I could care less about celebrities, so as I began to talk about Ye and the spirals that have been happening, my friends were all perplexed — why did I suddenly care about Kim and Ye for the first time in my life.
Well, Kanye has become the mascot, the fact of post separation abuse — with hundreds of coercive control, and domestic violence advocates and organizations chronicaling the spiral that feels all too familiar. Ironically in my own case, as Kanye began to unravel, so did my ex as he filed numerous appeals on an order that ever so slightly gave hope that my son and I will see freedom.
What is post separation abuse?
Coined one of the most dangerous forms of abuse, post separation abuse is what happens when a targeted person separates from someone who uses coercive control against others. When targeted folks leave abusive partners inevitably what happens next can be super alarming — folks that are abusive tend to tighten down, and, like Ye, unravel. They move across the street from their targeted ex-partner, isolate them from friends and family, any resources or support they needed to leave, go after finances and control of the children, and more.
The problem so often with post separation abuse is that it’s insidious, subtle, and invisible. The abusive partner tends to be charming and performative with others and paint the targeted partner that left as the villain. In family court, this has had astronomical implications — as pos separation abuse often ends in death (see Kaden’s Law, the Jennifer Dulos Law, and so many other coercive control laws that are often sparked by tragedies).
For so long, so many advocates and organizations have fought tirelessly to provide education, and do what they can to make change and protect targeted folks from the often all too lethal danger and impact of post separation abuse. But without tangible, analytical ways to prove post separation abuse and so many different ways to explain it away — it’s been hard to prove just how upsetting and uncomfortable it all is.
And queue Kanye’s unraveling.
While many have found it to be entertaining and fun to watch — many domestic violence advocates and organizations have used it to provide a textbook case of post separation abuse for the rest of the world to see — collecting all of the deleted Insta posts and piecing it all together for folks to learn just how bad post separation abuse can be.
And while I could explain all of the statistics and definitions, and risks, there’s so many organizations that are doing that. Just Google “Kanye West post separation abuse,” or “Kanye West coercive control,” and you’ll be able to learn all about how ugly this all truly is. It’s more important to me to break down some of the concerning behavior and what to look for in your friends and family who might be experiencing this and what you can do to support them.
Red Flags of Post Separation Abuse
If you have a friend or family member who has separated from someone and you’re just getting that gut feeling that something isn’t right, here’s a few things that you should look for:
- Is your friend or family member becoming super isolated? This is a huge red flag of post separation abuse — as often abusive partners will isolate a friend or family member and once we’ve learned that behavior we’ll continue to hide until we learn it is safe to reach out for help, or just even for friendship. Targeted folks may also isolate out of shame or embarrassment — its humiliating to go through this. This person you loved, and cared for us tearing you down at every turn — how can you even say they loved you?…
- Has the ex-partner suddenly become charming or invested in building a relationship with you or taken a sudden interest in the kids? This is such a big red flag. If someone goes from 0–100 with you after a friend or family member has ended their relationship with them, take note. They’re attempting to isolate your friend/family from support and resources. If the kids are suddenly a big interest for an ex-partner, also keep an eye out. This could mean they’re using the children to control or impact the targeted person.
- Is the ex-partner painting your friend or family member as mentally ill or the villain? Ah, the what feels like inevitable accusations of mental illness or “lewd” behavior. Most domestic violence victims that I know know what I’m talking about. We’re always the problem it’s never their behavior… If you find that your friend or family members ex is now telling you all about how awful they are or trying to degrade/demean them to you — that should be a huge clue that something isn’t right. Often abusive parents will run into family court saying that a parent who has taken care of the children for their life, without problems, is suddenly incredibly dangerous. That’s not someone representing the truth, often, but rather someone trying to isolate a targeted person. Keep in mind that often targeted folks don’t tell everyone what’s going on — often we struggle to even be honest with ourselves and it takes years of therapy to really unearth and unpack a lot of what we went through. Look at the context and look for the other signs and red flags before jumping on this one…
- Is there a ton of boundary-crossing from the targeted person? If the ex is, I don’t know, buying property across the street, and tracking what they do, consider the motives. Often these behaviors are symptoms of a big problem. The other thing I see all too often is the insertion of an ex-partner into the targeted person's life. If that targeted person works in a public space, suddenly the ex-partner is coming in, and frequent that business. If they have kids the ex might use the excuse of needing to know who is around the kids and where they are to track everything the targeted person does. They might even throw phones at the kids with GPS monitoring software, and bug the kids for phone calls and text messages often to figure out what’s going on. Often my license was run, I was followed from access exchanges, my social media was monitored, and while when we were together I could and would take our child where ever without question, care or concern, as soon as we separated I couldn’t even be at home without my ex knowing. He suddenly started going to a mom’s group a few miles from my house despite living over an hour away and maintained friendships with friends of mine despite my discomfort with it — often asking them really personal questions about me.
- If there are kids, are they anxious to be with the ex-partner or more violent or emotional with the targeted parent (your friend/family member) than before? This can look in so many different ways — they could have an upset stomach, be quieter, protest to going, try to make plans, and more. But kids who really don’t want to go with a parent are typically not because they love one parent more than another, it’s typically because they don’t feel loved by one parent, and they feel loved by another. Keep in mind that often targeted parents are alienated from their children by the abusive parent in order to punish the targeted parent.
What Can You Do?
- Maintain appropriate boundaries with the ex-partner.
- Validate and support your family member and their experiences.
- Trust that a targeted person knows what’s best for their safety and the safety of their family.
- Help them approach Family Court (if this applies) strategically.
- Help them connect to resources and aid.
- Document your experiences with the ex-partner and the kids.
- Learn whatever you can about post-separation abuse.
- Learn motivational interviewing.