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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...

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).


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

AttilaTheMeerkat Thu 14-Nov-13 12:17:20

What Cogito wrote.

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

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


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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