Explaining Abuse to Kids.

“I heard on the radio that your husband choked you,” my ten year old daughter said yesterday. Not words I’d ever expected to hear as I imagined raising kids. But a decade ago, while on maternity leave taking care of my toddler son and infant daughter I began a book exploring my disastrous first marriage to a man who physically abused me. (I did not have any children with him; all three of my kids were born in my second, far happier marriage.)


The resulting memoir, Crazy Love, was published last week, and a video of me reading from the book is making its way across You Tube, my tweens’ favorite cyberspace playground.


So naturally I’ve been talking to my kids about domestic violence A LOT this past week. We’d talked about it since they were little, because I always wanted them to know (from me) the reasons why Mommy’s first marriage ended. But the talks have deepened considerably since they’ve watched me cry on You Tube and heard me open up on NPR. Not easy discussions – but important ones.


My kids – and all kids – are at risk for abusive relationships. I want the subject to be an open one in my household and among my children’s friends. So I tell my kids the truth – that they may already know a child who is being abused by his or her parents or by a girlfriend or boyfriend. According to the Family Violence Prevention Fund, one in five tweens – age 11 to 14 – say their friends are victims of dating violence and nearly half who are in relationships know friends who are verbally abused. Fifty percent of men who abuse their partners also abuse their children. With over four million reported adult victims a year, that translates to millions of children. I want my children to be able to avoid abusive relationships themselves – and to recognize and help the most helpless victims of domestic violence, other kids.


“I saw your book in People Magazine,” a mom from school said last week. “But of course I didn’t show my kids.” I understand her instincts – it’s hard to expose kids to the reality of domestic violence, and very painful to explain. But if someone had explained it to me when I was a child, perhaps I would have recognized what was happening to me before the abuse became serious. Perhaps I could have helped other girls my age avoid abuse as well.


So in some ways, I’m glad I have no choice but to explain my past to my children.


I have never read your book, nor met you in person, but have been a victim of verbal and physical abuse, and can honestly say that I agree completely with your concept. I watched members of my own family abuse their spouses and I swore that I would NEVER be in that situation. Neddless to say, I WAS in that situation when I was in my early 20's. I knew enough to remove myself from the situation (after a few bouts of abuse),still, to this day, I live by that motto and will teach my kids that same respect. Good topic!


I finished your book last night. I just hope that more women will share this book with their daughters when they are old enough to understand the content because your story demonstrates that this really can happen to anyone and the scariest thing for me is that you stayed with him. I always assumed someone like you (smart, educated, have friends, job etc) would never stay, but the details in your book made me understand why you did stay for such a long time. I really hope that your story will help others recognize the signs if this is happening in their own life to get out of a dangerous situation.


I listened to you on the Diane Rehm show this afternoon, I have not been in a physically abusive relationship but I have been in a mentally abusive relationship. I have had friends in physically abusive relationships and until you are there in that situation you have no idea how you will be, you may say you would walk out if a man hit you, but that sometimes is harder to do than you think. The gentleman that called in at the end of the program was case in point, he had NO CLUE what his neighbor was going thru and making threats of never helping her or talking to her again if she stayed with her husband is the exact opposite she needed. I did not get to listen to your reply, but as I turned the radio off to go into work, I just said "what a jerk!" Thank you for getting the word out to everyone, it is a tough battle but it can be won. Best wishes always.


Leslie, I heard you on NPR today as I waited in the car pool line. I met you last April at Camp Baby in NJ and I'm also a DC Metro Moms contributor. There were so many points you made during your interview that express what I am always trying to convey to others about domestic violence. As a person who has also suffered in this way it really hit home. I was one of those 'one in five' as I met my abuser at the age of 14. We were together five years. I often tell my friends with young children that they need to understand this issue and talk to their kids about it. It can be all too common.

I write about my own experiences on my own blog at times in hopes that it will reach out and help someone eles to know they are not alone. I cannot wait to read your book and let my readers know more about it as well.