If a mother
has experienced previous violence
with the perpetrator
, she will face additional barriers to taking protective
action. In a recent research study conducted by this writer, 67.9% of the participants reported a history of domestic violence. Depending on the severity of prior assaults:
- She may fear for her life or the lives of her children if she attempts to contact authorities or leave.
- She may believe that she has no control and nothing she can do will change the situation.
- She may experience increased incapacitating symptoms of PTSD following disclosure of sexual abuse of her child.
- A symptom of PTSD is dissociation, a state of reduced awareness in present reality. This interferes in the mother's ability to assess events from a reality perspective and make wise decisions.
- Domestic violence may have resulted in learned helplessness, and her hopelessness and helplessness has disabled her from taking effective protective action.
- Domestic violence results in isolation of families. The mother may have no available friends, family, or support system.
- Domestic violence sometimes includes financial dependence of female partners on male perpetrators. Mothers may believe themselves unable of providing the most basic essentials, housing and food, to their children without the financial assistance of the perpetrator. This maintains the status of dependence.
- She may weigh the choice between staying and leaving and, if the partner wants the relationship to continue, may have a great deal of her prior life invested in the relationship. The barrier to leaving seems insurmountable.
- She may have overlooked much and forgiven much over the years. The longer the relationship with the offender, the more difficult the leave-taking.
- She may have tried to leave before - many times- and been unsuccessful in remaining away from the perpetrator. She may have given up. In this case, she will be unable to provide any level of safety to her child.