Kids raised in an abusive environment are in grave danger on a number of fronts. As a parent, it’s your job to protect them. That includes doing everything you can to prevent them from developing a suicidal mentality. If anything we’ve said sounds reminiscent of your situation at home, take decisive action as soon as possible. Your attitude toward domestic violence must be one of zero tolerance. The basic approach is safety first. If you’re facing imminent danger or have just experienced physical harm, call 911 without delay. Let the police intervene and allow the process to unfold from there.
“But I can’t leave,” you might say. “God says He hates divorce.”
Yes, God does hate divorce, but that’s not what we’re talking about here. We’re talking about getting yourself and your children to safety even when the person doing the harm is your spouse. Getting to a safe place is not the same as divorce. The book of Proverbs talks a lot about staying away from dangerous people, and none of the verses say, “P.S. Except in the case of your spouse.”
If you have any reason to believe that your partner may be on the verge of a violent explosion, your first concern is to get yourself and your kids to a safe location. It might also be wise to check with an attorney about the implications of leaving your home for an extended period of time. In some states you could experience unexpected difficulties if the reason for this action is undocumented.
Once you and your children are safe, take immediate action. Explain to your spouse in clear and certain terms that his or her behavior is unacceptable and that you won’t put up with it anymore. Insist that your spouse seek professional help. Create a crisis by giving him or her an ultimatum. Say something like, “Either we get counseling, or I’m staying away until you’re ready to resolve this problem.” Separation may be what it takes to open your spouse’s eyes to what he or she is doing.
Have a Plan
Naturally, you’ll want to make sure that your support system is in place before you take any such step. If you’re going to leave, you need someplace to go—the home of a friend, family member, or neighbor. You’ll need money or access to funds. Figure out your plans, line up resources, and make arrangements before you pack your bags and walk out the door.
It would also be a good idea to seek help from a professional counselor. A therapist who is specifically trained in the area of domestic violence can help you recognize to what extent you may have become brainwashed by your spouse’s behavior. It’s common for someone being abused to accept his or her lot in life. It would be ideal, of course, if your spouse or partner sought counseling as well, but we don’t recommend that the two of you do this jointly, at least not in the beginning. It’s far too easy for an abusive spouse to manipulate a couple’s counseling situation and turn it to his or her own advantage.
Connecting the Dots
The links between domestic violence and suicide are clear. If you know of a young person who’s experiencing violence in his home, it will be difficult to get him into professional counseling without his parent’s involvement. But you can encourage him to talk with the school counselor, his youth pastor, or (if there is one) the law enforcement officer on his school campus.
In the meantime, strengthen your own relationship with him and encourage him to establish other solid connections with healthy adult role models. Don’t be afraid to talk with young people openly about the threat of suicide. Remember: people who are contemplating the possibility of taking their own lives often feel relieved that someone cares enough to ask about their feelings.