Emotional child abuse or... - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 13 Old 02-18-2013, 04:18 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I've been away from MDC for a long time, but I have this very strange situation that I am seeking some help with, and knew I could find it here.

 

A longtime friend of mine started telling me a few years ago that her dh felt like he needed to be very strict with their oldest child. Then it continued to get worse and worse until one day she came over in tears, telling me that her dh had told the child the following things:

 

"You might be able to manipulate your mom by giving her hugs and kisses, but I know what you are really like and that you don't care about anyone but yourself."

 

"I have to leave for the holidays because I can't even stand to be around you right now."

 

"You are the reason I am depressed, you make my head hurt and make it so I can't even work."

 

The child was seven at the time. He also told my friend that he could tell that the child was inherently flawed and had no conscience and was probably a sociopath.

 

Horrible, right?

 

But, then, she starts going with the child and herself to counseling, incidentally a very wonderful therapist who I knew from another part of my life, and I thought to myself, "Great, said counselor will report abuse, friend will see light of day and kick out worthless dh." This never happens. Therapist has to stop seeing patients because of unrelated life issues, friend and child start seeing another counselor. Still, no report is made. I talk to friend again, she is distraught, reports that nothing is better, relationship is the same. At this point, I am extremely blunt and tell her I think it's abusive to stay with dh, she needs to leave, she needs to get out of there for her child and she is in the wrong to stay. Visit ends, I don't hear anything from her for almost a year. 

 

Recently, she reached out and we have begun hanging out again and she tells me that dh now just avoids the child completely. He ignores the child at mealtimes, and spends most of his time away. She says she thinks it is better, but apparently this has only been for the last few weeks.

 

Sooo, if you've made it this far, the question is this. My dh thinks she made the whole thing up. He thinks that one of the two therapists would have reported the family, otherwise, and that for some reason my friend just gets a charge out of the fake drama. I kind of wonder, myself, especially because she told me I'm one of the few people who know about the situation. However, I think it's hard to tell what is really going on in an abusive situation and feel terrible for not having reported it long ago. I'm considering calling tomorrow, and just can't decide. If she is indeed investigated, it will probably be the end of our friendship either way. If it's true I'm one of the few people who know, maybe I can do more by being a supportive friend. 

 

WWYD?!?


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#2 of 13 Old 02-18-2013, 07:07 PM
 
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While it sounds like the dh is saying things that are terrible, I doubt that a mandatory reporter would feel the need to call CPS based just on what you've shared here. 

 

What CPS is going to look for is: Is the child being physically harmed? Is the house sanitary? Is the child being supervised? Food in the home? Somewhere for the child to sleep?

 

In deciding to make a report yourself, you need to ask yourself what you want the call to accomplish? What is it you think CPS would do for/with the family?


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14yo ds   11yo dd  9yo ds and 7yo ds and 2yo ds  
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#3 of 13 Old 02-18-2013, 07:29 PM
 
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I'm a social worker. I've never once seen an allegation of emotional abuse investigated. It is no surprise to me that her husband has not been reported to CPS by a therapist. Absolutely nothing would come of it. If they even took down her name and information from you, I'd be shocked.

This is not to say that it isn't a serious and sad situation because it is. What do you expect or want to come of a call to CPS though? You can best support your friend and her child by encouraging her to attend therapy, providing a shoulder to cry on, ear to listen, and not judging too harshly. Divorcing this man isn't the answer unless your friend wishes to for her own sake. Chances are, he will share custody despite all these allegations.
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#4 of 13 Old 02-18-2013, 07:36 PM
 
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ETA...your husband needs to stop trying to play psychotherapist. He stinks at it. Please don't listen to him. This poor woman needs support, not someone thinking she's making all this up just because your husband doesn't understand how the child welfare system works. You can inform him that in the county in which I worked, mothers abusing drugs were encouraged to at least find a safe caregiver for their children while doing so. When this is part of the safety plan for children in the system, does it really seem to him like saying mean and nasty things is going to be a priority? Sorry but as sad as it is, there are way bigger problems out there to deal with. A therapist not reporting is not at all indicative of your friend lying.
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#5 of 13 Old 02-19-2013, 09:11 PM
 
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I don't know. You don't have much to go on.

You haven't witnessed any abuse right? It is just what your friend is telling you that her husband said when no one else was there?

Do you know the husband or child at all?

 

I think all you can do if you believe your friend is listen and be supportive and encourage family counseling.


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#6 of 13 Old 02-19-2013, 09:37 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by phathui5 View Post

While it sounds like the dh is saying things that are terrible, I doubt that a mandatory reporter would feel the need to call CPS based just on what you've shared here. 

 

What CPS is going to look for is: Is the child being physically harmed? Is the house sanitary? Is the child being supervised? Food in the home? Somewhere for the child to sleep?

 

In deciding to make a report yourself, you need to ask yourself what you want the call to accomplish? What is it you think CPS would do for/with the family?

 

Yes, good points. What I would like to accomplish is for someone to validate to her that it is beyond the pale to treat your own child like that, and she is justified in dumping him. But you're right, that probably won't happen. 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by APToddlerMama View Post

I'm a social worker. I've never once seen an allegation of emotional abuse investigated. It is no surprise to me that her husband has not been reported to CPS by a therapist. Absolutely nothing would come of it. If they even took down her name and information from you, I'd be shocked.

This is not to say that it isn't a serious and sad situation because it is. What do you expect or want to come of a call to CPS though? You can best support your friend and her child by encouraging her to attend therapy, providing a shoulder to cry on, ear to listen, and not judging too harshly. Divorcing this man isn't the answer unless your friend wishes to for her own sake. Chances are, he will share custody despite all these allegations.

 

This is helpful, thank you. I'm sad, but not surprised, that it wouldn't be investigated. I don't think he would try to share custody, I think he would return to his hometown and drop out of their lives. He doesn't work and has no friends, she supports the family and owns the house. He really offers nothing.

 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by APToddlerMama View Post

ETA...your husband needs to stop trying to play psychotherapist. He stinks at it. Please don't listen to him. This poor woman needs support, not someone thinking she's making all this up just because your husband doesn't understand how the child welfare system works. You can inform him that in the county in which I worked, mothers abusing drugs were encouraged to at least find a safe caregiver for their children while doing so. When this is part of the safety plan for children in the system, does it really seem to him like saying mean and nasty things is going to be a priority? Sorry but as sad as it is, there are way bigger problems out there to deal with. A therapist not reporting is not at all indicative of your friend lying.

 

This was not helpful. It was pretty snarky. My dh knows her almost as well as I do--we used to all hang out as couples. So I don't think he is playing psychotherapist, I think he just has an intuition that something is off. And it is backed up because I think she is a bit of an embellisher, IYKWIM, in general. 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by onlyzombiecat View Post

I don't know. You don't have much to go on.

You haven't witnessed any abuse right? It is just what your friend is telling you that her husband said when no one else was there?

Do you know the husband or child at all?

 

I think all you can do if you believe your friend is listen and be supportive and encourage family counseling.

 

Yeah, I've never witnessed it because her dh stopped hanging out with us a few years back and I haven't even seen him in quite a while. So you are probably right, I will continue to be supportive and try to keep my mouth shut.


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#7 of 13 Old 02-22-2013, 08:47 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fuamami View Post

Yeah, I've never witnessed it because her dh stopped hanging out with us a few years back and I haven't even seen him in quite a while. So you are probably right, I will continue to be supportive and try to keep my mouth shut.

That's what I would suggest also.  That, and try to spend time with the oldest child too.  Dr Phi says "It takes a hundred attaboys to undo one hurtful remark"  Maybe you can be one of many people who build him up again.

 

I think the Dad needs help.  He's lashing out, but he really needs help before something much worse happens.  Something is very wrong with him.  I don't think he wants to feel the way he does.  

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#8 of 13 Old 02-22-2013, 09:10 AM
 
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I grew up with emotional abuse, and married an emotional abuser.

Emotional abusers know how to behave properly, and do it for those outside the family. It may be why he chose to stop spending time with you. He doesn't want to be bothered keeping up the mask.

The comment about your husband being an armchair therapist was a bit harsh, but I believe the poster had good intentions. It is important that you not start believing your husband is right that your friend is making it up. Too many people undermine those dealing with emotional abuse by not believing the abuse exists. I don't know why your husband doesn't believe her. Maybe he just wants to believe in the best in others, or maybe he feels he should defend a husband out of 'that could be me, someday, with a simple misunderstanding' attitude. It really doesn't matter. What matters is you believing her, and being there for her so she doesn't feel alone.

With my husband, I spend as much time away from him with my child as was possible. We stayed until we could support ourselves for a while, and heal. I'm still married, so there is no court determined custody. As a teen, if we do divorce, my son can speak up and say what he wants, as far as visitation goes. That ends a lot of drama. Until all her children can do that, it's probably best that she stay. Without the chosen target, the oldest, he's likely to pick a different child to abuse.

I also agree with the poster who recommends you also give emotional support to the target child. And I have no problem with saying the father is wrong and needs help. Don't worry about it sounding like you're judging the dad. The child needs to hear that his words are wrong! Her self-esteem is being damaged. I bet your friend is another of his targets.
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#9 of 13 Old 02-22-2013, 01:52 PM
 
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I want to strongly support the suggestion that you find a way to encourage the child, Fuamami.  I had two aunts, growing up, that saw me in a positive light, and complimented and encouraged me.  Although my contact with them was minimal, what they said stood in stark contrast to what I usually heard, and their view of me was a light in that dim place.  Even a single comment can be the thread that a kid in that situation can hang on to.


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#10 of 13 Old 02-23-2013, 01:19 PM
 
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Emotional abuse can be very damaging. Not the once off F-U, but those kind of comments, on a repeated basis are severe abuse. It affects self-esteem, stress levels (which over a long term effect body and brain chemistry in a growing body), social interactions, concentration, confidence... 

 

The reality is CPS can't and won't do anything about it. It has taken society some time to learn to report and take seriously physical abuse, then sexual abuse. We aren't at the point where emotional abuse is taken as seriously. Not yet. So what are the other options? I agree with the PPs, be that little light for the girl, if you can, on occasion. Encourage your friend to continue in therapy. And to investigate why she is an enabler. So she can change from being an enabler to independence from the man. 

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#11 of 13 Old 02-23-2013, 07:47 PM
 
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I think it's a little harsh to call the woman an enabler. She is resisting.
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#12 of 13 Old 02-24-2013, 01:48 AM
 
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It is worth noting that victims of long-term emotional abuse and domestic violence often exhibit a tendency toward embellishment as a response to the fear of not being believed. Sometimes when they finally confide in someone they may, instead of downplaying the abuse, exaggerate it because they don't yet believe that what is actually happening is bad enough to get the support they are looking for. Medical doctors will sometimes flag domestic or sexual abuse victims as hypochondriacs for this reason as well. Often the abuse is such that the victim constantly questions her own sanity, whether or not she is downplaying or exaggerating what is happening, and she might appear quite mentally unstable as she attempts to figure it out on her own. She may also come and go from your life out of general fear and instability. As long as she doesn't feel judged for that, she is more likely to seek help from you when the time comes for her to do something about it. The fact that she came back after you confronted her about it may mean that some  part of her agrees with your assessment. Perhaps if you continue to encourage her and boost her self-confidence by reinforcing her abilities for self-sufficiency, she will come around to it on her own. I lost a lot of friends before I got out because I was a crazy loon until I found the courage to leave. ;)


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#13 of 13 Old 02-24-2013, 09:47 AM
 
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Many people embellish. That's irrelevant to the issue of abuse.

In reading through this, again, I also noticed a remark that the father is not likely to try to get custody. I think he *will* try, because he will want to hurt the mother. It is at least, a concern.
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