Coparent Academy Podcast

#88 - Domestic Violence and Coparenting - Series Introduction

November 27, 2023
Coparent Academy Podcast
#88 - Domestic Violence and Coparenting - Series Introduction
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

This episode is the introduction to our new series on domestic violence and coparenting. 

If you would like to participate in our domestic violence series as a guest, please contact us and let us know. We are interested in all perspectives and backgrounds for our conversations.

Thanks for listening!  If you have questions, comments, or concerns, please email us at podcast@coparentacademy.com.  To learn more about becoming the best coparent you can be, visit coparentacademy.com.

Speaker 1:

Welcome everybody. Today is an introduction, sort of looking ahead, to a series that we're going to have on domestic abuse and co-parenting. This is a complicated topic, that is just, I mean, full of minefields and lots of ways to go wrong. So we've had conversations about how we're going to do this and for this episode we kind of decided we're going to let you all in on our conversation about what we're thinking about, why we think it's an important topic, where we're looking to get some definitions and we'll go from there. We're not exactly sure how many episodes in this series we're going to have yet, because we haven't fully crafted it, but today we just want to give you a basic understanding of what it is we're talking about and why we want to talk about it. So, linda, this is I think we talked for an hour, even turned on the recording, today, so we've had lots of conversation about it.

Speaker 2:

Well, and I think that's why it does make a good podcast subject, because it is talked about a lot in almost every family system, I think. Trying to find some place that it doesn't exist in one of these ways and in researching, I found this definition on the United Nations site, believe it or not, and I kind of like that too, because it says this is a problem worldwide.

Speaker 1:

Right, and I like having this United Nations definition, because one thing that we don't want to do is have some sort of idiosyncratic description of domestic abuse or just something that we think is appropriate. I think it's useful to have something that has been vetted and people across the world agree is a way to think about what domestic abuse is, and so this gives, I think, a good way to do that.

Speaker 2:

Because we do understand that there can be lots of different decisions about it. Every help. You may have experienced it on either side of things, and so hopefully this covers, if not all, most of those spaces that any of our listeners might be thinking about, right.

Speaker 1:

So once you start us off with the UN definition of what domestic abuse is and we'll take turns because it's long, long sentences- it really is.

Speaker 2:

Domestic abuse is also called domestic violence or intimate partner violence. It can be defined as a pattern of behavior in any relationship that is used to gain or maintain power and control over an intimate partner.

Speaker 1:

Abuse is physical, sexual, emotional, economic or psychological actions or threats of actions that influence another person.

Speaker 2:

I love that word influence in there. This includes any behaviors that frighten, intimidate, terrorize, manipulate, hurt, humiliate, blame, injure or wound someone.

Speaker 1:

Domestic abuse can happen to anyone of any race, age, sexual orientation, religion or gender.

Speaker 2:

It can occur within a range of relationships, including couples who are married, who are loving together or dating.

Speaker 1:

Domestic violence affects people of all socioeconomic backgrounds and education levels, so that is about as broad a definition as you can get, and then it narrows down into different categories of information on that UN website. And we recognize it because this is all based on the Duluth Power and Control Wheel that we've used in multiple courses and podcasts already, lynn.

Speaker 2:

Exactly, and I like too that it says it may also include a child or another relative or any other household member. I had a child recently complaining about how the stepfather treated his own mother when she was in their household. That scared her how he treated his own mother.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I think one of the big misperceptions about domestic abuse is that it has to be related to physical violence and that it has to be related to anger management issues, and that's just not the case and in co-parenting issues. The reason we're going to be talking about it on the podcast is how do you deal with a history or current manifestations of domestic abuse while also attempting to have a co-parenting relationship? And when you have just outright obvious physical violence? It's unlikely that you're going to be in a real co-parenting relationship because you're probably not there in the legal system at the point of having a joint custody situation if there's obvious manifestations of physical domestic violence.

Speaker 2:

And the courts probably would not put you in the same room with the person who has abused you for even court. I don't know. Does that happen?

Speaker 1:

Yeah, that does happen. Okay, I mean, just think about, for example, if you were in the criminal system. You know you would have. You'd be in the courtroom with your abuser if they're being prosecuted for the massive violence that's true. Yeah, and so you'll have folks with protective orders and a protective order hearing docket and you'll have them in the custody dockets as well.

Speaker 2:

But not like if you were having mediation or parent coordination or co-parenting therapy or something like that.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, so typically the co-parenting therapy won't be ordered, and by statute I believe it's by statute should not be ordered. If there is history of domestic violence, for mediation and I'm a mediator what we will do in my particular setup. When I'm doing the mediation, I offer it by Zoom. If there's domestic violence, I also have two separate accesses to my building and I'll have the perpetrator be on one floor and come in one door on a street and I'll have the victim come in a different door and be on a different floor in my building and they'll never see each other and I just go a span across the different floors so they won't come in contact.

Speaker 2:

And I've even done that before as a PC and, believe it or not, in co-paritying therapy, where I've had them in two separate rooms in my building and got back and forth.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, and honestly too, mediation should not be ordered in a case with a real history of domestic violence, because those issues of power and control can exist or do exist even after the separation, and you have a real concern about implicit coercion and arrest if you have someone who's been the victim of domestic abuse and they're attempting to mediate with their abuser Because I think for a lot of folks who have been abused, the abuser might as well be in the room with them because sort of the ghost or the spirit, the shadow of that abuse goes with them when they're thinking about making agreements. And I know that I have clients who have been abused who came to me after they had the decree entered and they agreed to things in the divorce that don't make any sense. Oh, yes, and the only reason they did it was because they just wanted it to be over and they couldn't think what the implication was going to be two years down the road, right, I've had so many people tell me just that particular sentence. I just wanted it to be over. Yeah, and one of the things that happens when you have been abused for a long time especially if the person has never really been called on it is that you know in your mind, or at least you think, that they just always win, and they've probably told you time and time again I'm always going to win, you're never going to beat me. And so that person going into mediation is thinking to themselves they're always going to win. And so I think today, if I get something that they didn't want to give me, they're going to make me pay for it later. And if we go to trial for some reason, he or she just always gets away with it. So I better disagree and maybe they'll leave me alone.

Speaker 2:

Right. This is to that domestic abuse can be mental, physical, economic or sexual in nature. That, you know, is what we're talking about there. It can be an economic issue, financial issue, Right, right.

Speaker 1:

And so, getting back to what we're talking about in the Co-parent Academy is is that typically, when you are in a Co-parenting relationship, it's not them? It maybe wasn't the more brute force physical violence that people have in their mind, I think, when they think about domestic violence? Sometimes it is because those people very often will not be in a Co-parenting situation. Instead, what I think is more prevalent for probably our listeners and for the families we deal with, is a history of what would be termed coercive control, which is all of the other forms of domestic abuse and is not about anger at all necessarily. It's about a person having a desire to control inappropriately another person in all the different ways that you can think about controlling that person. And how is it possible to Co-parent with a person who wants to control you, and in all of these different ways?

Speaker 2:

And of course, the parent who has been controlled in that relationship will always tell me that they left in order to protect the child in that situation. But then they find out that they may not be able to be the buffer anymore physically for the child in the time with the other parent, and that's probably the biggest thing that I see in terms of the co-parenting afterwards. They left because they thought they were able to protect the child from further behavior like that from the co-parent. Instead they find out the child is going to be alone with that co-parent.

Speaker 1:

So it's such a complicated topic and let's get into why we're talking about it. One of the main principles in our co-parent academy is that every child deserves two good parents, if possible. A parent who is engaging in domestic abuse through coercive control or physical violence is not being a good parent definitionally, but at the same time, that parent is very often going to be given some degree of custody, and if there's an issue of proving a history of domestic violence, there may even be joint legal custody. So it's necessary for us to talk about how the person who has been abused in that situation can do the very best on their end to create a healthy co-parenting environment. And, at the same time, it is our hope that a person who has been engaging in behaviors that fall in line with coercive control but they may have never thought of themselves as being abusive may see themselves in some of this discussion, recognize that the behaviors in which they're engaging are unhelpful and maybe take the opportunity to improve their relationship, not only with their ex but also inherently, with their child, because a person who is engaging in these behaviors typically they don't engage with them in just one person. They typically engage, I think, in these behaviors with the person in front of them with whom they think they can get away with it.

Speaker 2:

And many times, like I say, it will transfer from the partner, the other parent, to one of the children, and frequently the one that looks like or reminds them the most of their partner that they're separated from.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, they're typically a target person in the house, and if it's not gonna be the spouse, it's gonna be one of the children, if not the dog, if not the new step parent. And also, I think another issue too that we're gonna be talking about is this isn't, although it is overwhelmingly men who engage in physical domestic violence, and I do believe that it is predominantly men who engage in coercive control, but there are plenty of women out there who engage in coercive control and abusive behaviors against the men in their lives, and so we're not just talking to the men as the perpetrators of domestic abuse, we're talking to the women as well. There are under-reporting issues, where men tend to under-report issues of abuse because they don't end up here weak, and there are issues of over-reporting where women have taken advantage of the legal system to allege forms of abuse that haven't been borne out when all the evidence was heard by the court. So that's I know that's a pretty controversial set of statements, but it's my experience, linda. What do you think?

Speaker 2:

Mine as well.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, so we're gonna get into those conversations as well. So to give you an example of the kinds of things that we're gonna be talking about, I wanna I think we're gonna probably wind up dealing with different types of abuse and different levels of co-parenting. It's how I'm thinking about it. So, for example, you have folks who have been physically violent against their partner. How do you deal with a partner who's been physically violent, maybe sexually violent, against you? And if you're forced to be in some sort of co-parenting relationship with that person, how do you make that work? If you were the person who committed the physical or sexual violence and you're given the opportunity to be in a co-parenting relationship, what do you need to do on your end assuming that you've gone through some treatment, education and that you're ready to co-parent what do you need to do to hold up your end of that really difficult situation? And then we have areas where there's been no physical violence and, on the other end of the extreme, there may have been somewhat subtle levels, of course, of control that existed throughout the relationship and each partner kinda got used to it. And now that you're divorced or separated in your co-parenting relationship, how do you set the proper boundaries and respect those boundaries from the other side to have a good co-parenting relationship. And that's kind of the spectrum of abuse and co-parenting that I'm thinking about.

Speaker 2:

And of course I can't leave the children out of this. So I know it's always implied with co-parenting. But so many, so many children through the years have talked to me about how they see that imbalance of power in their parent relationships and it's very important for us to look at any of the characteristics of and the behaviors and think how does that affect a child if that's happening in front of them?

Speaker 1:

Right, exactly Exactly Because we know and we talk about this in our foundational course. We talk about the fact that observing abuse as a child is just as bad for them emotionally, psychologically, physiologically as being abused themselves, and so part of what we're talking about is creating these proper boundaries in co-parenting well, so that your child does not have to even one more day, hopefully observe these kinds of behaviors that are going to imprint on them for the rest of their lives and be something that they're going to have to overcome later. We'd rather avoid and we talked about this recently when we talked about the trauma the children endure and coping mechanisms, and we saw that the coping mechanisms were actually never enough.

Speaker 2:

Oh, probably not.

Speaker 1:

So this is part of that conversation of let's not traumatize these kids anymore and see if we can have some decent level of co-parenting, even if there has been some history of domestic abuse.

Speaker 2:

And those situations when they're even really small, maybe can't even talk yet to explain to anybody how they feel about it will trigger them when they get to be 20-something, 30-something and trying to have a relationship of their own and part of the way they'll think it's normal. On the other hand, they don't want it to happen again like it did in their childhood.

Speaker 1:

And so easy to overcorrect as well, so it just creates all sorts of problems. So this series of episodes that we're going to have we're not going to be easy. This is such a complicated topic that is so emotionally, I think, hard hitting for folks on both sides, whether you're the person who has suffered abuse, or if you're the person who has been the abuser and has realized it and maybe had the shame and guilt of that and you're looking to become a better co-parent. We welcome that as well. We want everyone to be the best co-parent for their children that they possibly can, and that sometimes means taking the long road back from having done some things that you shouldn't have done. So we're encouraging anyone who wants to get into contact with us to talk with us about their history of either having suffered domestic abuse or having committed it and trying to co-parent. We would actually love to talk with anyone who wants to talk with us. I anticipate that everyone will find something about what we say that they won't like or that they have questions about or they want to tell us how they feel, and 100% open to communication about any of this. You can contact us at podcasts, at co-parentacademycom. We would love to hear from you. We would love to include you in the conversation. We're always open to points of view for us to consider and learn from and talk about, so we invite you to join us on these next several weeks as we talk about this complicated issue of domestic abuse and co-parenting. I think it's something that absolutely needs to be talked about, and our goal is to have, if at all possible, two good co-parents for every child.

Speaker 2:

Indeed.

Speaker 1:

Alright, thank you so much and we look forward to talking with you about this topic over the next several weeks. Talk to you next time.

Speaker 2:

Goodbye.

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