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Domestic Violence: Post-Separation Violence


What is Post-Separation Violence?
Post-separation violence is common in intimate partner violence situations and separation can serve as an impetus for increased violence.

Systems, service providers, and the community must be ready to address the ongoing possibility of harm that exists for victims of domestic violence when they are no longer residing or involved with their abusive partner.

Victims have reported that after separation, their former partners have stalked, harassed, verbally and emotionally abused, beaten, and sexually assaulted them. Thus, when a victim is pursuing a protection order, a divorce, or taking other steps to extricate herself from an abusive relationship, is an extremely dangerous time period.

After separation, children remain the link between the battering and abused parent.

Custody and visitation arrangements are potentially dangerous for both the abused parent and children. Post-separation acts of violence are not solely directed toward the former partner. Other targets commonly include children, the spouse’s new partner, and individuals identified as aligning with the former partner.

The legal system is effectively used by batterers as a way to exert and maintain control over a victim through continual litigation on child custody and visitation issues. Litigation is an opportunity to reassert the control batterers feel themselves losing as the relationship ends. Batterers can attempt to intimidate their partners by threatening to take the children away (for example, by making false reports to the Department of Child and Family Services (or equivalent), kidnapping, or maintaining ongoing litigation around custody or parent-child contact) and countering such actions can be financially devastating for victims. Hence, courts and professionals can inadvertently become tools for batterers to continue their abusive behavior.

Post-Separation Batterer Tactics
The battering parent may use the following tactics (many which involve the children) in order to try to retain power and control over the adult victim: 

  • Reporting the victim to authorities for alleged abuse of children or
    mental health issues

  • Telling the children that they cannot be a family because of the victim

  • Showing up unexpectedly to see the children

  • Withholding child support

  • Calling the victim constantly under the guise of talking to or about the children

  • Talking about what the victimized parent did "wrong"

  • Quitting a job or remaining underemployed in order to avoid paying child support

  • Showering the children with gifts during visitations

  • Undermining the victim parent’s rules for the children

  • Picking the children up at school without informing the abused parent beforehand

  • Stalking

  • Keeping the children longer than agreed upon or abducting them

  • Asking children what the victimized parent is doing and who she is seeing

  • Criticizing, assaulting, or threatening the victim’s new partner

  • Blaming the victim for the relationship ending

  • Threatening to take custody away from the victim if she does not agree
    to reconcile

  • Telling the children that the victimized parent is an alcoholic, addict,
    or mentally ill

  • Keeping court cases active by frequent filings

  • Physically abusing the children and ordering them not to tell their mother

  • Abusing his new partner in front of the children

  • Changing visitation plans without notice



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