What is Post Separation Abuse?
Leaving an abusive relationship is one of the hardest things you'll ever have to do. Abuse victims are always hopeful that they will be safe once out of the relationship. Unfortunately, the battle doesn't always end after you leave. In fact, more than 90% of victims of emotional or physical abuse have reported experiencing post-separation abuse – which is only heightened when you share a child with your abuser.
What is post-separation abuse?
In a high-conflict divorce or separation, post-separation abuse is abuse that continues long after the relationship has ended. It can be physical, verbal, and emotional abuse to continue to control their victims. It can escalate and take on many forms, from harassment to stalking to physical abuse. Too often, mothers are under greater pressure and threats as they have no other option but to continue to have to work with their abuser due to childcare arrangements and exchanges.
The Post Separation Abuse Wheel details the different forms of abuse that can harm you and your children. It stems from the abusers' need to exert control, the need to win, and the ultimate goal of punishing them for leaving and taking their children. The tactics used by the abuser have damaging consequences not just for you but long-lasting effects on your children.
Tactics post-separation abusers use to exert control over their victims
Counter-parenting is a tactic where the abuser will undermine your decision-making and parenting abilities. They are often combative and withhold necessary consent for care for their children. Every action they take works against the child's well-being and is taken in pure spite of you.
Alienation allegations begin when the child or children decide they don't want to be around them and prefer your safety. The abuser uses this information to claim alienation as a legal strategy in family court.
Neglectful or abusive parenting
The abuser will expose the children, when in their custody, to unsafe situations, content, or people, causing you to fear for their safety. They will also use intimation, threats, manipulation, and even stoop towards physical violence to coerce the children to comply with their demands.
Any narcissistic abusers' goal is to maintain control, and they do that by gaslighting, instilling fear through threats, and belittling, shaming, and criticizing you. They will use manipulation tactics on your family, friends, or co-workers to create conflict and control your life.
Isolation tactics are used by the abuser to spread the information about the healthy parent to family, friends, the children's teachers, and the general community to discredit them and destroy the reputation of the safe parent. The false narrative the abuser creates destroys the safe parents' support system.
Harassment and stalking
Abusers will monitor your whereabouts by using social media, installing spyware like cameras or hiding tracking devices, or following you. They will bombard you with calls, emails, and texts to overwhelm you with threats, manipulation, and verbal abuse that will create fear.
Legal abuse is when the abuser uses court proceedings to control, intimidate, harass, and exhaust all emotional and financial resources by making false reports, filing endless court orders, delaying court proceedings, and making legal threats. Often abusers will threaten to seek custody of the children to cause emotional distress and punish you.
With financial abuse, the abuser will withhold financial support owed and cause delays. They will also intentionally interfere with your job or interviews to prevent career advancement and damage your ability to increase your income.
Getting help if you're experiencing post-separation abuse
The Post Separation Wheel highlights behaviors used by narcissists and abusers of all types against victims. Having the wheel in your toolkit allows you to better understand the tactics used. For an abuser to give up their control after the relationship ends is for an abuser to go against their nature. They will continue to do everything in their power to exhibit control over your life and seek to destroy any happiness you deserve.
The family court system is supposed to be designed to ensure the best outcome for each party and the children involved. However, it doesn't always work that way, especially when divorcing a narcissist. You have to gain control of the situation to protect yourself and your children as you manage the separation and divorce.
Many resources are available to you during the relationship and after you leave. The family court system is not perfect, and it's important for you to document everything to protect yourself and your children as you manage your high-conflict divorce.
With a greater understanding of the many manipulations and post-separation abuse tactics you can experience, you're better equipped to deal with the oncoming abuse constructively and healthily work toward breaking the cycle.
If you need help managing your emotions and to help you heal, my High-Conflict Divorce Coaching can help you as you navigate the complexity of divorcing a narcissist or abusive person. I can help you understand and create a strategy to protect you and your children during this difficult time. Take control of your life and develop the strength you need to move forward with your life and experience the life you deserve.
You can also listen to my podcast, Relationship Recovery Podcast. Each episode focuses on aspects of relationships with narcissists and abusers and provides valuable insights to help you heal.
Post Separation Power & Control Wheel – Using Children. Domestic Abuse Intervention Programs. https://www.theduluthmodel.org