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What is Post Separation Abuse?

"Post-separation abuse is abuse that continues or escalates after the relationship has ended. It can include intimidation, harassment, stalking, threats, legal abuse, economic abuse, and endangerment to children. It is driven by a willful pattern of domination, power, and control. It can have serious consequences for the victims, such as lethality, adverse health consequences, institutional violence and betrayal, and economic deprivation. Post-separation abuse is domestic violence, and should be treated as such."

What you just read was the first result populated when entering the term into a Bing search engine and claims to be summarized from five sources and the web (sources are notated in the actual result posting if you're interested). Bing also returned approximately 634,000 results. That fact alone is promising because it demonstrates that awareness and information is spreading.

Back in 2008, I would have never used the term "post separation abuse". I didn't even really understand that what I had experienced in my marriage was abuse, let alone have a name for the things that happened after I told him I wanted a divorce.

For me, those words finally came in the wee hours of the morning. I had planned to tell him when he returned from a business trip the evening before, but he didn't come home as planned and showed up sometime around 4 in the morning. He started in with some bullshit and I told him that I didn't really want to have that conversation then, but he wouldn't let it go. So I said it. "I want a divorce". The response wasn't what I expected. There was calm and an eerie seeming acceptance (I mean, he had to have known it was coming at that point).

The next morning, I was in the kitchen getting lunch together for the kids. He came in and very calmly asked me if I was sure about what I'd said a few hours before. Yes. I took the kids to school and on my way to the office for the job I had just started, I learned that he had already cut off my cell phone. Before I got home from the office later in the day, he would take me off of all of our joint bank accounts (which is all we had) and opened his own. Post Separation Abuse almost from the moment I said the words.

You see, once an abuser realizes that they aren't in control anymore, and that you're not willing to keep playing happy family for them, all bets are off and you are enemy number one. They will hurt you in any and all ways that they can. They will tell lies about you to family and friends (one of the fun ones for me was that I had gotten so drunk that I passed out on my front lawn and had to have the police come drag me inside--as if <eyeroll>).

Post separation abuse can take many forms: ounter parenting, alienation allegations, neglectful or abusive parenting, isolation, harrassment and stalking, legal abuse, financial abuse, and/or coercive control (We'll look at each of those individually in future blog posts). Most often, an abuser will use a variety of these tactics.

It's also common for the abuse that someone experienced in a marriage to escalate after separation because the abuser has a sense that they are losing control. In fact, the weeks immediately after a breakup can be the most dangerous for abuse survivors.

Post separation abuse is real and it happens in almost every case where abuse has been reported in the marriage or relationship. It's part of the reason people stay in abusive relationships. Sometimes staying seems easier, or sometimes the fear of what could come keeps us frozen in the cycle. If you've made the decision to end your unhealthy or abusive marriage, but aren't prepared for what's to come, you may even find yourself wondering if it was worth it, or if you should go back to make it easier (you definitely shouldn't).

I have several DV resources here on my page that can help if you're in an abusive situation and trying to figure out how to leave. If you've already taken that step, and are in the throes of post separation abuse, it's important to recognize and understand what you're dealing with. This takes me back to the "What is a High Conflict Divorce Coach?" topic and how I'm not a huge fan of the term "high conflict". A more accurate description might be a "Post Separation Abuse Divorce Coach". It's a much more accurate description of what I do: I help people leaving abusive marriages, who are experiencing post separation abuse, navigate the Family Court system using strategy based on knowledge of the disordered partner's motives and patterns of behavior.

If you're interested in learning more about what I do or how I might be able to help you through the process, please contact me to set up your free 30 min. consultation.

For more details on each of the post separation abuse tactics, you can visit One Mom's Battle.

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