The confounding of love and abuse can contribute to the confusion of children of battered women. For example, they may hear the batterer, with anger mounting in his voice, listing off the generous or loving things that he has done for his partner as he escalates toward finally assaulting her. An hour after beating, they may hear him crying and saying that he loves her. He may tell the children directly how much he cares for their mother, perhaps in the same conversation in which he also says that she is an incompetent parent or a drunk. Through receiving those contradictory messages, children can form convoluted understandings of how kindness and cruelty interrelate, which may contribute to difficulties in their present or future relationships. One example of this dynamic, commented on frequently by clinicians specializing in working with children exposed to domestic violence, is that some young children struggle with the belief that a person who doesn’t abuse them must not really love them.
The Batterer as a Parent: Addressing the Impact of Domestic Violence on a Family by Lundy Bancroft, Jay G. Silverman, Daniel Ritchie