The kids – to stay or go?

I’d be willing to bet my last nickel on the fact that every victim of domestic violence who had small children at the time asked themselves, “Should I stay for the kids?” We moms tend to be protective of our offspring. Ever taken on a mama hen when she’s nesting her hatchlings? Read any news reports lately of innocent campers being killed by mama bears thinking they were protecting their cub?

I know for years I agonized over the decision of staying in an abusive marriage because I figured it would be what was best for my children. They needed a roof over their head, food in their tummies and clothes over their little bodies. They needed their toys, their friends, their… well, their lives. If I took them away from their home, who would they play with, or more importantly, what would they eat and where would they live? I figured leaving the domestic violence would turn their world upside down and do them more harm than staying put.

A very wise young lady recently shared with me and my friend that she had been a child growing up in a home filled with domestic violence. When asked her thoughts on whether or not her mother should have remained in the abusive home with her and her sibling, she shared this—Don’t stay thinking it will benefit the children. It will only do them more harm. She went on to say that, as a little girl, she didn’t wonder so much why her mother would not take the children and leave, but rather she questioned why her mom didn’t leave “for herself.” She was as worried about her mom’s wellbeing as her mom was worried about hers. Perhaps this is not the clearest of messages, so I’ll break it down to a simpler one: Don’t stay for the kids. Asking them to remain in a violent environment is requesting that they be exposed to the abuse, becoming a secondhand victim, and most likely receive their own portion of damage, as a result. . . damage that can easily affect them into and God forbid, through their adulthood, leaving them to carry residue for the rest of their lives.

So, from the mouth and heart of that very wise innocent victim of domestic violence, an adult child who grew up in a home rife with spousal abuse, “Don’t stay for the kids.” And, if you feel leaving is the best resolution, start by developing a safety plan. First and foremost, be safe! Reach out to an organization such as The Spring of Tampa Bay, Family Justice Center Alliance or NCADV and get proper help to move on to your path of peace, freedom and empowerment. Believe it or not, chances are your children will someday thank you for that bold decision.

Carolyn is an advocate for sexual/domestic violence and assault awareness, also focusing on child sexual abuse. She is a Life Direction & Empowerment Coach, working with victims and survivors of molestation, sexual assault, domestic violence or spousal abuse, and bringing training to organizations seeking to help victims. Listen to Carolyn’s interview with Cynthia Brennen, on “Help, Hope & Healing.” Visit her website:

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