Watching your daughter suffer at the hands of an abuser is a painful experience for any parent. Psychologist John M. Carver, writing for the CounsellingResource.com website, says that the psychological trauma that a victim encounters in an abusive relationship may present you with a challenging situation as you attempt to help your daughter because, in some abusive relationships, "emotionally bonding with an abuser is actually a strategy for survival for victims of abuse and intimidation." Your daughter will need your support during this difficult time.
Encourage her to spend time with family and friends. The American Psychological Association says that an abuser controls his victim by isolating her, both physically and socially, from any network of support. During this time, you may talk to her, privately, about your concerns. Help her grasp the serious nature of abuse and remind her that the maltreatment she's experiencing isn't her fault. Explain to her that you're concerned for her safety and well-being. Reassure her of her strengths and remind her of the confidence you have in her. Do something fun and enjoyable together to help lift her spirits.
Resist the impulse to interject yourself in her relationship. Allow her to regain control of her own life and take the necessary steps. As much as you may want to physically remove her from the abusive relationship, you need to allow her to recognize what she needs to do in the situation. Support her in the process of recognizing the realities of the abuse. Psychotherapist Gudrun Frerichs, writing for the website SelfGrowth.com, says you should not try to repair the relationship or your daughter. "Survivors," Frerichs says, "don't come to you to FIX IT."
Listen to her and refrain from judging her. Show her that you're willing to listen to her. Make her feel comfortable in knowing that she can confide in you when she's ready. Frerichs says that victims need to share their stories and feel secure in the fact that someone is there to hear them express their emotions. Don't give your daughter advice about what she needs to do or comment on what you believe she's failing to do. If she believes she is being blamed or judged, shame may prevent her from confiding in you.
Give her information. Educate yourself on the short-term and long-term consequences of abuse so that you can help her understand the severity of the situation. HelpGuide.org suggests that women in abusive relationships prepare for emergencies by knowing their abuser's red flags and identifying safe areas in the home. Encourage her to go to see a therapist or join a support group. Sometimes, victims of abuse may feel more comfortable discussing their issues with a trained professional or a group of women who have encountered some type of abuse.
Assure her of your enduring support. Remind your daughter that no matter what she chooses to do, you will remain by her side. Remember that leaving her abuser can be a terrifying time for her. She's going to need your support and your strength to help her through this time.
Always take the abuse seriously. If you're ever afraid of the physical safety of your daughter, call the police immediately. Abusers maintain control by manipulating their victims and these victims often suffer from fear, depression and confusion, which may prevent them from leaving. Be sensitive to the victim's mental and physical state when you are trying to help.
- Counselling Resource: Love and Stockholm Syndrome: The Mystery of Loving an Abuser
- Self Growth: What To Do When Someone Discloses Sexual Abuse
- Psychology Today: The Right To a Healthy Relationship
- Psychology Today: What's the Problem With Problem Partners?
- HelpGuide.com: Help for Abused and Battered Women: Domestic Violence Shelters and Support