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Domestic Violence

Don`t Want it to Be Too Late

10/03/2010

Question:

My daughter just turned 21. She has been with a boy her age for about 4 years. Things have always seemed tumultuous, but we recently found it he has been verbally abusing her for much of that time. She recently told me has has started pushing her down, too. They have broken up time and again but always gotten back together. He gives the song and dance that he will change, or he says he will kill himself, and back she goes. She has attempted suicide twice with breakups with him. She now seems to realize that he is abusive (she moved back home after living in an apt with him for just two weeks), and she says things like "I can`t be with him any more" and "he`s so mean." But then she says she loves him and will never find anyone else. We all try to be very supportive, tell her we love her and will always be here for her, build up her self-esteem how we can, and trying to help he see the problems and make the decision herself. But now she is seeming suicidal again (they are in another bad phase of the cycle, apparently). When is enough enough? Why should we all have to continue to endure this? Isn`t there something else we can do to wake her up?

Answer:

Dear Parent, 

I know this must be frustrating for you. It certainly seems as if you're doing a lot of the right things--i.e., being a supportive base, not passing judgment, helping her feel good about herself.  Many have struggled with the question as to why women/men stay in abusive relationships.  It certainly seems as if she is beginning to recognize that this is not a healthy relationship. She realizes on some level that this type of treatment is not good.

However, he is playing a role in this process as well. It is quite common for men to become very charming and loving after an abusive event; this oftentimes convinces the woman that he will be different.  He may make promises to her, tell her how much she means to him and how he would never do anything to hurt her, etc.  She then becomes certain that he will be different. She may become convinced that he is demonstrating those behaviors that he once did, and that her "old boyfriend is back".  And unfortunately, she may be unaware that she is only being set up for another round of abuse.

In terms of next steps, discussing with your daughter the benefits of seeking professional support would be in order. Her history of suicidal attempts is of concern.  A therapist will provide a supportive base for her, as well as serve as a good resource on battering relationships.  She will learn more effective methods of coping with loss and distress and this will decrease your worries as a parent, knowing that she is receiving professional care. I would work very hard to find a therapist for her immediately.

For more information:

Go to the Domestic Violence health topic, where you can:

Response by:

Cathy   McDaniels-Wilson, PhD Cathy McDaniels-Wilson, PhD
Adjunct Professor
Department of Sociology
The Ohio State University