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Domestic Violence

Helping Someone in A Dangerous Situation

01/17/2007

Question:

My daughter is married to a man who behaves like a sociopath. He expects to be waited on hand and foot, blames her for his every problem and while I don’t believe he is physically abusive yet, he has extreme fits of anger where he screams and throws objects when he is frustrated whether or not she has caused his anger.

Now I see him directing his anger at my 2 year old grandson by bulling him when he is "playing with him" and when he was upset that he had to get off the couch to pick up my daughter from work, he screamed at my grandson to get going and get in the car seat and the whole time the poor baby was trying to placate his father, as if he was used to it. I could hear him through the closed car door saying "I’m doing it daddy, I'm hurrying!"

My heart is breaking and I can’t sleep wondering when something worse will happen. My daughter threatens to divorce him frequently and is always talked out of it within a few hours with promises to change that last about three weeks before the next fight. My daughter used to be beautiful and sassy but is so tired looking all the time and sad. She looks ten years older than her 23 years. What can I do?

Answer:

This is a very difficult situation and the fact that children are involved makes it even more challenging.

You have clearly painted a picture of what typically occurs in the cycle of violence.

If you are familiar with the cycle of abuse, it can explain why women stay in many cases. There is the tension-building stage. Here, the abuser is moody, isolating, yelling; he may be using drugs or alcohol. This is followed by the acute explosion stage. He may hit, choke, intimidate, use weapons, slap, or rape during this stage. This is followed by the honeymoon stage. Here, the abuser says “I’m sorry," begs for forgiveness, promises to get counseling; he is charming and often displays the behaviors and gestures that you remember or appreciate most about him in the past.

The behavior during this stage unfortunately sets the victim up for another abusive event. It is here that she often decides to stay because he is different during this stage.

I believe that your primary goal is to be a source of support for your daughter. What she needs less of is another critical voice telling her she is not making any sense. Instead, educate her in a non-threatening way. Share your concerns about his behavior and her safety. Let her know that you are there for her. Inform her of support services in your community and maybe help her get the information she needs. Empower her to make the right or best decision for herself and her children.

For more information:

Go to the Domestic Violence health topic, where you can:

Response by:

Cathy   McDaniels-Wilson, PhD Cathy McDaniels-Wilson, PhD
Adjunct Professor
Department of Sociology
The Ohio State University