However, when it is your own flesh and blood, the consideration to blow the whistle, or not, is often replaced with a knee-jerk response. This reflexive knee-jerk response is the equivalent of pulling your loved one out from under the bus.
It will be a heroic measure when you do, but with the glory of your rescue...be prepared for the other side of this double edge sword.
You Become the Problem
Protective parents in divorce and custody disputes know these dynamics like the back of their hand. They speak out to authorities to help their abused children obtain protection from child abuse, and then they find themselves being punished for blowing the whistle and shining the light.
The perpetrator will quickly seek to make the protective parent 'the problem.' And before you know it, this parent is on the defensive... and threatened with losing contact with the abused child they sought to protect.
They can be accused of making false reports to the child protective services. Or, they could be met with petitions seeking custody of the very children they wish to protect. Then, they are faced with having to defend themselves against accusations created to discredit them and, of course, shield the perpetrator from further scrutiny.
None of this should prevent you from speaking up for your children. It should only alert you to the fact that you will want to proceed mindfully, so that you protect both your children and yourself.
The Victim Becomes Polarized
The other dimension to this double edge sword is the direct impact to the victim. First of all, the perpetrator quickly dives in with psychological manipulations to insure that the victim remains under their control.
They could be told that the protective parent's actions (whistle blowing efforts) are intended to interfere with the child's relationship with the offending parent. Or, they can be manipulated into believing that the action of the protective parent was intended to 'hurt' the abusive parent.
While the child knows on a deeper level the abuse they endured that led to the protective parent's outreach, they also know that their day-to-day survival requires their adopting the beliefs of the abusive parent. Herein lies the polarization of the vulnerable abused child.
As they adopt the message of the abusive parent and actively interact with the protective parent-from this vantage point-they experience the polarization even more profoundly. They can display anxiety with the protective parent and grow to fear the very parent that protected them.
In extreme cases, I have seen these children recoil from eating food prepared by the protective parent...all while acting as though this 'feared' parent is their psychological parent. More common is the display of anger and resentment that expresses the voice of the abusive parent. It is as though you can see the basis for a psychological fracture developing in these children through the polarization.
Blow the Whistle Anyway
While it is true that shining the light on domestic abuse and being a voice for the abused can come with conflict, this does not mean you should participate in being a part of the shield of silence around it.
Silence is the social mechanism that maintains domestic violence, whereas denial is the psychological mechanism that keeps it going. Accordingly, breaking the silence is central to breaking the cycle.
As a protective parent over a decade ago, I encountered this dilemma. It took years for me to grasp what was going on and the dynamics in play after I reached out on behalf of my children. Fortunately for us, my children have aged out of the system and our natural loving bond rules our relationship, rather than the former dysfunctional polarized dynamics.
You can speak out for your children and you can protect yourself from further abuse in the bigger picture. Your decision to blow the whistle or not is up to you. As Mother Teresa is credited for saying, 'In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.'