Both you and your husband have valid points. “Fleeing” from a situation, after the key traumatic event is essentially over, is avoidance behaviour, and it is mostly avoidance that fuels ongoing distress. Wanting to start afresh is reasonable too, but it’s about the timing and the rationale for leaving that’s important. Leaving itself is not the issue but rather when and how you leave.
The family certainly has navigated many of the most difficult issues already by starting, and moving through the legal process. This is an exceedingly trying time and you should be proud of yourselves for doing what you have. As parents, you are modeling problem solving to your children. You are making others accountable for their behaviour and showing your children (not just telling them) how committed to them you are. Your children are also learning how families can pull together and support one another, even when not all extended family are supportive. These are rich experiences, almost certainly not ones you would have chosen for them, but rich nonetheless.
Decide where you as a family would like to live and be clear about why. Focus on the positive reasons for living in a particular place. Don’t give the perpetrator more power by allowing him to decide where you live. Take back the power by becoming survivors rather than victims. Importantly, this will require strategies for both the children and yourselves, especially since that you live in a small town.
Decide what each of you will do if you see him. Remember to keep the power, try not to change what you were doing simply because of him. Have a plan of what you will say to one another in that situation. Focus on being there for each other. What do the children need to feel safe and reassured? Come up with a strategy that provides that safety and reassurance.
One family, in a similar situation to yours, decided they would not acknowledge the perpetrator but they did have a code phrase. Whoever saw the perpetrator first would say “ trouble to the left” for example. They decided they would always continue with whatever they were doing. The parents said something reassuring like “I’m very glad to be with you now” and they made a point of touching each other. They held hands in a warm and caring way. They also decided that if they’d seen the perpetrator they’d have a treat as soon as they were done with whatever they were doing. Sometimes it was an ice cream and on another accession they bought fruit and made a fruit salad together. On yet another accession they decided to have a swim together as soon as they’d finished what they were doing. Do whatever suits you as a family, but make it fun and do it together. Make a point of having the conversation at the time of contact with the perpetrator. As soon as someone notices him, reassure the children and shift the focus onto something positive.
It sounds like the suicidal thoughts began before the abuse, and it is not uncommon for those sorts of thoughts to resurface when you are stressed. Both the suicidal thoughts and the negative thoughts about the perpetrator don’t mean that you will necessarily act on them, but they are distressing. I’d suggest that you see a psychologist to explore how the suicidal thoughts came to be, what function they served (they always have at least one) and what your options are moving forward. You are entitled to see a psychologist under Medicare, so see your GP for a referral to a psychologist. The negative feelings like anger, resentment, guilt, loathing towards to perpetrator are normal and are more likely to dissipate somewhat when you restore the power to the family, but remember your boundaries have been breached so feeling uncomfortable to normal.
I wish you strength at such a difficult time.
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