Abuse as a Mother

Abuse as a mother - This form of abuse remains hidden and silent. It is a specific pattern of systematic abuse that undermines and diminishes a woman’s role as a mother and controls her relationship with her children.

Seed of Sequoia Seed of Sequoia


  • Denial of access to antenatal care
  • Use of pregnancy to increase violence
  • Threats to harm the children or take them away
  • Threats to involve Social Services
  • Use of children to control and blackmail
  • Turning children against mother
  • Using children to abuse and act violently towards their mother
  • Undermining role as a mother
  • Not allowing to parent, diminishing role


  • Fear and worry for self and children’s safety
  • Reluctance to seek help for fear of ‘losing’ children
  • Feelings of guilt and responsibility for the abuse
  • Feeling alone and trapped: unable to leave for fear of taking children away from their father
  • Fear of  ‘breaking up the family’
  • Unable to develop close healthy relationships with children
  • Inappropriate dependence on children as a support
  • Unable to parent in a healthy manner
  • Feelings of inadequacy and poor self-confidence
  • Postnatal depression
Seed of Sequoia Seed of Sequoia

The cycle of violence theory
Dr L. Walker.

The cycle of violence theory states that abusive relationships generally consist of three phases.


A tension building phase

– where the abusive partner becomes irritable, controlling and potentially verbally abusive while the woman describes she feels like she is ‘walking on eggshells’.


An explosive phase

– where violence and an aggressive outburst is present; and a honeymoon phase, in which the abusive partner wins back the woman with flowers and apologies.


The “honeymoon phase.”

– when they do, this is more accurately described as the “manipulation phase”, because it is a coercive control tactic on the part of the abuser.

Barriers to leaving abusive and violent relationships

Frequently people ask, if things are that bad, ‘why doesn’t she just leave’ or ‘why does she stay?’ Leaving an abusive and violent relationship is not a straightforward process. There are many barriers to navigate in relation to safety, particularly as leaving is reported to be the most dangerous time. Up to 75% of homicides occur upon separation and there is an increase of violence for up to 2 years after separation.

  • Fear
    - of not being believed, of threats, of retaliation; of being killed; of the abuser hurting loved ones; of being stalked.
  • Children
    - fear for their safety if the abuser has threatened to hurt them if they leave; custody concerns (such as the abuser gaining custody, which still occurs in 50% of cases); child abuse that has occurred as a result of trying to leave in the past.
  • Isolation
    - from friends, family, community support and resources, as abusers often attempt to cut survivors off from support networks as a control mechanism. This often includes monitoring of a survivor’s texts, emails, and social media accounts.
  • Economic necessity
    - the abusive partner may control the finances or be the sole source of finances for the family; the abusive partner may have destroyed the survivor’s credit. Lack of resources makes it seem impossible to leave.
  • Homelessness
    - the abusive partner may threaten to force the survivor and possibly their children out of their living situation; the abusive partner may have full control over the survivor’s living situation.
  • Religious, cultural and/or family pressures to stay together
    - it is important to note that all cultures have both traditions of resistance to relationship abuse as well as forms of acceptance of it. Culture cannot excuse relationship abuse, though abusers may use ‘culture’ as a way to justify their choice to abuse. Abuse is not inherent or natural to any culture or group— it is always a choice.
  • Hope/belief
    - that a partner will change, often resulting from manipulative tactics by the abuser. This may also be influenced by concern for a partner’s wellbeing: fear that the partner will be arrested, imprisoned, deported etc. which may have consequences for retaliation, finances, and children.
  • Shame, stigma or belief
    - that the abuse is the woman's fault, largely because of societal myths and victim blaming.
Spiritual abuse

Spiritual abuse ‘’When a spiritual or religious leader, system, or individual attempts to control and/or manipulate another individual using religious text or practices.’’

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Coercive Control

Coercive control is an act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation, and intimidation, or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten the victim.

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Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse is any unwanted or forced sexual act committed without consent.

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Financial Abuse

Economic and financial abuse is designed to reinforce or create economic instability. In this way, it limits a woman’s choices and ability to access safety.

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Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse is one of the hardest forms of abuse to recognise, and is always present in a relationship where there is domestic violence.

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Physical Violence

Physical violence: is the intentional use of physical force, used with potential for causing harm, injury, disability or death.

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