Daughter in an Abusive Relationship

Reader’s Question

I am worried sick about my daughter and 2 yr old granddaughter. She is in an abusive marriage but will not leave for good. They have been separated many times — the last time after she found him in a bar with a woman. Last week she called the police after he came home drunk and tore the house up accusing her that the baby wasn’t his. They are now bankrupt, their 2nd car is being repossessed, and he won’t work. She does in order to keep a place for him to live. The little girl is starting to repeat what goes on in the house. She is nervous and scared most of the time. He is very big and loud. He is an habitual liar. I think she is scared to leave. What do you think?

Psychologist’s Reply

Of course she’s scared to leave. She is being intimidated by “witnessed violence” — being in his presence when he screams, threatens, and destroys objects in the house. While he may not directly harm her, she has witnessed his violence to the point that she assumes he will treat her in the same violent way if she leaves.

At this point, he has no incentive to leave. He is being supported, even in his adventures outside the home. Keep in mind, this Antisocial Personality doesn’t care about her financial status. What typically happens is he will emotionally and financially exhaust your daughter, then leave when he finds another victim to support him.

I’d recommend reading my article on Stockholm Syndrome, available on this website. It offers suggestions about dealing with such situations. The family will probably need to develop a rescue strategy. During one of those times your daughter leaves, she will need the resources to stay gone. People often return to abusive relationships as they have no plan or resources once they’ve left. If the family has already arranged a safe place to stay, some money, and some legal protection — she is more likely to remain separated and eventually escape the situation.

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