Does the definition of abuse need to include ‘intent to harm’?

My eight year old daughter disclosed yesterday that her father hits her on the face.

Just like an abuse victim, she rationalized it.  She said “it’s just 4-5 times a year, Mom… not that much” and “he gets so annoyed with me”, with the latter statement said as though she feels sorry for him and ashamed with her own behavior.  Why isn’t she pissed that he would treat her that way?

A couple years ago, I had a friend who’s son disclosed that his father was hitting him on the back of the head.  She was still married at the time.  She quickly kicked him out and called CPS.  CPS investigated, and they concluded it “unfounded” for abuse.  Why?  Because he even though the father was hitting his child, they said that the father “didn’t intend to harm” the child.  How does that statement even make sense?

An therein lies another problem… as a woman who left an abusive husband, I should have the opportunity to protect my children.  We’re not married…  there IS a safe place for my children to be where they aren’t at risk of being with a person who has a very low tolerance for frustration and sees physical force as a solution to a problem.

BUT, if I call CPS and say that I need help… I am genuinely concerned for my children’s safety because my ex is showing more signs of being unable to deal with frustration when caring for his children, I will be quickly considered the vindictive ex who is trying to prevent my children from being with their father.  If the CPS people don’t think it immediately, they will later when they speak to my ex and he gives his speech where he says “she denies access to my children” and “she never lets me have additional time with them, not even an hour”.  Where is logic, though?  I haven’t denied access, but why shouldn’t I?  If any parent finds that their parent is being hit in a caregiving situation – wouldn’t they take measures to make sure that their children are not put in that situation?  If this was happening at daycare – I would take my children out of that daycare and file a report, and something would be done immediately to the center.

BUT… the likelihood is high that CPS will see it as an ‘unfounded’ complaint.  And I as the mother who knows the father and his temper and propensity to lash out because he can’t handle life in general… will have to continue sending a 40 pound boy and a 65 pound girl into the care of a 250 pound monster.

SCANVA.ORG states “Child abuse is, however, more likely to occur with individuals who have low levels of tolerance for frustration, inappropriately developed coping skills, and misconceptions about what it means to be a parent or caretaker. Good judgment or reason goes out the window as the parent or caretaker releases anger or attempts to gratify some impulse or desire.”

This is a perfect definition of my ex, and I know it well.  Heck, it was even testified to in court by a mental health practitioner that someone like my ex, who has low levels of tolerance for frustration and does REACTIVE physical discipline, would have a hard time parenting a challenging child like our daughter.  (but I’m sure the judge was too busy thinking about how he wanted to leave the courtroom before 4pm that day because he had a gig with this band in a nearby town).

So then… I’m up at 5am today thinking about what to do… what can I do?  what options do I have?  Dammit… should I have stayed married so I could at least be there to protect my children, and be taken more seriously when I reported abuse?

Oh… but then again… maybe he doesn’t really ‘intend‘ to harm when he hits her…



2 Responses to “Does the definition of abuse need to include ‘intent to harm’?”

  1. Jen says:

    I have been reading your blog for a bit and just now have the guts to comment. I completely agree with you. My ex has skated by all the way down to denying ‘intent to harm’ by sleeping with numerous males (complete strangers he met off craigslist and then coming home and sleeping with me without protection while i was nursing our son) and never denying myself the knowledge to protect our son. This doesnt include his other abusive ways i’ve finally escaped and the fear i have of his abuse that could equate intent to harm that the courts REFUSE to hear. It seems as if the courts solely want to follow the law and dont want to set any precedence to PROTECT OUR CHILDREN. Sigh, i regress. Your blog has helped me so much and i wanted you to know that. Thank you

    • Thank you, Jen! I’m so glad you left a note. You are right – the courts refuse to hear, which only makes it harder to deal with it all. I once read a book about creating effective parenting plans in an attempt to figure out what was best for our kids. It had logical advice about overnights, letting the child guide how they feel, giving the kid a voice, etc. However, at the very beginning the authors had a disclaimer about how the book only applies to situations where both parents are relatively emotionally healthy and there are no emotional or physical abuse or control issues. Now we need to the book that points the courts to how this stuff really impacts the kids and what the effective parenting plan should be then. Thank you for inspiring me in return with your strength!

%d bloggers like this: