How to Identify Post-Separation Abuse Tactics and Protect Yourself

The road to safety can look differently and for many survivors of domestic, intimate partner and/or sexualized violence, escaping by leaving the relationship unfortunately doesn’t necessarily mean they are automatically safe from future violence an ex-partner who has been abusive.

When abusive partners lose power in their relationship due to separation, they may escalate their abusive tactics to regain control. Post-separation abuse can manifest in various forms of coercive control, including harassment, physical abuse, financial abuse, intimidation, and lethal violence.

Abusive partners may also use different behaviours such as persuading to come back, threatening the access to your children, restricting your access to funds or threatening physical harm on themselves or your loved ones.

The abusive partner is threatened by the separation and may experience it as a declaration by his partner that she is capable of surviving without him. Not only that but that she is the best judge of what is good for her, and especially that her needs shouldn’t always take the back seat to his.

The abusive partner is likely very afraid that his partner may discover how good it feels to live without put downs and other abuse. She may start to think of her own thoughts without him and start believing in herself as an independent and strong. Importantly, she might discover how much better she is without him.

Any survivor who’s made a step towards safety may feel guilty enough return to their abusive partner to avoid the possible negative outcomes.

In this blog, we will explore why a survivor might return, common tactics of post-separation abuse and provide strategies for overcoming them.


Why a Survivor Might Return to Abusive Partner

It’s often challenging for many people to understand why a survivor choose to stay in the relationship or would even consider returning to their abusive partner after taking action to escape and leave. While this may not seem logical to others, survivors navigate complex situations that often involve considerations for their safety as well as the safety of others.

There are several additional barriers that can contribute to survivors returning to or staying in an abusive relationship, including:


Fear of Escalation: Survivors may fear that leaving will result in escalated violence or even lethal consequences, either for themselves or for loved ones.


Financial Dependence: Financial dependence on the abusive partner, particularly when children are involved, can make it extremely difficult for victims to leave and support themselves independently.


Child Custody: Many survivors with children must consider the possibility of encountering a family court system that awards shared custody with their abusive ex-partner. They worry about the safety and security of their children left alone with the abusive ex-partner, who may retaliate by harming their children, ultimately leading them to return in order to protect their children.

Click here to read Jane’s Journey towards freedom, a true story about an Immigrant women’s journey to freedom from her abusive partner, while navigating the family court system in a battle of gaining custody of their daughter.


Social Isolation: Abusive often isolate their victims from friends, family, and support networks, leaving them feeling alone and without resources or a support system to turn to. Making it challenging to leave the relationship.


Emotional Attachment: Despite the abuse, survivors may have conflicting feelings of emotional attachment to their abusive partner, making it challenging to break away from the relationship entirely.

Navigating these barriers requires careful consideration and often involves difficult decisions about safety, security, and personal well-being. So, the next time you’re tempted to say, “Why doesn’t she just leave already?” consider the points we just discussed.

Just as survivors may have reasons for returning to their abusive partners, the partners who are abusive will exploit the same vulnerable areas that survivors experience as tactics for post-separation abuse.


Post-Separation Abuse Tactics: What you can do.

Here are some common tactics of post-separation abuse and what you can do:


Manipulative behaviour and emotional abuse

Abusive partners may use guilt, gaslighting, or emotional blackmail to maintain control over their victims. This also can include threats to harm themselves, harm you or your loved ones in order to make you stay or return.

He may try to chip away at her resolve as much as he can until she cracks and sees him once the face to face. He pours on the sweetness and charm reminiscent of the history magic persona in the early days of the relationship.

Understandably, you may have various reasons to maintain communication with your abusive ex-partner, such as children, shared assets, or pets. However, if you encounter manipulative behavior and emotional abuse from your abusive ex-partner, it’s important to consider minimizing or, when possible, cutting off contact entirely.

Seek support from mental health professionals to help you navigate your emotions during this challenging time.


Restricting or obstructing your access to finances

Many survivors face financial abuse, which is often the thing that hinders their ability to escape in the first place, but once the survivor escapes abusive partners still use this tactic of withholding financial resources, sabotaging the survivor’s employment opportunities, or using economic abuse to make the survivor financially dependent in hopes to make them come back or forcing them to stay.

Ideally, it would be better if you could separate your finances from joint accounts and ensure that any deposits (paychecks, benefits, etc.) are directed to a personal account accessible only by you.

It’s important to cancel any joint credit cards and review your credit report regularly to ensure no unauthorized charges are made. Additionally, keep track of all loans and credit cards associated with you.


Co-parenting Sabotage

Abusive partners may use child custody arrangements to maintain control, such as violating visitation rights or manipulating the survivor through the children. Additionally, they may attempt to alienate your children from you, damaging your relationship with them.

If your abusive ex is trying to sabotage your relationship with your children or violating visitation rights, it’s crucial to document this behavior. Avoid engaging in negative talk about your abusive ex to your children, as this could be used against you in the future and cause further distress in their lives. Depending on your children’s ages, it may be helpful to be honest with them and explain the situation.

It’s ideal to seek professional help to address any of your children’s needs during this difficult time.


Stalking and Harassment

The abusive partner may engage in stalking, monitoring, or harassment through various means, including phone calls, texts, social media, or showing up uninvited, all aimed at instilling fear and ultimately manipulating you.

In such circumstances, you can consider obtaining a restraining order. This step may dissuade the abusive ex from continuing this behavior, as breaching the order could result in criminal charges.


Tips to consider when dealing with post-separation abuse:


Develop a safety plan that includes strategies for protecting yourself and your loved ones.


Establish boundaries with your abusive partner and limit contact unless related to co-parenting.


Seek support from your community and professionals to help you during this challenging time.


Document everything and keep detailed records of incidents of abuse, including dates and times.


Obtain legal advice and explore options such as restraining orders and custody arrangements.


Find time to take care of yourself and pursue activities that empower you and build your confidence.

If you or someone you love is in need of support, please contact the Battered Women Support Services at Crisis Line:

Call toll-free: 1-855-687-1868
Metro Vancouver: 604-687-1867