… But He’s a Good Dad

abusivemangoodfather

No. He’s not.

An abuser who is also a parent is teaching their child how to treat their future spouse. Parents set the example for all future relationships. A parent who is mistreating their partner is not a good parent. An abuser does not care about anyone but themselves and frequently the children become simply pawns and tools to hurt and control the victim, even though they are never directly abused. An abuser may express and appear to love their child, but only as an extension of themselves.

According to Lundy Bancroft at LundyBancroft.com the following is the Influence of Battering on Parenting:

…. the parenting of men who batter and have a negative impact on the children by:

  • creating role models that perpetuate the violence
  • undermining the mother’s authority
  • retaliating against the mother for her efforts to protect the children
  • sowing divisions within the family
  • using the children as weapons against the mother

These are important considerations. While the children may not be physically endangered by an abuser, everyone in the home is affected by the emotional and verbal abuse in an abusive relationship. Children are affected by all the interactions between their parents, children are inherently sensitive to the moods of their parents (particularly the mothers) whether they understand the reasoning or not.

According to the Domestic Violence Round Table:

Children from violent homes have higher risks of alcohol/drug abuse, post traumatic stress disorder, and juvenile delinquency. Witnessing domestic violence is the single best predictor of juvenile delinquency and adult criminality. It is also the number one reason children run away.

There are serious, devastating, long-term affects on children who are exposed to domestic violence. Anxiety, depression, suicide, addiction, crime, etc. are all increased dangers facing children who observe, hear, or experience domestic violence. 

(Imagine, becoming a parent yourself, terrified that you might be just like your parent, that you might one day hurt your children or spouse like they did. So often we hear “oh, he was abused, so he must be abusive too”; or “He was abused, that’s why he’s abusive”. The danger of excusing an abuser means that we pass on the message that it is not a choice, but an inheritance, a genetic flaw.)

Remember also that an abuser beats down the esteem of their victim. This is not typically done in a blatant, obvious way. It is done subtly, covertly and insidiously. They will destroy the confidence of their victim’s ability to parent, they will destroy the esteem of their children as well. This presents a skewed concept of the abuser as a “good parent”, are they, or are you deceived into believing they are? Have you been beaten down enough that you believe you are not a good parent?

My step-dad was my brothers father. My step-dad sexually assaulted my sister and I. He physically abused me, at least. He verbally and emotionally abused all of our family. My brother thought the sun rose and set on his dad. He was, of course, the baby of the family. He was the beloved boy, the protected child. He believed his dad could do no wrong. When the truth came to light of how our sister had been abused, my brother was 11 years old. He turned to hate his own father. He could not fathom someone hurting his sister the way she had been hurt. He could not fathom loving someone who could do that. But we do. Children love their parents, abusers or non-abusers. Children feel betrayed when an abusers actions are revealed… and they are almost always revealed.

My brother was not (overtly) abused. He was an innocent victim, a bystander, an observer of the abuse within our family. He was not unaffected. It damaged him greatly.

My sisters children were also not (overtly) abused. Lily told me their dad didn’t hit them. She said he was a good dad. Their “good dad” destroyed their lives in one night when they were 10 & 8, leaving them abandoned, betrayed and devastated. How do they comprehend the ending of their parents lives? How do they reconcile their loving father with the man who killed their mother? How is that even possible? They struggle – with mental illness, addiction, criminal convictions, inability to trust, attachment disorder, relationship malfunction. Their lives will never be “normal”.

It hurts my heart for the child when an abuser is defended in his parenting. An abuser is not a good parent. An abuser is incapable of interacting in a healthy relationship. Always, no matter if the child is a direct victim of abuse or a bystander of abuse, a child needs protection from an abuser. Never should an abuser be given unlimited, unfettered, unsupervised access to their children. Always that relationship should be carefully monitored, watching for signs that the child may need help walking through the treatment of their parent. (This is not saying there should not be a relationship with the abuser, only that it should be encouraged carefully and with precautions.)

Healing is possible. Help is available. Counseling, working to build our children’s esteem once out of the abusive relationship, protecting our children — this will all help them to heal and learn healthy relationship practices; but let’s do our best to not allow our children to be damaged in the first place.

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