Monday, September 1, 2014
Discussing an Abusive Relationship
I believe my sister-in-law and kids are being abused. She and her husband have been having problems for quite some time. A year ago, he admitted (after being caught) to having an affair for the previous 4-5 years. He is always belittling her and their kids. He has a quick temper and my husband and I have suspected that he is abusing them. This weekend, I witnessed him lose his temper at their son over a sibling issue (son hit the daughter). He slapped his son so hard (on the face) that he knocked him to the ground. He proceeded to remove him forceably from the room by the arms and screamed at both kids for the next 20 minutes. My kids witnessed this.
What should I do? I don`t know how to broach the subject with her. What complicates this is that she lives about 2 hours from her family (in his hometown) and he is a police officer. Her mother is afraid of what he would do if she leaves.
This is a difficult situation. I think if you voice your concern from the perspective of how it impacts you, it may open the lines of communication.
For example, instead of making statements that are accusatory, you could say, "I feel really concerned and scared when I see how hard he hits the boys." Refrain from accusing her in any way, so that she will not feel she is being attacked for not doing a better job of protecting her family.
Helping to educate her about violence in families may also be helpful. But again, you need to simply share observations from your personal perspective - not an accusatory one.
Officers are not exempt from committing acts of domestic violence. The Lautenberg Act prohibits individuals, including officers, from owning firearms or ammunition if they have ever been convicted of a misdemeanor of domestic violence.
I encourage you to talk to your sister-in-law, as your voice of concern may protect her life and the life of her children.
Cathy McDaniels-Wilson, PhD
Department of Sociology
The Ohio State University