News & Insights

My Ex-Husband Emotionally Abuses Our Children—What Should I Do?

Source: Newsweek

Dear Newsweek, My name is Alicia and I am the mother of five amazing minor children and two adult sons. I divorced my husband 3 years ago, and due to Covid, things took much longer and we actually separated long before our divorce was finalized.

Anyway, while married I was a stay-at-home mom and home-schooled my kiddos. My ex-husband worked full-time and was generally uninvolved in day-to-day life. 

However, as time went on, I realized my ex-husband was causing a lot of damage to our children and myself. I realized that he was financially, emotionally, and spiritually abusing us, so I left.

He then made it his mission to punish me for leaving. He went on a smear campaign and isolated me from all of my friends and family. “Making things as difficult as he could so I would come crawling back to him”—his exact words.

Part of his revenge was to seek 50/50 custody, which he was awarded because at the time I was still afraid of him and easily intimidated so I was not able to fully advocate for myself or my children. Since then, it has been a battle.

All of the abusive behaviors that were present when we were married are still present now, but because he doesn’t abuse our children physically the court has done absolutely nothing to protect our children.

Despite him having [court] involvement four separate times for throwing our youngest daughter down the stairs, dragging our oldest daughter down the stairs and through the house by her arms, break-checking our youngest daughter so hard she had a bruised and swollen face for two weeks, and leaving our children in a whole other state with a woman he just met and that they knew for a few days.

His abuse is to the extent that his new wife left him after only being married to him for two months because she feared for her children’s safety.

Even still, the judge in our small town will do nothing to protect our children, or even order him to attend real therapy or parenting classes.

One of the most troubling behaviors that he regularly engages in is bullying our LGBTQIA+ daughter. He tells her that being a homosexual is as bad as being a pedophile. He tells her that she is evil and against God—he has even worked with his pastor to arrange very hateful anti LGBTQIA+ sermons. He treats her like a maid and cook when she is with him and makes sure to let her know that she disgusts and disappoints him because she identifies as LGBTQIA+ and listens to the band Ghost. All of this continues to wear on my daughter’s mental health and yet still no one will do anything.

He is treated as if he is a model father and the family court continues to turn a blind eye to everything he does. He uses his religion as a reason to get away with his abuse, stating that he has not only a right, but an obligation, to tell our daughter the things he does because she has turned her back on the Lord.

No one seems to want to hold him accountable and help out our children. He has blocked me from putting them in therapy, receiving immunizations, attending doctor visits, and taking medication. All because it’s against his beliefs and western medicine is witchcraft.

I hired a Guardian Ad Litem who found he was abusive and that it was in the kids’ best interest to be with me full-time and limit his involvement until he completed therapy and parenting classes, but the court also ignored that. I have spent THOUSANDS on attorneys and have only landed in the same spot every single time.

So now, I am hopeful that if I make it public how badly the County Court is failing our children, maybe something might be done for them.

As a healthy parent, he would deserve 50/50 time with our kids, but until then I don’t think he should get it just because it’s his “right.” 

Alicia, Unknown

Newsweek‘s “What Should I Do?” offers expert advice to readers. If you have a personal dilemma, let us know via life@newsweek.com. We can ask experts for advice on relationships, family, friends, money and work and your story could be featured on WSID at Newsweek.

‘Abusive Relationships Impact Self-Confidence…You Need To Protect Yourself and Children’

Lisa Pion-Berlin, Ph.D., is a licensed hypnotherapist and CEO of Parents Anonymous.

You are a very courageous woman to speak out about your family situation to expose the injustice and harm to your family. Do not minimize what that takes. Stop blaming yourself for not advocating harder because you felt so insecure.

Physically and psychologically abusive relationships impact our self-confidence and wear us down so we cannot fight back. Twenty-five years of research into “battered woman” or “battered person” syndrome shows this.

It is understandable that you and your children are in a very difficult and abusive situation. Your focus needs to be on going forward by continuously and relentlessly protecting yourself and your children.

First of all, insults, threats or bodily harm needs to be reported and documented with the police, schools and your own doctors. Clear and complete documentation cannot be overemphasized—print out and save every email, text and voicemail regarding any threats or evidence of abuse.

Also, make copies of all medical records and other entities for your file. Take photographs of the physical damage your children have endured. Make sure you take them to the doctor, as they take pictures and continue to make CPS reports.

It is brave you are making this public. So many parents are afraid when the courts and systems are not helping or protecting children. Make sure you have support for yourself. You cannot stay strong without seeking counseling and surrounding yourself with supportive friends and family.

Also, seek counseling for your children so they can deal with their underlying feelings related to these traumas. Therapists and counselors are mandated reporters. Prejudice and discrimination exist in all institutions sworn to help you protect your children from abuse and neglect.

Even though you have paid for lawyers, if you feel they haven’t helped, you can seek free legal counsel. You may also want to contact your newly elected congressperson or U.S. senators. Senator Stabenow has district staff to help constituents and she is a dedicated social worker and advocate herself.

Local politics are tough to deal with, but the safety, health and well-being of your entire family is at stake. Continue to reach out because asking for help is a sign of strength. You can also call the National Parent Helpline 855-427-2736, operated by Parents Anonymous® (raisingfuture.org).

‘The Safety Of You and Your Children Is The Number One Priority’

Dr. Faisal Tai, MD, is a psychiatrist and the CEO of PsychPlus. 

I’m very sorry to hear about your serious dilemma with your ex-husband. As the mother of five minor children, I am sure that you have your hands more than full and that this conflict only makes taking care of your family—and yourself—10 times harder.

When I hear about all the legal steps you’ve taken to try and improve your situation through the courts and government agencies, it is disheartening that you have not been able to make more progress.

As a psychiatrist, I also would strongly encourage you to seek professional assistance to safeguard the emotional well-being of you and your children. It will be fundamental to your health and well-being, and your quality of life, in the years ahead.

I would recommend that you contact the Child Welfare Medical and Behavioral Health unit for your local county.

Amongst many other resources, they will have a comprehensive list of support services across the state that might be of great assistance.

I wish you the best of luck as you continue to advocate for yourself and your children.

Date: February 11, 2023

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