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First steps towards healing - dealing with abusive and toxic behaviour

(41 Posts)
Glenshee Wed 13-Nov-13 14:04:12

My DB and SIL have years of unhealthy relationship behind them. Yesterday, yet again it came to a head, with flying objects, shouting, screaming, physical and verbal abuse sad Two children, aged 10 and 2, are in utter shock, although not for the first time. Parents are in shock too, but unable to act on it in a constructive way.

Generally, DB flatly refuses to separate or divorce. He's happy hmm

SIL wants out, but is financially dependent, and although unhappy, doesn't have the strength to act on it. She tried but keeps buying his promises that things will improve. I support her the best way I can but it is difficult because she is not actually doing anything to change the situation.

I talked to her yesterday. Gave her all the usual advise - relationship counseling, making steps towards financial independence. She also knows she and the kids can come and stay at ours any time.

I will talk to DB later today. What do I say? How do I shake him up into dealing with it? Help me to put this into words. This is so far beyond normality, and has such a long history, that I am lost for words.

Thank you...

CogitoErgoSometimes Wed 13-Nov-13 14:19:31

Tell him you'll be calling the police and SS?

CogitoErgoSometimes Wed 13-Nov-13 14:21:36

Actually, forget the question mark there. Call the police and SS. If you've got DCs traumatised by the abusive behaviour of their parent (s) then you have a duty of care to get the authorities involved. Is your DB the aggressor?

Glenshee Wed 13-Nov-13 14:37:22

Cogito, thanks. Wise words, as always.
I wasn't witnessing any of it.
Do you think I should report it anyway?

CogitoErgoSometimes Wed 13-Nov-13 14:38:55

How do you know about the flying objects etc?

Glenshee Wed 13-Nov-13 14:39:54

"Is your DB the aggressor?" - tricky one.

They're so lost in their tracks that they both display abusive behaviours, tbh. But I have more sympathy towards SIL because she's looking after the children, and is protecting them, as much as she can. DB doesn't seem to care much that children are emotionally hurt by all this.

CogitoErgoSometimes Wed 13-Nov-13 14:42:55

Who told you about the flying objects and physical abuse?

Glenshee Wed 13-Nov-13 14:43:10

SIL

Glenshee Wed 13-Nov-13 14:44:19

It is very believable, given their history, but it is what it is - her side of the story, and not something I witnessed. Which is why I'll be talking to DB today.

CogitoErgoSometimes Wed 13-Nov-13 14:45:53

And is she a trustworthy person? Do you think she's telling the truth?

CogitoErgoSometimes Wed 13-Nov-13 14:47:28

If your DB is abusive, I doubt he'll admit it to you. There would be merit in calling the 101 non-emergency police number and asking their advice. It's the DCs that need protecting here.... it's not siding with SIL against DB or vice versa.

Glenshee Wed 13-Nov-13 14:59:03

Yes I think she's telling the truth but I also understand that she might have a twisted perception of what's happening as it's all very emotional, intense and stressful.

Glenshee Wed 13-Nov-13 17:24:40

Bump for any other opinions.

Glenshee Wed 13-Nov-13 17:24:56

Bump for any other opinions.

EldritchCleavage Wed 13-Nov-13 17:38:10

SS report I think. Even if you aren't directly a witness, if you think it is credible or likely that there was shouting, screaming, physical and verbal abuse in front of the children then alert SS to that and tell them it is an on-going situation.

I really think it would not be a good idea to leave the children in the middle of this, without intervention, for years and years because the parents are stuck. It doesn't matter so much which parent is most to blame, only that the dynamic between them is awful a significant percentage of the time. And if their dynamic is that messed up, then isn't it possible the children are pawns in this game or even being (at least verbally) abused as well?

MillyRules Wed 13-Nov-13 17:38:29

Hi, does he hurt her physically, does she hurt him?

Glenshee Wed 13-Nov-13 18:38:09

MillyRules, not on purpose, but strictly speaking - yes sad
I won't go into the details here.

Glenshee Wed 13-Nov-13 18:38:53

EldritchCleavage, thanks

Glenshee Wed 13-Nov-13 18:45:24

[dreading the conversation confused but it has to be done]

MillyRules Wed 13-Nov-13 19:09:02

I don't know......unless you are actually there and witness all this then you only have her side and how she perceives her world. If they are both accidentally violent with each other then they are both culpable. Why has she involved you in this. Are you sure that underneath it all, they are on some level happy with their relationship. Did you see the kids actually upset. From what you have said I would tread carefully before doing anything. Is she by any chance a bit of a drama queen or do you genuinely think that your brother is all to blame?

Glenshee Wed 13-Nov-13 19:23:22

No I don't think my brother is all to blame. I just think it's deeply traumatic for the kids, and they have responsibility for dealing with it. Both of them.

BillyBanter Wed 13-Nov-13 19:32:14

When you say you are going to talk to your brother are you going to ask him what happened the other night or tell him it's not on and things have to change?

Has he said that things get shouty and physical or does he deny anything happens? I'm just thinking that if you are not witnessing things personally it might be better to be able to say to SS that he told you himself that he threw stuff etc. but doesn't see it as a problem whereas your SIL does recognise the problem but feels too weak to act as you think that the best outcome is for them to split up and her have the kids and support.

It might be that SS both force her hand and support her to split from him.

Glenshee Wed 13-Nov-13 20:54:37

BillyBanter - both really. Ask what happened but also say that things can't continue like this (based on previous events if he denies this one).

MillyRules Wed 13-Nov-13 20:59:29

So were you actually there yesterday Glenshea when this happened?
If not you only have your sister in laws word for it. Why have you got so involved in their life if you don't mind me asking. If you weren't actually there when this row happened and you haven't seen the children being in a emotionally shocked state, how can you be sure that this was the case. I just think calling the social services when you only have your sister in laws word on this is not the right thing to do. Talk to them together first and explain how you feel and maybe some conclusion could be made.

Glenshee Wed 13-Nov-13 22:10:44

I talked to them both. DB refuses to discuss what happened yesterday, point blank. He says it's been the same for many years (probably true), and at this stage he doesn't know what to do to change it. He said he won't go to counseling because 'it's bad enough to not be shared with anyone outside the family'.

I stressed his responsibilities over children and that seemed to have sinked in. I think.

Sigh.

sad

Glenshee Wed 13-Nov-13 22:33:56

MillyRules, no I wasn't there when it happened and only have SIL's word for it. I didn't make it very clear in my OP, sorry. I didn't witness children being shocked but in this situation, as it was described to me by SIL in some detail, any living thing would be shit scared for sure. Whether this is what actually happened - you are right - depends on whether SIL's side of the story isn't manipulated / clouded by her emotions etc.

I don't have the other side of the story, I'm afraid.

SIL turned to me for emotional support, which is why I got involved. You seem to be suggesting that I have overstepped the mark in terms of involvement - can you elaborate on that? If there were no children involved, I would certainly leave it up to them to decide what they want to do with their lives (even though I feel very sad for my DB), but because of the children I feel like I have a moral obligation to stand up for the children if that's what's needed.

MillyRules Wed 13-Nov-13 23:16:20

No just that if you didn't see what happened just wondered if your SILs version is as you say, clouded and maybe one sided. People are telling you to contact Social Services and as you said that the children were in utter shock but now you have said that you weren't there yourself. You also said that your brother wasn't actually intentionally physical with your SIL but you also implied that she was physical with him too. I had asked if you were actually there because if you contact Social Services I would think its important to actually have the correct information because im sure that the relationship between you and your DB and SIL will breakdown afterwards and they may blame you for interfering. But of course if you feel that the children are in danger in any way then you must and will do what you think is fit. I was just concerned that all hell will break lose once you call Social Services so its best to make sure your doing the right thing in this situation which im sure you will do.
Did you manage to talk to your brother?

MillyRules Wed 13-Nov-13 23:18:47

Sorry, I wasn't meaning you overstepped the mark, just trying to understand. Must be very difficult situation for you. Why don't you go around and talk to them and voice your concerns. Do you think that might help? Poor you, this is such a difficult thing.

Glenshee Wed 13-Nov-13 23:54:15

"Did you manage to talk to your brother?" - yes, I just posted above about it. He refuses to talk about what happened. He also asked whether next time we talk we could talk about something else. FFS!

I did talk to them both in the past, twice (about other incidents). It's very hard work. My DB would just deny all problems. He wouldn't deny the facts but would just downplay them and keep saying that everything's fine and it shouldn't be my problem.

Not decided about police/SS yet...

EldritchCleavage Thu 14-Nov-13 11:22:04

I just think calling the social services when you only have your sister in laws word on this is not the right thing to do

And I firmly disagree. You don't need to have proof or a decided opinion to contact SS. You can do it if you feel there is a more than minimal risk that the children are being exposed to things that will distress and damage them. As I said before, it is not about which parent is to blame or who hit whom. It is about the children being trapped in a war zone.

Bear in mind SS should investigate and explore-they aren't going to just march in and split up a family based on what OP tells them. Views about SS differ on MN, but there is a good chance they will try to help and work with the family, not destroy it.

If your DB simply won't address it and SIL talks about it but can't change things, then surely the point has come where they DO need outside help? Since they won't get it for themselves, an SS referral may be the only way to do it

Glenshee Thu 14-Nov-13 11:42:47

I'm thinking about whether to report it or not all the time.

Do I tell DB & SIL that if they don't deal with it this time, I will report it? Give them one last chance?.. Or is it pointless? (If they were able to deal with they would have done so ages ago).

sad

CogitoErgoSometimes Thu 14-Nov-13 12:14:45

If they don't understand why hurling things at each other, hitting each other and hiding in a locked room because one of them is terrified of the other is an appalling way to live and a terrible environment for their kids then it is pointless expecting them to wake up to it now and do something voluntarily. Your DB doesn't even want to talk about it and, for the kids' sake, you need to force the issue. This is not a game

What Cogito wrote.

Also bad things happen when good people stand by and do nothing.

Glenshee Thu 14-Nov-13 12:41:24

thanks.....

EldritchCleavage Thu 14-Nov-13 12:43:23

It's really hard on you, OP, I can understand you hesitating. But can you really live with leaving the children in the middle of this? Can you say hand on heart that they are not being hit, shouted at, locked away?

CharlotteCollinsinherownplace Thu 14-Nov-13 12:50:39

When you've talked to SIL about it, has she had any thoughts about how she can keep her DCs safe? Any nascent plans? If not, then could you tell her you're worried about them and you're considering reporting to SS because you think they might be the only people who can help her protect them?

Glenshee Thu 14-Nov-13 13:33:57

No she's not doing anything about it, and doesn't plan to. She says she can't take it anymore, but makes no real steps towards ending it. (Not that it's easy with a partner who claims to be happy and doesn't want to talk about separation or divorce!)

She describes how bad it all is, but when it comes to responding, acting in a way that shows DB that this isn't on, she just sulks and does nothing. It's always been like this. I don't know whether she does nothing because it's not so bad and not worth acting on, or because she's so scared/humiliated that she can't deal with it.

Glenshee Thu 14-Nov-13 13:48:03

SIL is scared that SS will take children away from her if they become involved. She won't see SS as potentially helpful I don't think.

CogitoErgoSometimes Thu 14-Nov-13 13:48:46

Again, I think you can get too bound up looking for explanations and apportioning blame. Violent relationships are often complex and the people can get sort of 'locked' in a repeating behaviour pattern that they have got so inured to that they've completely lost sight of how bad it is. They don't report for a lot of different reasons. Fear, mostly. For example, where a woman has been goaded into hitting their violent abuser they are worried that, if they call the police, they'll be the one in trouble.

CogitoErgoSometimes Thu 14-Nov-13 13:49:48

SS are very reluctant to take children away from parents.

CharlotteCollinsinherownplace Thu 14-Nov-13 13:49:55

No. It was a long shot. sad

I'd tell her before you do it, anyway.

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