Domestic Violence During Divorce: Not a Rarity

I was saddened beyond words to read about the death of a neighbor. She was a single mom of two children—one a 10-year-old boy who attends a school just walking distance from my three-year-old’s preschool. According to reports, this woman and her ex-husband were in a heated custody battle that began years ago in a bitter, dragged-out divorce. The husband shot her in front of his son. He later shot himself. My heart aches for the little boy. My heart aches for the whole family. The entire story can be read here:

Sadly, domestic abuse/crimes of passion aren’t new. Divorce is bitter. It can turn even a somewhat passive person into a snarling animal if you let it. Why is it that men, especially, become violent? I wonder if it all boils down to money being spent for a woman no longer “owned”? What do you think? Do you think your ex, or soon-to-be ex, feels ownership rights over you? Is it because they have to provide child support and no longer get any “benefits”? Are we really chattel for our husbands? Even in 2012? One woman who is in the process of a divorce said her husband actually told her that she was his “property” and he was pissed to have to pay support to her when he couldn’t touch her. Ok, she’s raising their children.

Another woman in a support group said a husband pulled a gun on his wife who wanted to leave. I know all men are not like this. But when I volunteered at a domestic violence shelter in Los Angeles years ago I was surprised, time and time again, by situations where friends and family all reacted in horror to domestic abuse against their loved one saying: “we didn’t think he’d ever do something like this.”

Sadly, domestic violence and homicide is not rare. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, one in every four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime. And an estimated 1.3 million women are victims of physical assault by an intimate partner each year.

There is no face or profile for someone who will snap. Divorce is scary—especially for women who have been controlled and who are now fighting to have the financial support necessary to be able to continue caring for their children. Why do so many men not understand that the money withheld from their ex-wives who are caring for children, is money withheld from their children? (The same should be said about those women who support men caring for children, but we all know that those situations are rare.)

I was chatting with Will Courtenay, Ph.D., author of Dying to be Men, about the high school shootings in Ohio. Sadly, I experienced a high school shooting that resulted in a dear friend being killed. (As the Parenting Editor for I wrote “When Will the Senseless Shootings Stop?” about this experience.) Instead of gun control to stop these shootings, Courtenay said we needed “gender control,” as all high school shootings have been at the hands of boys. As a therapist who specializes in men’s health, Courtenay has often said that boys and men become conditioned towards violence in American society. Perhaps this topic deserves to be explored more in depth for another article?

Right now, I am thankful not to live in fear that I could be hurt while I navigate my divorce. I am so thankful my ex and I are moving forward in a positive way now. Even so, I recall violent boyfriends in the past and know how frightening it is when someone suddenly snaps and the intensity of the heated anger explodes. It’s hard to describe in words, but it’s like a flash storm and you can see it start by a look in their eyes. And trust me, those eyes look like anyone’s.

My heart aches for those of you who are living in fear as you navigate your divorce proceedings. If your ex is threatening you, please take it seriously. Check out the Domestic Violence Hotline for assistance. And just note that computer use can be monitored and is impossible to completely clear. If you are afraid your Internet and/or computer usage might be monitored, please use a safer computer, and/or call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−SAFE(7233) orTTY 1−800−787−3224.


8 responses to “Domestic Violence During Divorce: Not a Rarity

  1. I am a single mom and disguised by the courts who throw out restraining orders like candy. Women who scream abuse just so they can get what they want. I have seen it first hand. I would never do that to my ex just to get child support. Some of the women are cheating and screwing around on their husbands and want them out of the house. So they call the police, they are only screwing themselves of their own chance of alimony. If these guys– who btw–some are the ones being abused, are put in jail, do you really think your going to get alimony, or child support with them in prison? Some of these women, even are the one who hit and verbally abuse their own husbands! Really. The courts rally around the women because one may fall through the cracks and get murdered or beat up. PLEASE! I am a woman who gets to see all the women who cry wolf! ENOUGH! Own up to what your doing. Don’t accuse or blame your husband or soon to be ex for your cheating. And don’t think you can get him out of the house by crying abuse. Your only hurting your kids if your lying. If your telling the truth then bless you. Unfortunately, I have met more women and men and the women are willing to admit they lied to get more money, when they were the ones cheating and the ones who actually verbally abused and would punch their spouse when they got pissed at them. There isn’t any difference. Its all the same. Abuse is Abuse.

  2. Stacey, I’m sure there are all walks of life out there. Sadly, statistics don’t lie and there are many women out there who are suffering. But I agree with your last line: abuse is abuse. Very true.

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  5. Norway single mom

    I’m from Norway, a country known for good life and gender equality, I think. Yet even here, the “equality” is merely superficial. Granddads (and dads, and even some moms) have so big issues with their little (grand)sons playing with dolls or play kitchens, the mommies give in. Even when the little boys are obviously madly in love with dolls or play food. And violence is on the rise, even if only by a tad. It’s not out and about, or any kind of stranger danger. It’s in relationships.

    How can we expect the men to talk it out, or start helping on equal terms around the house when kids come along, when they’ve been shut out from that part of life completely, up until the time they’re supposed to jump right in and learn along with a new mommy who’s never been told to stay away from such tasks as caring and tending for family?

    Boys grow up with much less real experience with all things domestic, family, caring and tending for younger childen on a basic level etc. They have no knowledge of these things, and only see and do practical things like cleaning the car (when mom needs time to sleep, so get the kids in that dirty car and take a ride, please), or working more (which might provide money, but not any emotional support at home what so ever).

    Grown med have no language for their own emotions. Ask them how a movie was, they’ll say stuff like “good” or “bad”, and then talk about some big booms or something. Ask a woman, and she might start with a good or bad, but keep on explaining the opinion.

    When not knowing what different emotions are, not recognizing other than good or bad in both one self or others, a lot of needs go unmet and unmentioned. They literally don’t get the details about why someting is not “good” if it’s not all “bad” with kids, spouse, themselves. And when things go bad, there’s still only the two to choose from. So when not “good”, then “bad”. Bigtime bad. And they snap.

    It seems like a silly thing to say, that boys need to be given the choice of pink, dolls and babysitting (yes, girls are trusted with younger kids a lot sooner than boys. If the boys ever get told to babysit younger siblings or get asked to babysit a neighbors kid at all, that is, even here in “equal” Norway). But that is the start of having to diskuss finer things like pink is a boy color too, because you’re wearing it now and you’re a boy (if it’s not good enough for a bo, but is for a girl, how does that reflect a girls value?. Or how about “oh no, look at the poor doll, ooh, ishe probably needs a bandaid now that you tossed her into the wall. Poor thing, maybe she’s really sad and needs her daddy to comfort her? (Empathy, learning to consider what another person is or is nor feeling, learning to consider different things one can do to help, learning that others react when you harm and expect you to react too), and babysitting: the easiest way of teaching kids how to talk about needs, and meeting them. If a parent asks how the evening went, and the babysitter answers “good”, the parents will ask more questions. Voila, instant learning about how to talk about the smaller tings. Literally. Boys often don’t know how, and need to be coaxed far longer than any girl.

    Another thing that reduces male violence drastically is simply the conlusion of all these things: realising women carry the same amount of responsibility. About everything. Thus leaving only half the emotional stress and weight on the male shoulders, and leaving room for unexpected hardships, like a divorce. Men won’t break down as easily when not already wheighed down to the breaking point, thinking they have to deal with everything on theri own. EVERYTHING. ‘Cause they don’t. Really.

    Having a free frow of weapons in such a modern society as the US is someting the rest of the “modern” countries often consider stupid. But there are a lot of reasons male violence is what it is, and if not a gun (unfortunately harmful as it may be), then a stick, an iron pan, a shovel, a kitchen knife. I really think reducing the amount of weapons might only help because other stuff isn’t as lethal with such little effort. The reasons behind breaking down would still be there…

    Yes a very engaging subject. Especially here in Norway, where women and men consider ourselves so “equal rights” (even if that also clearly means different interest at times), because boys are more limited than ever, and grow up into being more limiting than ever. But it’s all hidden under a blanket of “not really happening”, “’cause we’re not like in the fifties anymore you know?” Exept that a woman today will still be laughed at and ridiculed at the most inopportune times, even if she desides to blame it on herself, “’cause it’s not really like that here anymore, so of course it’s me”.

    Limited boys, makes for limiting men, and limiting men are limited themselves. And they snap. The limits are simply too tight for a normal human being to live withing at all times.

    • Wow, thanks for your insightful comment. It is such a universal, international issue, isn’t it? I feel so much better already for letting my older son help so much with his baby brother. It’s out of necessity, and he hates it now, but hopefully, as you say, it will instill a sense of empathy that little else could.

      Best of luck to you and thanks again for reaching out! L. x

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  7. Damien Littfin

    Divorce can be a tumultuous time and if not managed properly, can be one of the most financially devastating life events. The process can be emotional and intense and the financial decisions you make during this time might be some of the most important economic decisions of your life. It is imperative to understand your complete financial situation. Knowledge and preparation will be crucial to your creating a sound financial agreement.


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