

Please get out for the sake of your child. There have been too many cases in which the spouse stayed because of fear or uncertainty. Let me tell you, there is light at the end of the tunnel-Run as fast as you can! Concerned Mother

I was in a similar situation a few months back (though I ended up not leaving and going to counceling instead). My husband was making similar threats. I talked to a lawyer and he said that as long as my husband knew where I and the baby were, he couldn't accuse me of kidnapping. My leaving could, however, look bad and he might be able to use it against me in court.

What I would recommend is that you talk to a lawyer and make a plan for leaving. YOu may want to talk to a lawyer both here and in the area where you are planning to go. anon

You are NOT alone! Here are two resources for you:

  • A Safe Place (domestic violence hotline) 510-536-7233
  • Family Violence Law Center (crisis #) 510-540-5354

--If you don't feel safe, please trust your instincts. These numbers have people who can talk to you about all of your options. It's OK to call even if you aren't sure about what has been happening to you or what to do. Good luck--My thoughts are with you! Rebecca

Keep a detailed journal of everything your husband says and does to you. It is hard to remember everything (You can share this with your lawyer). Take all threats very seriously. Get a restraining order and move to S. CA. with your family. Good luck to you. Stay strong. I am glad you are getting out. Markel

Most people are not purely evil, though behavior most certainly can be. Yelling, threatening, shoving all come under the heading of evil behavior.

Getting yourself and your baby out of the way sounds like a smart short-term solution. However, someone who is hurting so badly that he does these terrible things to other people might continue harming himself and others, even when you are out of the way. It sounds to me like getting an ''aggressive'' divorce lawyer is your way of trying to get even with him. (''My lawyer is bigger than your lawyer'' which is another way of saying might is right.)

From what I've seen, this will merely set the stage for years and years of bitter battles over child support. It would seem to me that your better long-term bet would be to an civilized parting (if part you must). Obviously, that can only happen once he has been ''civilized''. And that's where I would start.

This is what I would do in your situation: If he gets abusive again, dial 911. Once he is no longer a physical threat, find a way to get him some treatment so that he can deal with whatever is turning him into this monster. Remember that your child can only ever have one dad, no matter how whacked out he may be.

If you are loath to call the cops, try a rape crisis hotline or battered women hotline. DON'T put up with it any more! Anon

When you leave, which I hope will be soon, IMMEDIATELY go to the county courts for an ex parte, in other words known as a restraining order. Don't let the legal red tape prolong your stay, you can always get legal advice AFTER you are PHYSICALLY safe. My thoughts and prayers are with you. You've taken a huge step in looking out for you and your child! More power to you!!! Good luck!

Boy..do I feel for you and your little boy. Your best bet is to quietly consult a good, aggressive attorney who will get you a restraining order from your husband at once and can maybe see about bringing your husband up on domestic battery charges. It's best not to try to leave without that piece of paper, otherwise you will be accused of kidnapping. What you don't say is whether you believe your husband will act out on his threats, but you may have good reason to fear for your and your son's safety. If so, you don't want to be where your husband can find you. Good luck. anonymous

I am so sorry that you're going through this. There is NO question as to whether you should leave--you MUST put your son first and leave IMMEDIATELY. It sounds like this situation has been escalating and I'm very scared for you and your son that your husband might follow through on his threats. After you leave, call law enforcement and report all of these incidents. When law enforcement offers you a restraining order, ACCEPT it as it is a means to further protect you and your son. If you can't find a place to stay immediately, call a domestic violence program (in the phone book) and get yourself and your son into a shelter. A concerned friend

By leaving you are protecting yourself and your child. I used to work at a domestic violence shelter and I've never heard of anyone being sued for kidnapping in this type of situation. But then again, that wasn't in California. There is a shelter in Oakland that you could call and I know they would be able to answer any legal or other questions you have. Their phone number is 986-8600 and the hours are M-F 9am-5pm. There is also a 24 hotline 794-6055. I'm not sure what shelter it's for, but it's not for the Oakland one. I really want to encourage you to do whatever it takes to make sure you and your child are safe. Don't give him the chance to follow through with his threats. Sarah

First of all, I have to say you are very smart & brave to be taking this step to leave. I have worked in the domestic violence field for several year & have a few suggestions.

In terms of getting hubby out of the house, you could get a restraining order. It does not matter that he has not physically abused you- he has threatened to kill you & is vebally abusive, & that is enough. Think about whether it will cause him to escalate, though.

As far as you leaving, since you both have custody, you can both take the baby. (Scary thought since he could take the baby, too.) If you do leave, make sure you aren't leaving a trail- that means not using credit cards, ATMs, cell phones- anything that will have a bill that will show your location. Abusive partners tend to want to 'track down' the person they were hurting.

I would suggest calling a domestic violence program to get more info on leaving (you need a safety plan), divorce, etc. If you decide you want to stay & try to work it out they also have resources on counseling for him. DO NOT agree to couples counseling- that can just turn into a forum for your husband to get more fodder to verbally/emotionally hurt you. There are also free support groups & counseling you can access even if you stay.

Best of luck & feel free to e-mail me if you would like. Virginia

My advice: Be careful who you hire as an attorney. I hired a male attorney who has been recommended on the website, who did a horrible job in advising me and representing me. Make sure you feel in your interview that this is someone who is interested in helping you on custody issues, or otherwise, go elsewhere. And yes: you should leave a relationship that is abusive! Seek legal counsel and emotional counseling if you can afford it. Take good care of yourself and your baby too. Anon.

Not gonna take it anymore? Good! As soon as I read your post I read it to my husband who in turn called his mother who is a Psychiatric Social Work (MSW) who has helped many a battered woman. She has worked for the Long Beach Women's Shelter in the past. She said that everything you described is a classic pattern of abusive behavior, and that women are in the most danger when they're pregnant, just had a baby or are getting ready to leave the relationship (if he suspects she's about to leave). If you don't leave, my M-I-L says that the abuse WILL escalate. She added that statistically close to half of all murders are committed by men beating the women they say they love.

As far as taking your baby and leaving goes, my M-I-L says that the legally best way to do things is to go to a women's shelter first. It doesn't sound inviting or like any experience any woman is longing to have (but then again who ever wants to be abused?), but they will believe you, will protect you and your baby and will advocate for you. They will help you get a court order keeping your husband away from you and the baby. My M-I-L also said that it will be too easy for your husband to track you down through family if you just go straight to family, and that doing it that way, it is possible that you could be charged with kidnapping because there is no documented legal reason for you to be keeping your child from his father.

It's obviously harder to go the shelter route because you then have to out your husband as an abuser. But, it seems to me to be the more permanent way to end things, that simply going to stay with family isn't enough. My M-I-L is certain that his occasional shoves will turn into hitting, beating...

You have a precious little baby to protect now. And especially since he's a boy, you do not want him around an abusive man only to grow up being abused and then to become an abuser himself. Please, stand by your words and DO NOT TAKE IT ANYMORE. No one deserves even the slightest bit of abuse!

God be with you, Jennifer

If your husband/father is truly abusive, you can leave the area without risking a childnapping allegation if you file a ''good cause declaration'' with the District Attorney's Office in your county -- the Child Abduction Unit. This will allow you to travel to your support network and take a little time before filing an action, which you must do eventually. Call the DA's office. An Attorney

I don't have an attorney to recommend, but I was concerned about your situation and wanted to encourage you to do what you are considering. I strongly recommend you figure out a safe hiding place to keep a notebook and start documenting (dates, times, people present, quotes) the abusive things your husband does. This takes a lot of discipline, it's easy to think you will remember these awful events, but it's amazing the details you can forget. Also, reviewing it later will help clarify your thinking about what happened and why it was vitally important for you to leave. Also, it's possible it will be handy if you have to build a case of abuse. Good luck, and let us know how you are doing. Louise

You must make plans for leaving. I have some suggestions based on my sister's experience. She was in a similar situation, with a husband whose went from belittling, to threatening and paranoid. He threatened to kill her and the child during a wild drive, and she escaped at the filling station with nothing but her 18 month old in her arms. She went to a women's shelter, and eventually hired an attorney. She and child are now fine, that's the good news. Her crazy husband still got 50% custody, that's the bad news. (Remember, OJ got custody!)

Here are some of the things she'd wished she'd been able to plan ahead for, once she realized how unstable her husband was. One: document every weird thing he says and does. Write it down in a notebook which you keep hidden. Every now and then, take the notebook to a copy place and give copies to a friend to keep. Two: Tell a friend or relative what's happening, and every time something scary or weird happens. Don't be ashamed and try to keep a secret. Others need to know so they can help you and they can testify. Three: Make a copy of all your legal documents - your driver's license, credit cards, birth certificates for you and child, bank statements, everything. If you have to leave in a hurry, you may not be able to even grab your purse. Make sure a copy of all these documents is somewhere safe (wish a friend, relative). Three: Watch your bank statements. Is money disappearing - he may be trying to keep assets from you. Four: Do not hesitate to leave, and/or call 911 if things get scary again. Your safety and your child's safety comes first. You are not ''kidnapping'' the child if you go to a shelter. Have the phone number and address of A Safe Place on you at all times (536-7233) Call if you're worried or scared. Five: Be aware that even if you leave, you probably won't be able to make him go away. But you can fight for yourselve and your child with the help of your friends, family, documents, and a good attorney.

You need to get out of this marriage. You and your child deserve to be safe. =Bless You=

Call Domestic Violence for information and advice on how to leave and be safe with your baby. I couldn't find the phone number, but am sure that the crisis hotline at 510 849-2212 (24 hours) can give you the number. Anon.

Yes, you can leave. I did not, until the children were 5 and 3. I only wish I had left earlier. Whatever you do, do not leave without the child. There is a terrible danger of losing custody to violent men. You say you are afraid that you will be accused of kidnapping. Has your husband threatened this? It is possible for a violent man to use the courts as a method of abuse. Custody cases can be brought as a means of abuse to a woman. ''What's the best way to hurt a woman? Take her child away...'' - that's a quote from my ex. As soon as you're somewhere safe, get legal advice. Be careful, get out now. Abuse can really escalate. Trust your instinct. Good luck, Been there, scarred but surviving, Anonymous

Here is the national 24-hour hotline with information on resources in our area she can call: National Domestic Violence Hotline (800) 799-SAFE (7233). And here's the url for a pdf (Adobe) file from UCB that has a full listing of local domestic-violence resources: http://www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/publichealth/domesticviolence/dvocres2.pdf Alexa