DVSur5r’s 5 Marks of the Successful Justice Advocate

Advocacy is hard work, and no true advocate goes into this field “for the money.”  It is a heartbreaking, nerve-wracking, insomnia-inducing career choice.  On the plus side, it is truly fulfilling, and regularly comes with very grateful clients.  But I have yet to see the dyed-in-the-wool advocate who is paid what they are truly worth.

The work that we do is also life-saving, but it is NOT our jobs to save lives.  Why is that distinction important?  There will be losses–very heavy casualties–along the way: hundreds and thousands of mothers who lose custody, and their children who are shipped off to abusive parents because of indifferent and incompetent guardians-ad-litem, social workers, and courts.*  Worst of all, the domestic violence-related homicides; when you work with a family whose perpetrator chooses death for them, it is an unimaginable horror (I have suffered through six homicides of victims with which I worked).  But as an advocate, it is not up to us to “save” victims of domestic abuse.  Indeed, we cannot–that task is for our clients alone.

How then, do we as advocates define “success”?  This is how I know that my work is done well:

  • Clients are heard, and feel validated: “Take your time; I’m listening.  I care.  This is not your fault.”  No one wants to be a victim, and victims should not have to navigate suspicion or disbelief in seeking help. Therefore, clients deserve plenty of time to share their story, and have their disclosures reflected back in a manner that allows them to know: 1) “You are not alone,” 2) “You are not at fault,” and 3) “Thank you for your courage in seeking help; I hope I can meet your need.”
  • Clients feel safer: “Safety is a PROCESS, not an event.” We need to prioritize the client’s safety needs, safety plan accordingly, and continue to do so on a regular and ongoing basis.  We know that safety today may not mean safety tomorrow, because abusers change their tactics to sabotage a victim’s plans.  We think of contingencies, and always have a “Plan Z” at the ready.  We should model and communicate boundaries in working together, and check in on them as necessary.
  • Clients feel more informed: “Information is POWER.”  In listening and listing, we assess the client’s knowledge of local programs, and her ability to access them.  We look for resources that will ACTUALLY meet her needs, and share any knowledge we have about how to best utilize those resources.  We stay connected to community resources so our knowledge of them is current, accurate and beneficial.  If there are concerns or limitations about programs or professionals, we communicate that, too; it is not helpful to victims of domestic violence to be given lists of numbers for people or programs that won’t actually help.

We also communicate the reality of the struggles they face; it does not help a victim to underestimate the battle ahead.  We are honest with what we can achieve, and transparent with how we will utilize her disclosures–before we utilize them.

  • Clients feel more supported: “Half the burden, double the joy.”  It is crucial, to break the control that perpetrators have over victims, that victims get connected back to their communities (emotionally healthy and supportive families, friends and acquaintances).  Plot and process with clients how to use school and faith communities, civic and special interest clubs, and even social media to reconnect and make new ties to sources of fellowship and friendship.  Model how to be part of a connected community, and make referrals to local and online support groups to increase their connections to others who understand how to heal from abuse.
  • Help eliminate, and DO NOT ADD, barriers to service access: “Look for a reason to say, ‘YES’.”  I cannot say this enough–there are more barriers keeping a victim in bondage to an abuser than there is help to get her (and her children) out.  It is our job as advocates to come alongside clients and work to eliminate ANY barriers to safety she faces; what’s more, we should not be adding our own barriers (lengthy application processes, overly strict rules, etc.).  We cannot do it all for victims (neither should we try), but if we can plan for personal and program safety, we have available resources (time, money, etc.), and a victim identifies a need “beyond the usual scope,” we should look for a way to “say yes” (I always have, and have never regretted the choice to do so).  Lastly, we should regularly critique our services to see how we can improve accessibility, especially for vulnerable populations.

This is the role of Justice Advocacy–not to save lives (although that is often a happy “side effect”)–but to educate, empower and encourage them.  If you make these your goals when working with victim/ survivors of family violence, you can close the door on your work every day knowing you have done your best, for your clients and yourself.  No amount of money can compensate for the satisfaction of Justice Advocacy done well.

©2018 Kathy Jones, DVSur5r

*NOTE: incompetent professionals are not to be confused with the competent professionals who have received sufficient training on domestic violence dynamics, and understand trauma-informed services, or how perpetrators counter-parent and negatively impact their children’s health and well-being–AND ACT ACCORDINGLY; it is DVSur5r’s opinion that VERY FEW professionals with which victims of domestic violence do business fall into the “competent” category.

The Life That Awaits You retreat, hosted by Lundy Bancroft and Kathy Jones, DVSur5r is SOLD OUT!!

 

 

 

 

 

To put your name on a waiting list, or communicate your interest in future retreats, please click on the link below:

Source: http://myemail.constantcontact.com/March-2018-Retreat-With-Lundy-Bancroft-in-Massachusetts.html?soid=1103565213016&aid=HZ3Turdax0g

Counter-Parenting: Accurately Naming and Blaming “PAS”

In the years of advocacy work I have performed for adult and child victims of domestic violence, I have observed enough parent-child interactions to know this basic truth: it is not a child’s “natural state” to hate a parent.  Even children who are horribly abused yearn to love the abusing parent, and will minimize, deny and overlook all kinds of harms for the remote chance of any show of affection or love from a parent who mistreats them.

A second truth I have observed is this: children instinctively understand that they are a blend of both parents, and to hate one or the other of them is to also hate themselves.  Although children are vulnerable to absorbing messages of self-hatred (for their gender, looks, status, sexuality, gender expression, etc.), “hate-parent-by-proxy” is not a phenomenon that I can identify. Yes, children–teens, tweens, and terrible twos, in particular–are known to have the occasional “I HATE YOU” temper-tantrum, but this temporary angst is not the kind of “hatred” I reference; this post is about the deep-seated, utter rejection of a parent in the wake of unrelenting anger, resentment, fear and hopelessness shoveled upon a child by a perpetrator of domestic violence.

In the past, this parental hate phenomenon was labeled “Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS),” its true nature mischaracterized by a poisonous man whose intentions in doing so were suspicious at best–Dr. Gardner was a divorced man who espoused pedophelia and other paraphelias, and ultimately committed suicide, reportedly by stabbing himself to death.  In the very least, he was an incredibly sick man with ulterior motives; at worst, he engaged in countless acts of vengeful “psychological familicide,” destroying vulnerable child/mother bonds by successfully advocating for their separation (primarily in New Jersey family courts) to feed a god complex.  It is unquestionable that he was an avid ally to perpetrators of domestic violence who wreaked havoc on their adult and child victims.

When children experience both parents as healthy and loving, no amount of manipulation, bad-mouthing or distance executed by one parent will convince those children to hate the other.  As it is a child’s homeostasis to want to love both parents, the mere presence of any child’s antagonism towards or refusal to be in relationship with a parent should automatically cause any third party looking in to “rule out” significant family dysfunction, somewhere.  The issue then becomes, “Where?”

In my experience, this level of hatred results from the tactics of counter-parenting by abusers.  Yes, there have been a few times that I have observed children directing rage and rejection at a parent for untreated/active substance abuse, mental illness, or other toxic issue, but–by far–the most common reason I have seen for children’s desires to permanently separate from a parent is because of the counter-parenting associated with domestic violence.

Polarization is the common thread through the predictable hallmarks of cultivated parental hate (formerly known as PAS, but from this point forward will be called more accurately “counter-parenting”), which include:

  • A set of parents who are engaged in what intervening community professionals routinely identify as “high conflict divorce/custody”; AND
  • Any reports or concerns of domestic violence or child maltreatment surfacing, either as the initiating cause of parental separation, or after; AND
  • Polarized parenting: there is rarely (if ever) any agreement about rules, routines, or parenting decisions, small or large.  “Different parenting styles,” “unable to communicate,” and other code phrases describing the parties’ “inability to co-parent” pepper court orders and professional reports; AND
  • Polarized parent/child relationships, such as:
    • Exhibiting emotions of fear, hatred, or disgust towards one parent, but tightly bonded to or protective of the other; OR
    • Regularly voicing to third parties negative emotions (fear, anxiety, anger, sadness, etc.) over spending time with one parent, but quickly “recovering” in that parent’s presence; OR
    • Reporting concerns about one parent to third parties, only to retract statements if they fear that parent will be told; OR
    • Being blatantly disrespectful (name-calling, physical assault, swearing, etc.; fear-driven behaviors should not be included here) towards one parent, while the other makes no attempt to intervene, or otherwise appears to enjoy or encourage the hurtful behavior.
  • Polarized reports of children’s behaviors “while in my care”: often, perpetrators of domestic violence report ‘perfect’ behavior by the children, while victims report the children being ‘out of control’; AND
  • Polarized professionals: those intervening can’t come to consensus about who is the problem, and why (typically, father is characterized as ‘a nice guy,’ while the mother is described as some version of ‘bitter, violent, lying, lazy, crazy, drunken, drugging, money-grubbing slut’). Any mention of domestic violence by professionals is likely to be minimized or ruled as “irrelevant” to parenting.

Because of the totality of these “symptoms,” plus: 1) family courts’ bias favoring the discredited “Parental Alienation” concept, 2) the lack of domestic violence education (no, four to eight hours IS NOT ENOUGH), and 3) the lack of time or desire to look more than skin-deep into the family dynamics, more often than not family court officers and judges find it all too easy to pin the toxic nature of counter-parenting on the parent who appears to be most resistant to the other parent having time with the children.  Regularly, the “resistant” parent has reported reasonable fear of the other parent’s capacity for co-parenting or parenting, often because of experienced or witnessed physical, sexual or psychological assaults, of the children or personally.  Their concerns for the children’s safety often cause the “resistant parent” to become anxious, depressed, hyper-vigilant and irritable–further alienating family court players.

In this context, it is absurdly easy for the perpetrator of domestic violence to come out as the custody “winner.”  In my observances of 2000+ families impacted by domestic violence, abusers deliberately choose to parent in a manner completely antagonistic to the adult victim’s style, wishes or rules for no other purpose than to maintain their dominance, and exact retaliation through the children. In an abuser’s mind, children are chattel to utilize to their advantage, and they are as disposable as the mother. They eagerly make the children collateral damage, if for no other purpose than to maximize the mother’s pain–contributing to the high correlation between domestic violence and child abuse and neglect. Even if the abuser doesn’t physically harm their children, they neglect their children’s needs, fail to keep promises (except during litigation), lie to the children (especially about the other parent), use the children as spies, deprive the children of their social connections and activities, sabotage the children’s relationships with others–in essence, they put themselves before their children. The protective parent feels she is left with no other choice but to fight for the children’s safety and wellbeing–to the point of physical, emotional and financial devastation.  The perpetrator is willing to expend as much money as necessary to “win” (it is routine for domestic violence perpetrators to claim that they “can’t afford child support,” but somehow they are able to find the funds necessary to get an attorney).  Ironically, the legal system–whose purpose should be to resolve conflict–perpetuates this cycle as there is no incentive to stop, and every financial incentive for attorneys, evaluators, guardians, counselors, mediators, etc., to keep the parties in conflict.

To ask the victim parent to engage in “co-parenting” or “parallel parenting” seriously minimizes the deliberate nature of abusers’ harmful parenting, and ignores the fact that the abuser will willfully take the opposite stance voiced by the victim parent to keep the victim trapped in this no-win cycle.  Sure, he will “express” frustration at the length of time in court, but the only option he will give her to stop the madness is for her to bow to his every demand. To acquiesce keeps the children unsafe or poverty-stricken, so the victim continues to fight (there are a few abusers who are happy to walk away from the kids, if the protective parent will give up the children’s right to his support).

In the meantime, this counter-parenting takes its toll on the children, physically and emotionally (read up about the A.C.E. studies, released in 2011).  Children stuck in this cycle are commonly diagnosed with: anxiety, depression, PTSD, ADD/ADHD, ODD; they are often symptomatic with stomachaches, insomnia, irritability, and a plethora of other issues (see “Children Living Domestic Violence“).  When the pressure of constant conflict becomes too great, children often “split” their loyalty–they embrace the victim parent, and reject the abuser; or they align with the abuser, and mimic his behaviors, attitudes and beliefs of the victim. In either scenario, the children are devastated–even if they are given to the protective parent, they still must cope with the devastation of hating or rejecting half of their “selves.”

But adding insult to injury, in cases of “high conflict” (which is almost always domestic violence), most family courts give abused, neglected and vulnerable children to the very perpetrators that they fear, relegating them to a life of fear, confusion, abuse–and sometimes, even death.

It is time to shed the destructive myth of “Parental Alienation,” and recognize abuser parenting for what it is: another mechanism for continued dominance over and retaliation against the adult victim, called Counter-Parenting.

© 2018 Kathy Jones, DVSur5r

DVSur5r’s Practically Predictable Priorities of Domestic Abusers

Pssst!  I have a secret to share with you.  I don’t know you, but I’ll bet–if you’re reading this website because you are a victim of intimate partner violence–that I know your partner.  I don’t know HIM.  But I know who he is by his priorities, based on 20+ years and 2000+ “opposing parties” in domestic violence work.  I have this same conversation with everyone I help, and to date, I have yet to find the person who says, “Nope.  You’re wrong–you don’t know him at all.”

To be clear, this list does NOT apply to “all men,” just to domestic violence perpetrators (if you’re not one, chill).  So, here goes: if you are being abused, these are likely your abusive partner’s Practically Predictable Priorities:

  1.  He, Himself and Him: his needs, his wants, his desires, his image, his goals, his dreams, his job, his “winning”–his dominating; in short, HIM, HIM, HIM, HIM, HIM.  (If he’s not winning, retaliation, revenge or retribution takes its place.)
  2. His Money: make no mistake, his money is his money, and your money is his money.  Even the children’s money, or your dead parents’ money, is his money.  All of it.  Even if you earn it.  His.  He will spend hundreds of thousands of HIS dollars to ensure that you do not get his tens of thousands in child support or alimony.  It’s important that you believe me on this point, because if he’s “forced” to spend money on legal fees for too long, he will fight for full custody of the children.  Statistically speaking, because he is a perpetrator of domestic violence, he is highly likely to WIN.
  3. His House, His Toys, His Assets: don’t even think of laying claim to the house, apartment, summer shack, RV, camper, tent, snowmobiles, motorcycles–and definitely not the cars.  It matters not that he can’t actually drive two things at once; even if it’s registered in your name, it’s really His.  If you got your great grandma’s pearl necklace–if it has any value he can exploit–it’s his.  If he “allows” you to keep it, he’ll expect you to give back at least half of its dollar value in cash, should you split (no joke–I actually saw a perp who wanted $25 from his victim for half of the value of her sewing machine!).  If you signed over the deed to your house, you’re majorly screwed.  He’s already looking for a way to permanently absorb that asset.
  4. His “Peeps,” or Allies: even if he doesn’t have any actual “friends,” he knows how to build social equity by charming or schmoozing everyone around him (those he can’t charm, he threatens until they go away, so you’re still left with few–if any–friends).  He hates kids; won’t spend time at home with his own, but will coach Little League just for the social equity of proving what a “wonderful, caring father” he is.  Everyone loves him (except the few wise friends who hate him so much, they never see you anymore).  He carefully “manages” everyone’s perceptions of him and you–and he’s fully prepared to sacrifice you and your reputation with a well-placed, “She’s a bitter, violent, lying, lazy, crazy, drunken, drugging, money-grubbing slut.” What is incredibly sad is the way, too many times, that perpetrators “win over” the victim’s friends and family.  I don’t have to tell you this–you already know, because he’s already told you: he has “everyone” in his back pocket.  The good news here?  Abusers only tell about 10% of the truth at any given time, so if you are careful, discerning, you can still find allies he hasn’t poisoned against you (your kids are likely the first, because they have a front-row seat to what a shyster he really is).
  5. IF he likes animals, His Pets: many abusers actually engage in animal abuse, but if yours happens to like animals, they come next on his list.  (You’re likely expected to do the hard work of pet-owning, though–much like you have to with child rearing. You are most definitely in the role of “pooper scooper.”) If he doesn’t like animals, and you have pets when you flee for your life? You better take them with you, because pets have a way of “accidentally” dying or disappearing when abusers want to threaten their families to come back.
  6. His Children: everyone gives me a shocked look on this one, but it is TRUE.  Abusers cannot be bothered to do the “hard work” of parenting: they would rather go to a prostate exam than change a dirty diaper; they don’t know your children’s friends, or favorites; they’ve never seen the inside of the doctor’s office or school room* (*unless they can build social equity)–heck, many don’t even know their children’s ages or birth dates!  (Really!)  The ONLY time they exhibit interest in the children is when they “get something” for it.  Your children are at high risk for neglect or accidental damage when you leave them home alone with him, because HE CAN’T BE BOTHERED.  Please believe me on this, too.
  7. You:  (This really should be all lower case, unitalicized, and unbolded).  You are not his priority, because in his world, everything is “win/lose,” “dominate/submit,” or “master/ servant.” He will never be the loser submissive servant. NEVER. That, by necessity, puts you in that cellar.  He decides all rules, all roles.  And for “everything he gives you,” you get to read his mind and anticipate his every wish.  Yes, he was really wonderful at first–that was him “hooking” you into the relationship, much like pedophiles lure and groom children.  Now he’s got you, he doesn’t need to try.  And you better appreciate it down there at the bottom, because he will retaliate if you don’t.
  8. Your Children: if you have children that aren’t his, they are the scrapings of dog doo on the bottom of his shoes.  Really.  If they’re lucky, they will merely be miserable.  If they’re not, they will be abused and treated as servants, just like you. Having children that are not his is recognized as a risk factor for lethality; be very cautious when entrusting your children to his care.  Note: if children move up an abuser’s priority list, it is imperative that you watch for signs of sexual abuse (see “Other Resources”).

One last word of caution: abusers do NOT have the capacity to love children as people with their own needs, wants, goals, dreams, etc.  An abuser will expect children in the home–even infants (for instance, your abusive partner may demand to be fed before you try to breastfeed your crying infant)–to meet his needs first, and then they (the children) are expected to meet their own. Anyone who actively abuses their children’s primary caretaker, by default, cannot be a “good parent” as that behavior alone demonstrates their incapacity to put their children’s needs before their own.

Your knowledge of this list is important; it may help you to predict his future behavior.  Knowing his priorities–what makes him “tick”–will guide your safety, financial and legal planning, for you and your children.

© 2018 Kathy Jones, DVSur5r

Don’t Wait for Rescue

The Incredibles. Dir. Brad Bird. Pixar Animation Studios, Walt Disney Pictures, 2004. Image.

Don’t wait to be rescued. There are far more barriers keeping you in (abuse, poverty, homelessness, etc.) than there is help to get you out. You will find individuals who care, but in reality, all they can offer is a life ring thrown from the distance, or a life raft in which to jointly pull to shore.

When it comes to domestic violence, there is no ship over the horizon, no institution or program to pull you and your children from the perils of your abuser to give you rest and bring you to safe harbor. Domestic violence programs, expert witnesses, prosecutors, law enforcement, attorneys, custody evaluators, child protection, courts, etc.–these will never be rescue ships. They are only tools, oars to pick up and start rowing for shore. If you make them more than they are, they will surely disappoint, and you will only drown waiting for rescue. There is ONLY YOU, only your children. If you don’t make it, your children will struggle to go on without you, but it will likely not be any quality life.

YOU MUST PERSEVERE TO RESCUE YOURSELF, until rescue is no longer needed (likely, the day your youngest reaches 18). Strap on your life vest–that which compels you to survive–and purpose to reach safety and rest. You can do it. You CAN. If I could, than you can, too. I promise. I promise it won’t be easy; many times, you will want to lay down and die. I promise there will be days that are victories to celebrate–others which are defeats to be mourned. They will only be yours (and your children’s). No one else’s.

YOU MUST FIGHT, you must swim. YOU. Don’t wait for rescue. Give everything you have to reach shore.

© 2017 Kathy Jones, DVSur5r

PLEASE–Do NOT Give Your Power Away!

Who knew that making decisions was dangerous?  I know that if you identify as a victim or survivor of an abusive partner, YOU KNOW.  You know that every decision you make is fraught with emotional landmines–“damned if you do, damned if you don’t.”  Trying to dodge them all is exhausting, I know (from first-hand experience). Making the “wrong” decision puts you, or your children, in danger.  I have worked with many survivors over the years who have asked me to tell them what to do, to make decisions for them. The only honest answer I MUST give is this:
 
1) YOU are the EXPERT on your life–no one else.  Only YOU know ALL of your past and present circumstances. Even if you convey “everything” that has happened to others, we can only understand the NATURE of your victimization, but we cannot truly know everything that has or has not happened.
2) Only YOU (and your children) will live the outcome–good or bad–of decisions that are made. No one else should be comfortable dictating the fortunes of your life. 
3) Anyone who IS comfortable dictating your life is likely NOT a safe person.
4) Your partner has taken your power for far too long; you MUST take your own power back. Please do not offer to give it away to others any more–not even to people you trust!  I truly know it is hard making decisions again, but you must. You will make decisions that improve your situation; you will make ones that you regret. I promise. But the victory comes in your MAKING THEM YOURSELF.
5) It’s not about the decision; it’s about who will take power.  When it comes to making decisions around your counter-parent/former partner, you must know: it will NEVER MATTER what decision you make, because for them it is not about whether you choose a “right” or “wrong” answer.  (THEY WILL almost ALWAYS MAKE IT THE “WRONG” ANSWER–or the only “right” answer is to give into their demands.)  It is about watching you, like a worm on a hook, wriggle in fear, discomfort, dismay, inaction.  Abusive partners/co-parents THRIVE on watching you twist in the wind.  Your agonizing over taking your power is GIVING THEM MORE POWER (and entertainment). 
Make a decision, and document for the courts (or anyone else who makes decisions about your life) why you believed your choice to be the right one.  Make decisions:
  • In your children’s best interests first–and document then who, what, where, when, why and how;
  • In your best interests (document); and then
  • In anyone else’s interests.
It bears repeating: never, Never, NEVER give your power away again. Anyone who would take it is likely to be an abuser.
© 2017 Kathy Jones, DVSur5r

5 Habits of the Successful DVSur5r

You’ve done it!  The road has been long and difficult, and you’re not really sure where you are in your journey, but you have committed to seeking safety from your abusive partner. You may still have lots of conflicted feelings about this, as you may still care deeply for them.  That’s OK.  But you’ve also been beaten down, emotionally or physically, for too long, and you’re ready to make changes.  Here are FIVE things you can do to increase your safety, and separate yourself from destructive partners (or other unhealthy relationships):

1. We educate ourselves and our children.  Learn the Signs to Look for in an Abusive Personality.  Learn language to describe your specific experiences as a survivor (ie–“strangled” instead of “choked”).  Read books that will help you clarify your partner’s behaviors, and will validate your feelings about them.  Teach children the proper names of their body parts, and the difference between GOOD, BAD, and SECRET touch.  Learn the resources and programs that are available to you for help, and learn how to access them.

2. We identify our unhealthy coping skills, and develop better, healthy ones.  Survival takes a huge emotional toll, and along the way we often adopt harmful habits to make our lives bearable.  Using alcohol or drugs to self-medicate against the pain of abuse is very common.  So is starving (or eating) our emotions. Sometimes in leaving a relationship where we had no control, we become hyper-controlling in other areas of our life (OCD-symptomatic, or perfectionist). Some victims learn to be avoidant, deceptive or combative, in the hopes of delaying or allaying their partners’ abuse.  None of this reflects on who the victim IS, only the chaos and horror s/he has lived through.

It becomes critical to building future healthy relationships that we shed those survival functions that kept us alive or helped us avoid our partner’s retaliation.  There is much about self-care out on the internet, focusing on healthy ways to take charge of our wellbeing.  Instead of self-medicating through substances, run or walk your stresses away.  Keep a journal, or use the power of creative arts to order your thoughts.  Engage in forms of martial arts or self defense to foster body control.  Some have success with counseling (be sure that your counselor is domestic violence literate and trauma-informed).

3. We set healthy boundaries.  Our boundary-building skills have been injured, often since our childhood (ever have that relative you were forced to hug or kiss, even though you didn’t want to?).  Not anymore.  We learn to say, “No!” and mean it, without explanation.  We stop apologizing for our existence.  We learn the skills necessary to take agency of our lives back, including decision-making.

Before we engage in relationship again, we have carefully reflected on all kinds of relationship issues, and we know where we stand.  We can define our:

  • “Deal-breakers”: those issues that will end the relationship immediately (examples include physical or sexual assault, or failure to reach agreement on finances);
  • “Negotiables”: those issues on which you have a strong opinion, but you’re willing to negotiate terms; and
  • “Freebies”: those issues that you have no strong opinion on, and are willing to defer to your partner.

4. We connect to community.  Studies show that survivors who connect with their local domestic violence crisis centers have far fewer fatalities than those who don’t.  Connect with yours, as soon as possible.  Remember those family and friends from which your partner isolated you?  Find a way to bring them back into your life.  (Social media can play an important role in that, as long as you take steps to secure your privacy to avoid online confrontations with or stalking from your partner.)  Faith communities and civic clubs (Scouts, sports leagues, etc.) are great places to bring yourself and children for fellowship, food and fun.  Building a caring community around you can help meet the challenges of a one-parent home.

5.  We commit to gaining and maintaining financial stability, separate from any partner.  To be clear, people who abuse their partners, and isolate them from meaningful income, should absolutely have to pay alimony and/or child support.  Sadly, the reality is that–even when court-ordered–they rarely do.  Budget and live your life as if you will never see another dime from your partner; when they do pay, you will have additional funds available for your children.

But more than that, do whatever humanly and ethically possible to get yourself and children to a place of financial stability, and then never surrender it.  If you get into a new relationship, maintain your own assets and bank accounts, and be sure to negotiate “mine, yours and ours.” Be resolved to never again submit your financial future or well-being to the ups-and-downs of another person’s feelings.  The heartache you save will be your own.

Of course, this is not an all-inclusive list.  But it’s a start.  Commit to yourself and your children today that you will build a solid foundation for safety and well-being.  You can start by taking these steps.  You (and they) are worth it!

© 2017 Kathy Jones, DVSur5r

About DVSur5r

“Prisoner of Love,” felt mural, based on a pencil portrait drawn by Kathy Jones in her senior year of high school.

A survivor of teen dating violence, sexual assault, stalking and domestic violence, I share my personal account in the community to give others first-hand knowledge about the obstacles and decisions that victim/survivors face in finding safety for themselves and their children. Through my narrative (titled “Where Has Our Kathy Gone”), I lay bare my experiences, encouraging audience participation in a follow-up Q&A session, to promote supportive and empowering responses from community members who encounter primary and secondary victim/survivors of family violence. Additional tools help participants understand the batterer’s mindset, and the complexities of the impact of domestic abuse on the entire family. Each presentation is tailored to the purpose and interests of the participants; this is a unique opportunity to hear directly from an adult victim/survivor about decision-making processes, protective and coping efforts, and helpful responses for safety.

In addition to my personal experience, I have also advocated on behalf of survivors of domestic abuse since July 1998, including 12+ years as a liaison with local child protection offices, giving me a kaleidoscope of experiences which enhances my training knowledge. From policy writing and statistics, to training and program development, but most importantly, fighting for the rights of battered parents and their children through legal and social service advocacy, I have witnessed the power of outside-the-box advocacy to create positive outcomes for families impacted by perpetrators of family violence.

My work (particularly the “Maze of Coercive Control”) has been featured in other blogs, newsletters and publications:

DomesticShelters.org Website

NCADV Website

Colorado DHS Domestic Violence Practice Guide for Child Protection Services

JLF Counseling Services

Emily Stein, YWCA Boston, October 2015 Newsletter (article link not available)

For EMERGENCY CONSULTATION, or to request an appointment, call or text at 978.378.0611.

For inquiries or email communications: help@dvsur5r.com Mail can be sent to: DVSur5r, PO Box 604, Plaistow, NH 03865

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Kathy Jones, Survivor and Justice Advocate