Leaving an abusive relationship is a process -- a marathon, not a sprint.

Convincing a Daughter to Leave Her Abusive Husband

by Cate O'Reilly

You have watched your daughter suffer and now you feel desperate to help her get out of her abusive marriage. Psychology researchers at the University of Illinois indicate that discouraged family members need to view leaving abuse as a process. Steps to help your daughter include assisting her to recognize the behaviors of abuse in her relationship, clarifying her feelings, obtaining financial independence and then formulating a safe exit strategy.

Recognizing the Abuse

Your daughter must first identify the pattern of abuse and abusive behaviors that exists in her relationship. A Mayo Clinic website article identifies behaviors that repeat themselves in abusive relationships: a partner threatens violence, strikes and then promises never to repeat behavior. The Los Angeles Police Department refers to this cycle of violence starting with the abuser obtaining power and control in a relationship and warns that over time the force displayed will be more frequent and severe. Helping your daughter to recognize this cycle will ultimately help her make decisions about leaving and her safety.

Emotional Entanglement

Once your daughter can self-identify that she is in an abusive relationship, minimizing how she feels about her husband may alienate her and make her feel misunderstood. The National Association of Social Workers emphasizes that women stay in abusive relationships because of the strong emotional attachment they have to their partner. As a parent trying to support your daughter, acknowledge the complexity of how she is feeling and disengage from behavior that forces her to choose between you and her spouse.

Financial Independence

Your daughter is emotionally dependent on her spouse but she may also be financially dependent. In a recent article in "The New Social Worker," Mark Sandel comments that society makes provisions for women to initially leave an abusive relationship, but does not focus on ways to help her achieve sustainable long-term financial independence. When talking with your daughter about her situation, you can help her develop a financial plan or establish a financial safety net for her so she can leave her abusive spouse when she is ready.

Safe Exit Plans

If your daughter has articulated that she is ready to leave, you can help her develop a safety plan. She will need to obtain and safely store vital records, like birth certificates and passports, where she can access them quickly and safely. Helping her develop a plan for physically leaving and subsequent plans for her ongoing safety and counseling will help her leave a dangerous situation and minimize her chance of returning to abuse.

About the Author

Cate O'Reilly, who holds a Masters degree in social work, has worked with HIV widows and orphans in Zambia, chronically ill children in Ireland and maternal/child health in America. She has contributed to newsletters, developed protocol manuals and curriculum for education and public health forums.

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