Navigating Domestic Violence While Pregnant

Pregnancy is such a hopeful, optimistic time. You feel a surge of excitement. There's hope that your personal future will be better... and hope about a collective future.

It can also be a time of a lot of self-reflection and value clarification. The past might resurface a little bit. Or the experiences of loved ones. Chances are, either you or someone you know has experienced domestic violence.

It affects 1 in 4 women

Not all those women come from places of disadvantage.  It’s like COVID...everyone, no matter where they live, their job, or their personality, can be exposed. Abusive people may ask for forgiveness. They may promise change or assure love. They strive to put on a good public image or contribute income to the family.

But they also may shame, scream, control, isolate, gaslight, or batter. Moods may change at a drop of a hat. You are told you’re crazy...or that you escalate their frequency of put-downs.

I write this blog not to create a sense of exasperation, despair, or anxiety. I write it because I believe in abject honesty. I know there are pregnant women out there who are experiencing domestic violence. There are mothers out there who need to feel less alone.

I was one of them.

Just because you are given the experience of carrying a child does not mean the entirety of your life is rosy. I think it’s important to acknowledge that.

You may feel mixed emotions. It may feel paralyzing. The daunting and painful process of seeking help can feel like admitting a failure.

Surprisingly, though, I feel like so much more of a “successful” person now. I’m not trying to constantly empathize and make amends with someone who is broken. I no longer feel like I'm trying to piece an ancient pot back together with Elmer's glue.

If you or anyone you know is experiencing domestic violence in the form of:

  • Emotional abuse
  • Sexual coercion
  • Financial pressures
  • Etc.

I invite you to the book Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men by Lundy Bancroft. He’s a true expert in the behaviors of people who act this way.

I also recommend looking at this Danger Assessment from the book. It's a good way to evaluate if you and/or your children are unsafe.

Danger Assessment for Men who Abuse Women 

Written by Lundy Bancroft

Women should also be encouraged to take seriously intuitions that they have about the dangerousness of a partner or former partner, even if he does not exhibit a large number of the risk factors listed below.

Factors that should be taken particularly seriously include: 

  1. The woman has a strong “gut” sense that the man could kill her or her children, or could carry out a serious and dangerous assault against any of them or against himself.
  2. He is extremely jealous and possessive. This characteristic becomes even more worrisome when he appears to be obsessive, constantly keeping her at the center of his thoughts and appearing to be unable to conceive of life without her. He has, for example, made statements such as, “If I can’t have you, nobody will.”
  3. He has a history of severe or very frequent violence toward her, or toward other individuals such as past partners.
  4. He follows her, monitors her whereabouts, uses high-tech means to keep tabs on her, or stalks her in other ways. He knows where she lives and works, knows the names and addresses of her friend or relatives, or is in very familiar with her daily routines.
  5. She is taking steps to end the relationship or has already done so.
  6. He was violent to her during pregnancy.
  7. There are stepchildren involved.
  8. He has threatened to kill her or to hurt her severely, has strangled her, or has threatened her with a weapon (including making verbal reference to using a weapon, even if he did not actually brandish it)
  9. He has threatened to kill the children or the whole family.
  10. He has access to weapons and/or he is familiar with their use.
  11. He is depressed, suicidal, or shows signs of not caring what happens to him. He has, for example, threatened to kill himself if she leaves him.
  12. He is unemployed.
  13. He isn’t close to anyone, and no current relationships with friends or relatives are important to him.
  14. He has a significant criminal history and/or he has a history of using violence or threatening violence against other people.
  15. He abuses alcohol or drugs heavily, especially if his habits involve daily or nearly daily intoxication.
  16. He has been violent to children.
  17. He has killed or in other ways been violent to pets, or has used other terror tactics.
  18. He uses pornography heavily and/or has a history or perpetrating sexual violence or degradation against his partner or others.
  19. He has exhibited extreme behaviors when his current partner or past partners have made attempts to leave him.

Your instincts are wise. You know if something is off. 

Here are a few other resources that can help:

  1. Any University with Masters Program in Counseling. Verbalizing and processing emotions is always a good idea. Many times, a university with a counseling program will have affordably priced or even free therapy sessions available with the grad students in the program. Therapy can be done individually or jointly.
  2. National Domestic Violence Hotline
  3. Debra Doak’s book High Conflict Divorce for Women
  4. Domestic Violence support groups on Facebook and Reddit.

This is also a GREAT article about what our current presidential administration is planning on doing to help support women, including paid leave off work to deal with leaving and litigating domestic violence issues. 

Which version of you will be the best parent for your baby? The safest version. 

Before I left my husband, one thing I agonized over was if our son would be better off, even at my own expense. If we all remained under the same roof as a family, would he be better suited for the world?

Research shows that, in fact, two happy but separate households are better than a unified unhappy one. This brought me some comfort. It put a lid on the burgeoning guilt and helped me think about self-protection. 

Remember that everyone—you too— deserve to have healthy, love, peace, and respect—no matter what.

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