Post-Separation Power and Control

You finally separate or get a divorce from your abuser and you think it’s all over, but then….

For many survivors of domestic violence, the feeling of relief after separating or divorcing an abusive partner doesn’t last long. After separation, the abuser often starts to escalate as a result of having less control over his partner. If an abuser feels like his partner is getting stronger after separation, the abuser will frequently go to great measures to try to exert power and control over her.

The following list is a few of the most common manipulation tactics an abuser uses after separation:

  • Promising her that he will change so she will give him another chance
  • Entering therapy or making apologies to win her back
  • Threatening to attempt suicide because she has left
  • Making her feel guilty by saying that she has abandoned him
  • Telling her that she will be lost and will be nothing without him
  • Continuous financial abuse
  • Manipulating friends and family members to try to convince her to come back
  • Ruining her reputation by spreading rumors and lies
  • Stalking her
  • Threatening to harm or kill her until she comes back
  • Vandalizing her new home or car
  • Using the court system against her and their children

Unfortunately, when a woman has children with her abusive partner, there are even more ways for him to exert power and control:

  • Using the children as weapons through threatening to kidnap or take custody of them
  • Convincing the children it was their mother’s fault for the separation
  • Acting neglectfully or abusively to the children when they are in his care
  • Calling CPS on mom
  • Buying the children’s affection through presents or money
  • Not paying child support or paying late
  • Threatening to harm the children unless she follow his orders

Women who leave their abusers are at 75% greater risk of getting killed by their abuser, but it’s important to know that you can leave your abusive partner and you deserve to live an abuse-free life. If you are deciding to leave your abusive relationship, seek help from a domestic violence program and create an individualized safety plan so you can leave in the safest way possible.

Written by Jordan Gates, women and children’s therapist at Genesis Women’s Shelter & Support.

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