Father’s Day & Survivor’s Guilt

National Domestic Violence Hotline Blog

Father’s Day & Survivor’s Guilt

Father’s Day can be very difficult for a family still experiencing the aftermath of family violence.

For a mother whose former abuser is the father of her children, she might feel guilty as she watches the families around her celebrate fathers and know that her children won’t be honoring their dad. She might feel that she is doing her children an injustice by separating them from their dad, even though being together meant that the abuse continued.

For a father who is separated from an abusive partner, he too might feel like he didn’t do the right thing by breaking up a family, as he watches other families celebrate together. He may feel pangs of guilt that he isn’t a “good dad” because he pulled his children away from their mother.

In times like these, parents need to remember that leaving an abusive relationship is ultimately healthier for a child than staying with an abusive partner.

Even if an ex partner was not abusive to the children, they were more than likely still affected by the abuse. Children are far more perceptive than they are given credit for, so if something was happening in their home they more than likely knew. Growing up under the same roof as domestic violence can have a profound impact on children, both physically and emotionally.

Witnessing domestic violence can affect children’s future relationships. It can mean that they are more likely to be abusive or abused. Children who grow up in a home where abuse occurs often have trouble connecting with, trusting and engaging with an intimate partner. This can lead to a lifetime of solitude or unhappiness.

Children who witness domestic abuse sometimes internalize the situation and begin to blame themselves for what is happening. They feel that they are the cause of the violence. These children often suffer from intense depression, suicidal tendencies, high anxiety levels and sometimes even develop post traumatic stress disorder.

Some children do the opposite, though, and externalize their home life (Safe Start Center). They can become highly aggressive or unruly, lashing out and misbehaving in other aspects of their life.

Witnessing domestic violence in the home can affect children physiologically, too. The American Academy of Family Physicians reports that children who live in violent households are at a higher risk of developing stomach problems or chronic headaches. They often have trouble focusing and learning in school.

It’s absolutely normal for parents to feel guilty for separating their children from the other partner on Father’s Day and other holidays. In fact, it shows how much they care about the happiness of their children. However, it’s important to remember that children are much safer, happier and healthier when they are not living in an abusive environment.

Comment section

8 replies
    1. Hi Thank You,

      You are not alone! Thanks for sharing in our blog community and please know that you may conatct the National Domestic Violence Hotline anytime for support at 1-800-799-7233.


  1. The vast majority of information out there about domestic violence is geared toward women who are abused by men. I would really like to see more resources for men who are victims of domestic violence. My boyfriend was in an abusive marriage, and every time he reported her to the police in order to protect himself or their children, he was brushed off or told things like, “I can’t separate a mother from her children,” by a judge. Over the course of his marriage, he learned that he couldn’t count on law enforcement or the justice system, so he stayed for 20 years to this woman (who regularly hit him and threatened to stab him while he slept, among other things) for fear that if he left, she would get custody, which would not be good for him or the kids. There is a completely different set of problems for men in this kind of situation, and it’s so rarely addressed.

    1. Hi Jen,

      Thank you for sharing in our Share Your Voice Blog community. Statistically 1 in 4 women and 1 in 9 men in the US will be a victim of domestic violence at some point in their lives. Sadly, it sounds like your boyfriend did not get the support that he needed. If your boyfriend would like to call and talk with an advocate, he can call The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233. Advocates understand that there are male victims of domestic violence and can offer support. Additionally, an Advocate may also be able to identify local resources in his area that help male victims through counseling or support groups. You are welcome to call as well, as Hotline Advocates are also there to support family and friends of domestic violence victims.

      Thank you again for sharing in our Blog Community,

  2. Jen,
    You and your boyfriend is not alone. The bias society has aganist us male victims only revictimizes us. It’s very difficult and painful for a father to watch his kids be abused and be prevented from protecting his children by society. It’s bad enough that he is criminalized or fears criminalization if he defends himself. There really needs to be adequate resources for men that can help us cope, and that offer healthier avenues in dealing with abuse aganist us. There needs to be legitimate research into the problem men face alongside women’s research. It’s not really the “men versus women” problem that feminist’s have made it into. It’s a problem that affects everyone and continues in cycles for everyone who is affected. Please seek all counseling your new family needs in order to minimise the suffering, and to prevent the branching of the abuse cycle where you can. Don’t give in to the darkness, hold onto what’s good.

    1. Andrew,
      Thank you for being a part of our blog community. I am sorry to hear that you’ve experienced abuse in your past. Regardless of gender, abuse is abuse and is never acceptable. You are right in thinking there is not enough research out there about male victims and the different experiences that they face. It has only been in the past few decades that domestic violence has actually been talked about and legitimized. Those of us in the thick of the movement know that men are absolutely vulnerable to abuse and fully believe that they should have access to support services just as women should. Unfortunately, lawmakers and judges are always on the same page. Here is a good resource that talks about the distinct experiences that male victims face (http://www.nhcadsv.org/male_victims.cfm). We encourage you take action in order to raise awareness about this issue and speak out to affect change in your community. Thank you again for participating in our forum and offering your support.


  3. I have been suffering from this without knowing it had a name. I thought I was alone. Now to find help so I can fully enjoy my freedom.

    1. I-got-out,

      Thank you for contributing to our blog community. It’s definitely normal to feel alone and to experience abuse without knowing it’s abuse. You call call the National Domestic Violence Hotline 24/7 to get support and information about local resources. It’s completely confidential and anonymous. Please call from a safe phone when you have privacy.

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