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Teenage Victim

Teenage Victim

January 3, 1999

Dr. Irene,

I am a 15 year old female.  Recently, a lot of trouble has occurred in my household, causing sessions with therapists, even for me, despite the fact that the problem is between my parents.  I'm not sure what has happened recently, but my mom has become what you call an "abuser." In the last few years and she has made my dad and I victims.  One day, she came into my room and threw a copy of The Verbally Abusive Relationship on my bed with highlights saying this is how my *dad* has been abusing my *mom.*  I took a look through it and found myself agreeing with it. Then I found your site and found myself agreeing with  your defined characteristics of verbal abuse. However, it is not my dad abusing my mom, it is my mom abusing my dad.  This abuse also is directed towards me.   

I found a section of your site that said if any of the following applies then your situation is critical.  I personally find myself expressing opinions less and less for fear of being yelled at for expressing them.  I find myself trying to find ways to gently say something as well.  I feel emotionally unsafe, and I am becoming afraid of her more daily. My litte sister is only 4, but you can see her fear too.

I've tried several times to make my mother understand that it is her and not me or my dad.  Every time I try, she comes down on me harder and harder.  One time I had to open the window while she was yelling at me because I knew she wouldn't yell if any neighbors could hear.  She repeatedly threatened to call the cops on me (although I don't know why) and wouldn't leave me alone for the rest of the day.  The other day she overheard me talking to a friend on the phone. She wouldn't stop stop yelling at me about confiding to my friends - when she actually goes to all of her friends and tells them lies about me and my dad to get them to boost her ego and hate us!

My question:  Is there any way for me to make her understand that she just might be the abuser here?  I doubt that she will ever understand that, but I don't think that there is a way to tell her this without her yelling at me for even trying to talk to her about it.

Thanks for your time.

Dear Maureen,

I'm sorry about your situation; sounds as though things are coming to a head. Mom sounds out of control. I don't know what's going on, but I do know that its not at all unusual for the angrier and more controlling of the two to believe they are the victim. Sometimes they are the victim who has had it and are at their wit's end. Except in extreme cases, many couples could exchange roles, at least at a behavioral if not psychological level. Both are angry. The bottom line is not to identify who is the "victim" and who is the "abuser" (remember, you don't know what goes on behind closed doors!), just to stop the out-of-control behavior that is hurting you!  Neither parent is being responsible if you are being hurt.

There is nothing you can do other than understand that this has nothing to do with you. All you can do is tell mom that her behavior towards you is not fair to you. If this doesn't help and you are feeling intimidated by her, I think you need to tell your dad and/or one of the professionals who is involved with your family. Your dad is the only one who can help mom control her behavior towards you. You need to be real clear with dad on how you are being affected. If he doesn't get it, he may need help understanding that his inertia, or whatever, towards your mom's acting out is hurting you. Perhaps you can convince him to have a session with just the two of you. Or, maybe your mom will agree to a session between the two of you.

As a last resort, if your mom won't listen, your dad won't help, and you can't get hold of one of the therapists, you can always call the child protection agency in your state, anonymously, if this option frightens you. Perhaps they can advise you what your options are.

Hang in there. I wish you and your family peace.     Dr. Irene