Domestic Violence/domestic abuse and theryapy
QUESTION: my 23 year old daughter ran away from an abusive boyfriend 1 week ago. She went to counseling today. After the initial session, The counselor told her it was okay to contact her boyfriend to open lines of communication. She called him immediately and they have been talking for 2 days now. Now she is talking about moving back in with him.
Either my daughter was not quite honest with the counselor so that she could get the okay to call her boyfriend or the counselor is not trained in domestic abuse therapy. I want to contact her therapist because I am concerned about my daughter in communication with her abuser. I also want to know why she would advise my daughter to contact him. How should I go about this, if at all.
ANSWER: Hi Susan,
Thank you for reaching out with ideas of what is going on and what to do. Either situation could have happened--your daughter could not have been totally honest with the counselor or the counselor is not trained in domestic abuse therapy but only after one session with the counselor tells me that your daughter isn’t ready to learn or understand about abusive relationship versus healthy ones or simply did not listen to what the counselor was really saying.
Since your daughter is 23, the counselor will not speak to you about your daughter’s situation without your daughter’s permission. And contacting the therapist without your daughter’s permission may undermine your relationship with your daughter. Talking with your daughter about healthy relationships or providing some websites about abusive and healthy relationships would be a good place to start.
Picking up some handouts at your local domestic violence center to give to your daughter would be good to do to as well. This would also provide a phone number for her to call if she wanted to talk to someone about abusive relationships. Asking the domestic violence center for therapist recommendations may be helpful to give to your daughter if she wants to see a therapist who specializes in domestic violence. But your daughter has to be ready to receive this information from you so providing this information needs to be done gently and cautiously.
Here are some websites that may help:
National Domestic Violence Hotline: http://www.thehotline.org/
California Partnership to End Domestic Violence
P.O. Box 1798
Sacramento, CA 95812
(916) 444-7163 Fax: (916) 444-7165
(800) 524-4765 Nationwide
Asking your daughter questions of how his behavior made her feel is also a way for her to learn harmful behavior. Approaching your daughter with the belief that she will make the best decision to protect herself from harm will help her believe in herself and help her make good choices and decisions. Seeing a counselor who specializes in domestic violence yourself will help you learn various ways to talk with your daughter as well as joining support groups who are experiencing similar issues.
Your daughter needs to believe that she deserves to be treated properly and respectfully and when she does, she will not tolerate being around abusive behavior. But going slow and being gentle so she will listen to you or a counselor who specializes in domestic violence will help her take the proper steps in understanding abusive relationships versus healthy ones.
Thank you for writing and please write with any further questions you may have.
Much peace to you,
Life Coach, Specializing in Abusive Relationships and Domestic Violence Education
---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------
QUESTION: Thank you Coach Cathy for your quick and compassionate response to our family concerns for my daughters safety. If oi were to approach her therapist in confidence. Is she in any way obligated to tell my daughter about it?
What do you think about me suggesting my daughter accompanying me to family therapy?
The therapist is not obligated to tell your daughter about you contacting her as far as I know.
Yes, asking your daughter to accompany you to family therapy would be a good move. Letting your daughter know that you are concerned for her health and well-being and being in an unhealthy relationship may help her attend. But, at age 23, she is most likely trying to gain her independence from the family core and may see this as an attempt to control her life. But just letting her know you are concerned for her safety may create awareness that she is NOT in a good relationship.
Here is an excellent online counselor who thoroughly understands abusive relationships that you may want to speak with to get more ideas about how to help your daughter: Jennifer Young, http://saferelationshipsmagazine.com/healing-the-after-math-column-jennifer-youn
Whatever bond that your daughter has with this man needs to be broken before she can break away from him. This is the unhealthy bond that is keeping her in this relationship and keeping her from looking at the negative impact that it is having on her. A good book that helps educate about abusive men is How To Spot A Dangerous Man by Sandra Brown: http://saferelationshipsmagazine.com/how-to-spot-a-dangerous-man
This website also has free monthly newsletters that may be of interest.
Here is another good book that has been around for a while but is a good read to start understanding unhealthy behavior patterns: Help! I’m in Love with a Narcissist by Steven Carter & Julia Sokol
Patricia Evans has written several books about abusive behavior as well: http://www.verbalabuse.com/page3/page3.html
Just being there for your daughter while she sorts through this situation is very helpful but SHE has to be the one to decide how to handle this situation. Providing her with information about healthy versus unhealthy relationships, letting her know you are concerned and asking if there is anything you can do to help her may be enough to get her to seek professional counseling from someone who specializes in domestic abuse.
Your daughter is very fortunate to have a mother who cares about her. Keep showing your love and concern will help your daughter make good decisions about her life.
Peace to you,