Children in Police Families

They know that they are different because their father is a police officer.

All children who witness their father batter their mother share a world of conflicted emotions. Children of police officers suffer the same as other kids and often more.

Their Father's Image

Your husband may demand that you and the kids project the image of the perfect family to the community. He might expect the kids to be a reflection of their upstanding father. He may make it clear daily that they had better live up to his expectations. If they do, their reward is enjoying all the perks of being a cop's kids, plus the security of knowing that anyone who messes with them answers to their dad. Some kids go along with the program. They idolize their father, imitate him, and constantly seek his approval.

Other kids rebel against their father's image and the authority it represents. He may not tolerate their rebellion and discipline them physically. He may believe that it is his role as a father to make the rules and to enforce them. He may warn you not to undermine his authority because, if he left raising the kids up to you, they'd end up just like the drug addicts and gang members he deals with everyday.

Because My Dad's a Cop...

Children of some police officers learn from a young age that they can use their father's profession and reputation to help them out when they're in trouble. They develop an attitude that they are superior to other kids in that they, like their dads, are above the law. Their magic words are, "My dad's a cop." Whether they get stopped for breaking curfew, pulled over for speeding, or busted at a party for drinking, they know to tell the police, "My dad's on the force." They reap the benefits of "professional courtesy" when the officer lets them go with a warning.

But children also learn about the flip side of professional courtesy when they see how the police respond to a 911 call from their mother. If they witness the police siding with their dad, they learn that calling the police is not the smartest thing to do when they need protection for their mom or for themselves. They get the message that their dad can do whatever he wants to anyone — including them — and that no one will ever stop him. These kids know that they can't call the police because their dad is the police. These children believe that no one in the world can protect them from their dad — not their mom, not the neighbors, and definitely not the police.

Their Father's Weapon

If you are considering separation or divorce, your abuser knows that your children are his most powerful weapons. He may enlist them as his allies. He might work to instill fear, loyalty, sympathy, or anger — whatever he needs to get them on his side. He knows that the kids are his most powerful weapons against you. You may be willing to let the money, the house, and your lifestyle go in order to be free of him, but he'd bet his life you won't let go of the kids. He'll figure that the surest way to make you stay, or to destroy you if you leave, is through the kids.

Excerpt from Police Domestic Violence: A Handbook for Victims. Diane Wetendorf, ©2000, 2006, 2013 All rights reserved.

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