It's Not Me, It's My Parents!
Teens whose parents are in abusive relationships may experience many of the same emotions as teens who are in abusive relationships themselves. This means they may feel withdrawn, depressed, stressed out, tired, frustrated, angry, and/or hopeless.
You may not understand why your parent is deciding to stay in this relationship, especially if you've expressed your concerns directly. Though it's important for you to speak out about how you feel to your parents if you feel safe doing so, it's also important to remember that there are many, many reasons people stay in abusive relationships. What follows is a list of reasons why survivors may not leave abusive relationships, or why they return to them (the average survivor returns to an abusive relationship 7 times before leaving for good):
62 Ways He Prevents Her From Leaving
“Why doesn’t she just leave him?” Perhaps the question should be, “What is he doing to prevent her form leaving?” Offenders make a conscious choice to manipulate, control and keep their victims from leaving. Offenders know their victims very well and will use what is most precious and frightening to the victim to coerce them into staying. The reality is that violent partners do whatever they can to make leaving impossible for their victims. The following is a list of just a few of the ways that offenders have admitted to using against their partners.
- I have threatened to kill her if she leaves.
- I have threatened to kill the children if she leaves.
- I have threatened to kill her pets if she leaves.
- I have threatened to kill people that she loves if she leaves.
- I have told her that she can never be free of me.
- I reminded her that I have all the money
- I have kept her isolated from others so that she has nowhere to go.
- I told her I would ruin her financially.
- I told her family to convince her to stay.
- I convinced her friends I was a good guy to get them on my side.
- I told her that she couldn’t leave for the children’s sake; it would hurt them to lose their father.
- I told her that she would lose her standing in the community if she leaves.
- I told her that she would be cast out of church.
- I told her that she would be disobeying God if she left me.
- I told her that no one would help her and those shelter places are for those who really need help.
- I would chip away at her self-esteem so she believed she wasn’t capable of leaving.
- I would scare her so bad that she couldn’t think straight and couldn’t make a plan to leave.
- I told her she would be the one responsible for breaking up our home and what would her mother say?
- I threatened to get sole custody of the children.
- I threatened to tell the world she is a bad mother.
- I threatened to turn her into a child protection agency if she leaves.
- I said I would tell everyone that she is crazy and that I would prove it by pointing out her erratic behavior.
- I convinced her that she is crazy.
- I told her I would prove to everyone that she was a “whore” or a “slut” if she ever left.
- I moved us way out into the country so she couldn’t get any help.
- I made sure that we didn’t have a telephone.
- I rigged the car so she could only drive to work and back.
- I convinced everyone that she is mentally ill, sick, weak, stupid, and otherwise unable to take care of herself or the children.
- I held onto all her important legal documents and those of the children.
- I wouldn’t let her work so she wouldn’t have any money and no work history.
- I sabotaged her jobs so she would always get fired and made it hard for her to get a new job.
- I ruined her relationships so that she had nowhere to go.
- I told the kids that she was nuts so they wouldn’t respect her.
- I would brainwash the children so that they would not go with her, and I knew she wouldn’t leave without them.
- I wouldn’t allow her to go to school or job training, so she wouldn’t have skills to support a family.
- I made her hit the children (you hit them or I will, and I will hit harder) and threatened her with that information if she ever left.
- I threatened to destroy all of her belongings.
- I said I would find her and rape her if she ever left.
- I told her I would beat the children if she ever left.
- I would play mind games with her and confuse her so much that she wouldn’t know what was going on.
- I know I had her convinced that she is a bad person and a bad mother.
- I convinced her that she couldn’t live without me.
- I convinced her that I really love her and that her love could change me.
- I promised her that I would change without her having to tell anyone or leave me.
- I convinced her not to leave if I got drug treatment.
- I told her that if she ever leaves me I would kill myself.
- I locked up all of her stuff.
- I reminded her that there were a lot worse guys out there.
- I told her that those emergency shelters are always so full and she’d be better off at home.
- I would sometimes be extra helpful and nice to convince her to stay.
- I told her that we could work things out.
- I told her that I have helped her so many times and now she needs to stick by me.
- I told her that I was just stressed out and when the stress is over, the violence will end.
- I told her that she just has to accept me for who I am and she knew I had a temper when she married me.
- I reminded her that the last time she left it only made things worse.
- I asked her if she really wanted the kids to be without a father?
- I would confuse her and agree that she should leave because it was her fault.
- I reminded her of all the good times we had together.
- I convinced her that no one else would ever love her.
- I put on this big “I’m sorry” act and give her flowers and am all nice to her.
- I told her that if she were a good mother she wouldn’t leave just because things are “hard.”
- I told her that if she leaves she wouldn’t have any health insurance.
Sometimes it may seem like your parent isn't listening. Sometimes they aren't. Even if you've done your research on domestic violence, there are some parents who still may not hear what you're saying. You have every right to be angry about that. However, when you do get frustrated, remember what a difficult situation this is for your parent, and how many reasons they may have for staying. This doesn't mean you should give up on being a personal advocate for your parent if you feel safe doing so. Letting them know you're there and that you care about them is a huge support and relief for parents.
*A note on safety: sometimes, even if your parent chooses to stay in an abusive relationship, it may not be safe for you to do so. Use your instincts. If you do feel unsafe, there are two different routes to take. You may choose to find alternate housing on your own (staying with friends, other relatives), or you may choose to report the abuse to Child Protective Services (Child Welfare) and they can intervene in the situation to try and keep you safe and ensure the abuse does not continue, or that you are removed from the situation. In some cases (although this is rare for teens), it may mean living with a foster family for a while. However, CPS puts relatives as a priority for who you stay with, which may mean that your 'foster family' is actually your aunt, uncle, grandma, or cousin. You may also choose to get a restraining order against the abuser if the abuser is related to you by blood. Your non-offending parent will need to go with you to file the order, however.
Living in a home with abuse is an unfair and sometimes unsafe situation. Make sure you are taking care of yourself. You may choose to seek out a support group, your school counselor, or talk to friends about the situation. You may also choose to call a local DV agency where an advocate can talk to you about the situation, either on the phone or in person. You deserve to be safe, and you deserve to have someone to talk to about your situation.