Last week I defined four types of love fraud that constitute points on a continuum from predatory love fraud to adultery. In all these relationships, one member of the couple inflicts physical, mental and/or financial injury on the other. Unfortunately, the presence of children does not necessarily deter violence in relationships. The fact that children can be caught in the middle in violent relationships is illustrated by the following news story reported this week.
According to the MainLineTimes.com, the police were called to a domestic dispute in Narberth, Pennsylvania, Tuesday night. Upon arriving at the scene, they found a 34-year-old woman in critical condition. They discovered that the assailant was likely Glenn Minsk, the victim’s live-in boyfriend and the father of her child. The child, an 18-month-old girl, was missing. An Amber Alert was issued and the child was recovered in good condition at the home of Minsk’s parents. Minsk apparently brought the child there after he allegedly assaulted the child’s mother and stole her car.
Keep in mind that we do not have all the details involved in this particular case. However, this story highlights the problem violent relationships pose for involved children. Children are traumatized when exposed to physical and emotional violence. Children may also have attachments to the perpetrators and victims of such violence.
Other problems faced by the children
I have received many letters from parents asking me if children should have visitation with a parent who has demonstrated himself/herself to be physically or emotionally abusive to the child’s other parent. In discussing this issue, I find there are a number of people who hold a belief exemplified by the following, “Just because he treated the mother this way, doesn’t mean he doesn’t love his child.” In fact, some might interpret the kidnapping of a child as an act of love. The courts also take this attitude and commonly grant visitation to the perpetrators of domestic violence.
The granting of visitation and custodial rights in cases of domestic violence/abuse is even more common when the perpetrator has not been found guilty of physical assault. The courts seem to take the stance that marital deception, psychological and financial predation, have “nothing to do with the child.”
What the courts and the public fail to understand about many perpetrators of domestic violence and abuse is that they are predators who are not capable of loving anyone, child or adult. These predators seek out social relationships purely for the sake of obtaining power, control and in some cases sadistic pleasure. We think that people who seek out social relationships do so out of a love motive. There is a general ignorance of the power motive and the manner in which this motive determines the behavior of many perpetrators of domestic violence. For more on power and control in domestic violence see The Duluth Model.
Anger management may not help
Those who teach anger management to the perpetrators of domestic violence can attest to the fact that not all perpetrators are sociopaths. Some have ability to love, but have very poor impulse control. These perpetrators do benefit from training to improve impulse control. Sociopaths and those motivated only by power motives are not capable of effective parenting even with training. A parent’s most important job is to teach a child to love, have impulse control and moral values (the Inner Triangle again). A parent who lacks these himself cannot impart them to a child. What purpose does it serve, then, for a child to have any relationship with such a parent?
Another issue that is discussed in older textbooks of child psychiatry is the impact that court-ordered visitation, in some cases, has on the custodial parent or guardian. How is a victim or a victim’s family supposed to feel about a child visiting a violent or abusive person? These are people we warn our children to stay away from! Furthermore, when those who have custody and responsibility for the child are stressed by a visitation arrangement, that is not good for the child. Caregiver stress has been shown to have a direct, negative effect on parenting and child wellbeing.
The true nature of human social relationships is just now being understood by science. If the perpetrator of domestic abuse/violence is a sociopath, he/she is unable to love. Furthermore, all of the sociopath’s intimate relationships are about dominance, power and control. Ultimately, our laws must be amended to reflect a more scientific understanding of our human relationships. Only then will our children be protected.