The Family Forum panel advises a mother about how help her pregnant daughter to get out of an abusive relationship, read on…
My daughter has been living with a partner who has been seriously abusive toward her, both physically and verbally. He has bruised her, kicked her and belted her. He feeds her drugs and pretends he cares for her, but he is monster. My daughter’s self-esteem is so low she doesn’t see or believe she can have a different life. He is in jail now, but I fear this will be only for a short time. Remarkably she feels responsible for him being in jail. I am scared he’ll be released soon and that she will get back with him and he’ll eventually kill her, or she’ll take her own life because she speaks about not wanting to live anymore. She needs help now more than ever because she is having a baby soon. Please can you suggest anyone who may help her, perhaps counselling with a psychologist could be useful?
Safety is always the priority in situations where there is an immediate threat to the physical wellbeing of a woman and her children in the situation you describe. In Australia, on average, one woman a week is killed by her partner or ex-partner. Abuse can worsen when a woman is pregnant and after a child is born due to the additional stresses that occur. The Panel suggests that you immediately contact the Domestic Violence Crisis Line (free call phone 1800 800 098) for support and advice. You and your daughter can do this separately or together. The Domestic Violence Crisis workers specialise in helping people in your family’s situation. They can help with access to women’s shelters, emergency financial support, legal support and assistance with obtaining and implementing Intervention Orders (previously called Restraining Orders). These orders are now binding across Australia. You or your daughter can also call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) anytime and speak with a worker who specialises in domestic violence.
You can help your daughter most by remaining calm and offering supportive non-judgmental advice. Although this can be frustrating and it may seem you are not getting the result you desire, there are several messages she needs to hear. Women in such circumstances can feel alone and unsupported. Abusers often work hard to establish and maintain this feeling of isolation. Statements such as “No one deserves to be treated like this”, “It’s not your fault” and “I am here for you when you need me” indicate she is supported by you.
Take care not to berate or argue as this can lead to relations breaking down and further isolation. You can acknowledge that she is in a difficult situation but suggest she needs to act for her safety and that of her unborn child. The right time may not be now for her to heed your advice to escape but it will be remembered when it is. Leave the door open to her so that when she is ready, she knows you are still willing to support her.
If possible, try to attend with her at a medical appointment. In most GP offices there are pamphlets and information regarding DV and once the GP is aware, then further action may follow. Counselling will be helpful in the longer term but removing her from the abuse is the main issue at the moment.
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