Teenage Problems/My sister is in an abusive relationship
Hi there, I'm Joanne, I'm 17 and from Southern England near the Home Counties, and my sister's 23, been with her girlfriend since November 2009. She moved in with her in February 2011 and things were good up until end of March - beginning of April, she said.
Last week she told me she'd broken up with her because of domestic violence from her girlfriend, and I suggested that we report it to the police. The violence was nothing more than threats, no actual physical abuse; apart from slight scarring to her arms, she had no other injuries.
As a family we reported it to the police, and they said to us that they were more interested in pursuing a gang of local warez distributors; that was the top priority, after murder and homicide, and that they couldn't help with this. They said to us that warez would be a priority; rape etc. would be lower down on the priority list as they said stopping warez distributors was important. They said to us that "Dealing with warez is more in the public interest, but rape, domestic abuse isn't, really, there's little prospect for a conviction, realistically, and [my sister's] abuse is only small injuries, it's only verbal abuse."
My sister's got physical scars from the domestic violence, but is amazingly not mentally scarred by it, she said "I made a mistake getting into this relationship, didn't think it at the time, oh well, it's life experience, just means I'm going to know what to look out for next time".
She said she had absolutely no idea that she'd got into an abusive relationship - everything seemed good.
We both feel upset that the police refuse to do anything about it, especially as this is domestic violence in a gay relationship.
She's moved back home with us since then, but has refused to let it get to her.
As a family, we're shocked by the police's attitude - it just seems so out of touch.
A local domestic violence charity is helping her with this; have we as a family done the right thing?
How do we cope with this?
Thank you for taking the time to write to me and I hope that I can help.
I am sorry to hear that your sister has been going through a tough time recently and seemingly not getting the support from the Police that she should have had.
Domestic violence of any sort should not be tolerated and it can lead to potentially dangerous situations if it is not addressed as soon as possible. People have had their lives taken as a result of their partner not wanting to leave (out of fear or intimidation) or had their emotional stability shattered because of the control that the abuser has had over them. It is good that your sister has had the courage and strength to walk away from this relationship but it is obviously something that will take time to get over and come through. Physical scars may heal but emotional ones take longer to heal and it could be that she is hiding her emotional pain a lot better on the outside that she actually is on the inside; and this is common and not surprising.
I am disappointed that the Police have not taken this as seriously as they should have done and it is important to remember that a crime is still a crime and should be taken just as seriously as any other crime. There is nothing worse than reporting a crime, getting the courage to explain to someone what you have come through for them to almost talk to you like you have wasted their time. It's not fair and it's not right. The Police will have some kind of complaints procedure and if you, your family and your sister feel strongly about it, you could consider pursuing an official complaint about the way in which they have treated your sister and your family. Gay or not, that should not make any difference to the way in which your sister should have been treated; she is still a citizen and they are a public body whose responsibility is to treat each and every person as an individual and give them all the same amount of respect.
Your sister has obviously come through a lot and the fact that she is in touch with a local charity will be helping because they can offer her tailored information, advice and support to her based upon her situation. Just by knowing that she is not alone and has somewhere to go to talk and get understanding, will be helping her to understand what she has been through and the potential turmoil that she may be going through in respect to her emotions. This is a huge step forward, getting her in touch with the right people and it is important to remember that the charity is there to not just support her but also your family. Domestic abuse has an impact not only upon the abused but those who care about the abused and it is important to feel comfortable enough to go to them to ask how best you can support her.
As a family, all you can do is to make sure that she is as happy as she can be each day by offering her reassurance and encouragement for what she has come through and to keep this support up to get her to think about the future. By staying positive and by encouraging her to be more sociable and getting her life back on track, you can help her to put what has happened behind her and to move on, when she is ready, with the support of this charity. One thing I would avoid is to engage in any conversation that involves offering an opinion such as 'I didn't like her anyway' or 'I told you she was bad news' etc as any kind of negative reference to the past and their relationship could potentially cause her to close up and not want to engage in conversation about her past; which is not what you want if she needs to talk about it.
Your sister needs to remember that is incredibly brave and courageous to come through what she has done and that, this is the start of a new, positive chapter in her life and not the end of her life as she knows it.
By being there and by being positive, staying strong as a family, I am confident that you, your family and your sister can come through this ordeal stronger and closer, heading into a brighter future.
I hope that helps.