Co-Parenting with Your Abuser During a Pandemic

By Jessica M. Corvo

Globally, we are experiencing a historical event. Personally, I feel society is going through a collective awakening. Everything is being amplified. The good is great. The bad is worse. The ugly is unbearable. Some days I am thanking the clouds and other days I ask myself, ‘how is this my reality?’ Pandemics are scary, overwhelming and an opportunity for abusers to create problems. 

Co-parenting with an abuser is difficult. Co-parenting with an abuser during a pandemic is a delicate space to navigate. The goal of this article is to empower you with co-parenting common risks, themes, and best practices. Everyone is doing the best they can. Hopefully, after reading this article, you feel empowered to navigate this pandemic with grace (and confidence). Knowledge is power! 

*This article is under the assumption co-parenting is happening from different households. The advice might be slightly different if you are co-parenting under the same roof.

Emotional Hijacking

The abusive parent might use the pandemic news to create additional fear. Fear creates stress. Long term effects of stress can cause health problems. Understanding this process is powerful. Empowering yourself with useful news on your health, your children’s health and best practices are encouraged. We suggest putting limits on your media consumption and ignoring any news the abusive parent tries to share. If possible, try to monitor your emotions before engaging with the abusive parent. Abusers know it’s easier to control victims when they are emotional. For updated health news, we recommend the United Nations.

Abusive parents will try to extend visitation and claim the child needs to rest or is not feeling well. Abusive parents might challenge your care and insist the child is in better hands with them. Remind yourself you are a good parent. Also, remind yourself the visitation is fixed and should be followed to maintain a sense of normalcy for your child. Accepting that it is difficult to be reasonable with unreasonable people, please know visitation is an area to tug on your heartstrings. Again, abusers will try to create a sense of “Am I a good parent?” (Just in case you need a reminder: YES! YOU ARE AN AWESOME PARENT!) 


A dear friend and I were talking about challenging my intuition. She stopped me mid-sentence to say, “Jess, stop gaslighting yourself.” I know my reality. I was emotional and I started justifying behaviors. I was reframing an incident and assuming a positive intention. My friend caught me rewriting my reality in real-time. Be aware, this is normal and part of the [continued] healing process. Everyone is triggered by something. When triggered, it’s normal to reframe a situation. It’s normal to justify behavior. It might not be healthy, but it is normal. We encourage you to recognize your triggers. Be aware when others are gaslighting you. More importantly, be aware when you might be gaslighting yourself.  

Victims of domestic violence protect their sense of reality by talking with trusted friends about their experiences with abusers. A trusted friend is useful to help clarify what is healthy versus unhealthy. During the pandemic, we are experiencing many situations that are stranger than fiction. Constantly changing norms is an opportunity for abusers to create confusion. Pandemic confusion plus abuser confusion can be extremely problematic, mentally, and emotionally. 

A moment of uncertainty might encourage victims to confide in the abusive parent. This is understandable. It is also mentally and emotionally dangerous. Sharing concerns or details of your life to an abuser can create an opportunity for games. Try talking to a trusted friend to validate your reality. If you do not have a trusted friend, we suggest keeping a journal. Take simple notes to track changes. For example, I’m very particular about my schedule. For years, I shared a digital calendar with an abuser. Many times, I felt I was losing my mind because appointments were different in my mind than what they appeared in my digital calendar. My abuser was playing with my schedule. I solved this problem when I started keeping a paper calendar. In addition to maintaining my paper calendar, I added motivational quotes and would sometimes document what I ate. When I’m stressed, I can go hours without eating. Writing things down helps. Shifting to a paper calendar helped me maintain my reality. Try it!


During the pandemic, I’ve been susceptible to being pulled out of my peace. Realizing this, I’ve been more firm on my boundaries. This pandemic has offered survivors a beautiful opportunity to channel our Jane Fonda. “NO” is a complete sentence. If the abusive parent is acting up, you do not have to entertain it. Feel confident in simply saying “NO.” For me, this has been difficult as I tend to offer explanations with my “NO.”

If the abusive parent is texting, address the message when you are ready. Their emergency is not your emergency. If the abusive parent is calling, utilize voicemail. If the abusive parent likes to test boundaries in person, prepare yourself before meeting them. The pandemic is challenging for a lot of people. When abusers lose control of their world, they will make attempts to control people (you). Be prepared and intentional. Practice ways to disengage quickly.  


Co-parenting is stressful under normal circumstances. Changing your lifestyle, working from home, being (mostly) indoors is not normal. Your priorities might not include self-care. Saying “NO” to others is sometimes the same thing as saying “YES” to yourself. Maintaining healthy boundaries is a form of self-care. In addition to maintaining healthy boundaries, we hope you can spend time honoring yourself. Especially now. This is hard. Pandemic life is super hard. You are not alone. Time Magazine stated, “abusers have tried to leverage the pandemic to further isolate their victims from people and resources that could help them.” Please remember you are worthy. You are doing the best you can. You are a strong parent who needs to be healthy so you can look after your children. Abusive parents might not want to see you looking after your own health. Abusive parents might try to make you feel shame or guilt for looking after yourself. Self-care is not only necessary, it’s essential. 

When in doubt, say YES to something for you. Indulge in the sweet snack. Take the 30-min online fitness class. Get dressed up just because it’s Tuesday (or whatever day you happen to read this article). Have a conversation with a plant in the garden. Do something, anything, which makes you feel confident and at peace. 

Parental Alienation

This is a difficult but important topic to acknowledge. According to Psychology Today, parental alienation “occurs when one parent attempts to turn the couple’s children against the other parent.” This is another way an abusive parent will try to inflict pain. If you notice a shift in how you are able to connect with your child, be aware of parental alienation. Signs include emotional outbursts, aligning with the other parent, thinking one parent is good and the other is bad. 

Co-parenting is not easy. We give you all the credit in the world. You are doing awesome and we are cheering for you. Just remember you are loved. Take everything one day at a time.

If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, there is help. You can visit the Break the Silence Against Domestic Violence website at www.breakthesilencedv.org or chat with one of our helpline advocates at 855-287-1777.


Share Your Story

Sharing our stories can be incredibly empowering while also helping others connect with survivors who have similar experiences. If you are inspired to share your story with us, submit here. You can choose to remain anonymous.

You can also donate to BTSADV here.

Reports of Domestic Violence Across the U.S. are Increasing

By Mary Beth Koenes

“If you are trapped at home with an abusive partner — first, don’t let COVID-19 keep you from seeking services. Shelters, local providers, and hotline services are still open.” –Deborah J. Vagins, the president and CEO of the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV)

Domestic violence is on the rise with COVID-19. More families are experiencing hostile and life-threatening home environments as a result of the pandemic restrictions. 

Those of us who are currently experiencing or have experienced intimate partner violence (IPV) in the past don’t have to read reports to understand the cycles of abuse. We live(d) them. We know how stress, disruption of routine, unemployment, boredom, and financial strain can lead to a volatile home environment. COVID-19 is no different than any other major national (or global) crisis, bringing increased danger for victims who are being forced to spend more time at home with their abusers due to the pandemic. Not only have many victims lost their safe outlets for time away from their abusers–through work, school, travel, etc.–but tensions are high with all the uncertainties of coronavirus, putting them at higher risk of experiencing abuse. Alcohol and substance abuse have increased along with abusers tactics for coercion, control, and dominance. This can be a lethal combination.

Some of the compounding factors happening with the pandemic will raise victims’ dependency on their abusers, which inevitably elevates the risk of violence. Maclen Stanley notes that “IPV surges in times of natural disasters and crises. We previously witnessed this ugly social phenomenon during Hurricane Harvey in 2017, and we will see it again during whatever form of Armageddon brings the nation to its knees on the next go-around.”

COVID-19 has brought the world to its knees and simultaneously caused a spike in domestic violence. Organizations in some states, like Hawaii, have added text hotlines for victims to seek help if it isn’t possible to make a phone call safely in their homes. Hawaii’s Domestic Violence Action Center contacted every survivor they had in their system to make sure each of them had a safety plan in place and knew how to get help if and when they might need it. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) has released a comprehensive guide for domestic violence organizations across the country to utilize as they assist their community organizations and victims of abuse.

The effects of the shelter-in-place, the fear of developing COVID-19, and the instability of mental, emotional, and physical health as a collective are beginning to rear their heads now that we are a few months into the pandemic. So, what can we do? Where is our power to cope, heal, help? As individuals, each of us carries so much power. The power to listen, ask questions, learn, share, and speak up to protect each other. The most important steps we can take are to open our eyes to signs of distress and safely inquire about our loved ones’ well-being. There is no action too small. So, wherever you are in the wake of the pandemic, think about what time, donations, support, or efforts you can extend to your local shelters, organizations, and hotlines that are already actively and knowledgeably keeping families safe.

One positive piece in this dual pandemic is that even with increased risk factors due to COVID-19, job closings, and shelter-in-place orders over the last few months, domestic violence prevention organizations and their teams of staff and volunteers are still working around the clock to keep families safe in America. Research and reports are being released regularly to keep our communities informed because some things never change when it comes to IPV–it’s happening and each of us, at a minimum, can reach out, ask questions when we suspect abuse, and offer support in any number of ways. Monetary donations are crucial during these times of crisis, as well as volunteering to answer hotlines, donating household items to families executing safety plans, and spreading awareness about organizations, safety tips, and signs of violence to be aware of on social media and word of mouth.

“We are in this together.” This message is being spread more now than ever. So, let’s talk, share, give wherever we can to help stop domestic violence in each of our communities. Every action we take makes an impact. Show up however you can to help support families and victims during the wake of the pandemic.

If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, there is help. You can visit the Break the Silence Against Domestic Violence website at www.breakthesilencedv.org or chat with one of our helpline advocates at 855-287-1777.


Share Your Story

Sharing our stories can be incredibly empowering while also helping others connect with survivors who have similar experiences. If you are inspired to share your story with us, submit here. You can choose to remain anonymous.

You can also donate to BTSADV here.

June Volunteer of the Month: She’s Changing the World

By Jamey Sheesley

Since last summer, Alice Miles has been volunteering as an outreach coordinator for Break The Silence Against Domestic Violence (BTSADV). She is passionate about what she does with BTSADV and what she does for her home community of Colorado Springs, Colorado. One of the most important things she has brought BTSADV is the understanding of gender identity. She even created a pamphlet to educate others on what gender identity and sexuality are. 

Alice originally joined BTSADV because she was looking for a way to support survivors of domestic violence. Many of her family members have experienced domestic violence, and she noticed in college a considerable gap in support for men who have experienced domestic violence. 

“She has done a lot for her age. She is the first person to stand up and help her community. She is going to school for social work. She works at a youth center helping children,” said Heidi, the community outreach coordinator. 

Alice also works in the LGBTQIA+ community. She uses The Genderbread Person to help educate others on gender identity. She is also working to establish a men’s shelter in Colorado Springs. She said it would take time, but she is going to get there. 

Not only has she done a lot for the community, but she has also done a lot for her own family. She helped raise her three younger cousins and a younger half-sister. She is a children’s literacy specialist and works with children who have autism. One of the main things she helps them develop healthy coping skills. One of her passions is baking, which relieves her stress. Lately, she has focused her cooking on sourdough bread, but she is known for her fudge and cheesecake. 

“Alice is such a bright light. Grounded in self and beaming love into everything she touches. I’m a huge fan of her inquisitive mind. She makes both savory and sweet crepes. I love her,” said Jessica Corvo, blog writer.

“She always brings a unique perspective that makes all of us sit back and think about it, and just wow never thought about it that way,” said Heidi. 

Motorcycles, concerts, and traveling are also things that Alice likes. Also, she has fantastic hair and even had Van Gough’s Starry Night inspire one of her hair colors. 

After interviewing Alice, I realized that everyone should sit down and talk with her, especially those who want to impact their communities. She has ideas and thoughts that are just eye-opening. She has done many things in her life already, and I think many of us could learn from her. 

Congratulations, Alice, on being named June 2020 volunteer of the month.

If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, there is help. You can visit the Break the Silence Against Domestic Violence website at www.breakthesilencedv.org or chat with one of our helpline advocates at 855-287-1777.


Share Your Story

Sharing our stories can be incredibly empowering while also helping others connect with survivors who have similar experiences. If you are inspired to share your story with us, submit here. You can choose to remain anonymous.

You can also donate to BTSADV here.

Jen Lee Survivor Sister Story

Survivor breaks their silence about domestic violence


It’s been nearly 3 years since I left my ex and I still don’t sleep properly, that fear at night is crippling. He groomed me from the first night I met him. It started with lies and cheating, then it got more insidious. He gaslighted me every chance he got I questioned my sanity all the time. The first time he assaulted me he tried to choke me then pushed my face into the mattress I couldn’t breathe. I took him back he cried but blamed me. He done it again told me it’s time for you to die now! I thought I will never see any of my family again how will they cope with this but I was lucky. Those words still haunt me. I lost myself completely. I knew when I had my daughter I had to get out I wasn’t having her witness this. Two wks after having her he punched me in the arm after getting an injection in hospital for a blood clot. He showed no remorse I was broken. He slapped me and spat in my face when she was a few months. The saddest part of it all I lost the one person who was always there my mother, I honestly think the stress of all the yrs of abuse I endured took its toll on her body. She never got to see me get out and I will always carry that with me but I know she gave me the strength to leave.

Notice: The names in this story are fictitious to protect the request for anonymity.

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