Family Forum: Bullied By Family

‘Scapegoat’ bullied by respectable SA family.


I have come to the realisation, nearing middle age, that I was the Family Scapegoat, secretly bullied, shamed and blamed by my respectable, higher-functioning well known South Australian family. My behaviour was flawed, the black sheep, with less monetary success, sometimes unemployed and suffered crippling low self-esteem. The family bullying continues with an overbearing narcissistic Golden Child sibling at the helm. How do I now connect respectfully with family members who are determined to keep me in the whipping boy role? How do I now create supportive, mutually respectful and caring relationships with the remaining family members?


Your letter shows considerable insight into the pattern of your family’s behaviour.

It is possible for such patterns of family behaviour to change, but it is difficult to do this alone. The Panel thinks it may help to share your feelings with individuals or small groups of your family members who you feel more able to trust or that may have some empathy and understanding for your feelings and situation.

Relationships between family members will often grow if time is spent engaging in activities together or simply by sharing meals and conversation. Be prepared for the fact that there may be members of your family who are unwilling or incapable of change or have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo.

It is also important to remember that you may choose not to spend time in the presence of family members who are treating you in rude, intimidating or bullying ways. Exposing yourself to overbearing bullies and “putting up with” their bad behaviours may encourage them to bully you even more. Taking a stand against this is important even if it means avoiding them until you feel strong enough to confront them.

Speak with a psychologist or counsellor to get assistance with preparing and practicing some responses to your bullying sibling. Changing the way you react to this person and any other bullies in the family is imperative if their behaviour is to change.

It is also important to stay positive in your life, build your interests and relationships, through music, sport, art or whatever else you enjoy and try to make friends with like-minded people who respect and admire you for your own worth.

When you are feeling stronger you may plan ways to speak up and quietly assert yourself by challenging your sibling’s behaviour. For example, someone in the family that your sibling may be likely to listen to could pass on the information that bullying will no longer be tolerated and then name the exact behaviour that has to stop. If the behaviour occurs, then you can challenge it on the basis that your sibling has been asked not to do this. Remember relationships that are respectful and caring must be developed from both sides to be effective.

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Family Forum is a panel of general practitioners, medical specialists, lawyers, therapeutic and financial counsellors to discuss each letter before the appropriate professional answers it. The panel is appointed by Relationships Australia SA.

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