This is a hard situation to be in. If the children have witnessed this abuse of you and were victims themselves, then they know nothing else than ‘this is how you’re supposed to live and treat people’. Many times the woman is scared to stand up and defend herself (understandably). I can see how that may be hard against a grown man, but children are another story. You MUST stand up to your children and tell them that this behavior is UNACCEPTABLE and not right. If the father does not back you up (and he won’t), then you must stand up and take control. When the Dad is not around, you need to have a SERIOUS conversation with the children about what is acceptable behavior and what is unacceptable. It needs to be a conversation you have OFTEN because they probably won’t listen to you right away due to conditioning from Dad. But a child hitting a parent is unacceptable and must be nipped.
What this man it teaching the kids is how to be like him. It will be cycle they will repeat if you don’t stop it. This means you will have to get tough. If he has not left yet, then you start today with taking control of the kids’ behavior. Even if they laugh at you, you stand your ground. If you feel threatened or if there is ANY move toward a physical confrontation, then call the police. Having the police there will create a record. This can be used when dealing with the courts concerning custody. Even if the kids see you call the police, it will show them that that kind of behavior is wrong and can get them in trouble.
You ARE putting yourself at risk so to speak. If you have no record of any violence, then you’re right…it will be your word against theirs. You need to stand strong. Seek help from public agencies in your area that can help you. You do not need to be with this man and you need to prepare yourself to be free of him.
Also think, he may never try to get the kids. If he is an abusive man, he may be asserting his obvious control over you to keep you quiet and to do what he wants.
I would also seriously look at some kind of plan for supporting yourself. I would meet with some agency (battered women, social services…) and talk with them about your situation and how you can prepare to become independent. Do you have any family support nearby? Do you have a church family?
I’m sorry you’re in this situation. It sounds like he calls all the shots and you have no voice, and that is NOT a relationship for anyone. You have to start asserting your voice or things will never change. Those kids will turn out just like their Dad.