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Child Abuse

Seeking Treatment for Past Verbal Abuse

04/09/2000

Question:

Growing up, I was the only boy in a household of three kids. I have to admit that my dad was really mean to the girls, but not to me. He would tease them a lot about their bodies, and I always felt like I got preferential treatment -- we did lots of neat things together. Now, my dad is dead and the girls (now women), can`t say anything nice about him. His most recent wife (my stepmother) does the same thing. I know he was abusive, but there`s not anything we can change about the past. I feel myself getting furious when they start to talk badly about him. What should I do? And why do you think my dad treated us so differently?

Answer:

There is no doubt that the situation you describe must be uncomfortable for you and the rest of your family as well. There are clearly many unresolved issues which it seems no one has yet addressed. I strongly urge you and your sibs and step mother to seek family therapy so you can better understand the basis for the anger all of you feel. If your family is not accepting of family intervention then you should proceed to enter into individual therapy on your own. This is not a question which can be answered without a good deal of background and therapy is the most productive approach. If you do not take some action the situation will only get worse. Good luck.

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Response by:

Robert Shapiro, MD
Professor of Clinical Pediatrics
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati

Patricia A Myers, LISW
Formerly, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati