Psychotherapists Julie and Dorothy Firman -- mother and daughter -- report that relationships between mothers and daughters tend to be the most influential and the most primal. If your daughter is being physically, sexually or emotionally abused and controlled by her partner, your connection to her can provide guidance and courage to safely end the relationship. You may feel angry and powerless knowing your daughter is being hurt, but there are steps you may take to assist her during this process.
Understand Intimate Partner Violence
Learn what tactics an aggressor in an abusive relationship utilizes to maintain power and control. Familiarize yourself with the barriers victims tend to face when leaving, such as fear, reluctance to dismantle the family unit and lack of resources. This knowledge provides a frame of reference as you work toward being the "complete opposite of what the abuser is" -- a goal encouraged by Lundy Bancroft in his book "Why Does He Do That: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men."
Support Your Daughter
Be there unconditionally. Let her know that she can share her thoughts and feelings with you in confidence. Allow her to keep important documentation and other personal belongings in your home. Give her the contact information for her local domestic violence program -- the staff can assist her with planning for her safety. You may also accompany her to the police station, hospital or court at her request. Above all, follow her lead and accept her judgment on timing.
Refrain from judging your daughter. You may feel frustrated if she doesn't heed your advice or if she reconciles with her batterer each time she tries to leave. This is a normal part of the process. Also refrain from judging her partner -- she doesn't love the abuse but may still strongly care for the abuser. If she perceives scrutiny, she may distance herself from you and her support network will be weakened.
The time of separating from an abusive partner is the most dangerous; when the abuser senses a loss of power and control, the battering is most likely to escalate. This is why it is imperative to never pressure your daughter to leave. It may simply be safer for her to stay, at least for the time being. Rescuing is ultimately something she will do for herself.
Take Care of Yourself
Pay attention to your own needs. Constant worry and concern for your daughter can be emotionally draining and exhausting. Do not neglect your own physical and emotional needs -- rest, eat healthy, exercise, spend time with friends and get medical attention when necessary. You will not be an adequate support for your daughter if you do not respond to your own stress.
- National Institute of Justice: Extent, Nature, and Consequences of Intimate Partner Violence: Findings From the National Violence Against Women Survey
- Civic Research Institute: Safety Plan for a Friend, Relative, Co-Worker Who Is Being Abused by an Intimate Partner
- The Hotline: 50 Obstacles to Leaving
- Daughters and Mothers: Taking the Next Step; Julie Firman and Dorothy Firman
- Why Does He Do That: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men; Lundy Bancroft
Jill Avery-Stoss is a graduate of Penn State University and a writer and editor based in northeast Pennsylvania. Having spent more than a decade working with victims of sexual and domestic violence, she specializes in writing about women's issues, with emphasis on families and relationships.
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