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My sister-in-law's husband is physically abusive

November 2005

I recently found out the husband of my sister-in-law has been physically abusive to her for the past 10 years. I had recogninzed that he was basically a jerk and was emotionally abusive to her and her oldest son, (not his biological child). He's a classic Dr. Jeckel/Mr. Hyde. He's violent with her at night, after the kids are asleep.

I did some research and found some resources for battered women in her area, and had a brief conversation with her where I expressed concern for her safety and the emotional development of her kids.

She confirmed the abuse but seemed shocked that I wanted to talk about it, or that I considered her to be a victim of domestic violence. Her family has an engrained ''code of silence'' about a lot of things. I haven't been able to have a private conversation with her yet to follow up. But I doubt that she's taken any action.

With Thanksgiving coming up I don't know what to do. I feel I can't sit through a day with him and pretend that nothing is wrong. I feel very strongly that silence is enpowering to the abuser, and that silence makes me a sort of accomplice. I want to bring this out in the open. Her parents do not know about the abuse (yet), but all the siblings do.

I do not want to do anything the will place her or her children at greater risk, or that will cut me off from her completely. Any advice? anon


Wow. This is heavy, and I suggest you contact a professional who deals with abuse inn families before you do anything else. You alone cannot deal with this problem, nor can you change it. I don't knnow if you need to report the abuse or not, but a professional will. I would caution you to take care, however, becasue the pattern usually goes that if you mention it, the abuser will take it out on those who are regularly abused. It puts you in a bind, and that's yet another reason for professional help. One quesiton, however: the abused wife is your sister-in-law? So the sister of your spouse? What does your spouse have to say about what's happening? Is this the family with the strong code of silence? Can you work as a team? Good Luck
It really sounds like you are concerned about your sister-in- law and rightly so. It sounds like you are trying to figure out how you can help her. You know the abusive situation is intolerable and you want to make it stop.

I would suggest that you might keep the notion of her autonomy in mind as you continue through this journey. She is not a minor so legally does not require outside protection. It sounds like she is on her own journey with it and has begun to talk about it. This is an important step for her to take-- it is a sign that she is beginning to take charge of the situation. If someone else in the family were to intervene and ''tell the truth'' at this point without her consent, it would likely make her feel overpowered and incapable. The ramifications of such a communication would then be dramatic and unpredictable. I would invite you think about ways you can empower her and support her. Let the choice be hers. If you can't be present at Thanksgiving, then let her know that privately and don't go. Rev. Kim Hinrichs


I was also in an emotionally abusive marriage and I can't emphasize enough how powerless, alone and scared your sister in law is feeling. I put up with emotional abuse of myself and the children because I thought I couldn't support us alone. I put up with it because I thought, next time, I won't open my mouth, do this, do that. I used to vent to my family who either criticized me for staying or told me to be a better wife/mother/person.

It wasn't until my husband harmed me physically and the doctors called the police that he was forced to get help. The doctors and police did for me what I was totally incapable of doing for myself. I'm telling you this so that you will understand how totally paralyzed your sister in law is. The process/cycle of abuse is slow but certain, the process of empowerment is just as slow.

I know that my life was saved and now I can't believe I ever felt scared. I can't really help you much except to say that you can call the police to report physical abuse, especially if you see signs of abuse. I would always tell the children and their mother that the father's behavior is unacceptable, since many times the denial of a problem is just as bad for a child. If they can't escape, at least let them know you know it's abuse and they did nothing wrong.

I would suggest that you get as much information as YOU can so that you can best help. Finally, I do know that sometimes Children's Protective Services WILL take children away from even an abused mother because abused or not, she is responsible for the child's safety and is endangering them when she doesn't take action.

I feel very sorry for your sister in law's situation but she is lucky to have someone like you in her life. Please do what you can for the children too. They need someone on their side. you're not alone


It is important that you do not try to talk with her about the abuse in the presence of her husband as this could place her and her children at greater risk. Continue to be a support to her and provide her with resource information when you can talk with her privately. Talk with her while he is away at work or while she is at work. Help her develop a safety plan for herself and the kids. She should gather together all important documents including; birth cert, deed to house, copies of car keys and registration, credit card nos, cash, important medicines, emergency contact nos,shelter information, etc and store it in a safe place where her husband won't find it and/or with a trusted friend or relative. Establish a code word for her and for the children so that they can call you or others and use this word when they need help. You might consider talking with her about the impact DV has on kids; even if they don't witness the abuse they may hear it. Ultimately, the decision to leave will be hers. At that time she may want to consider a restraining order. I don't recommend confronting the husband as this will likely result in him being more controlling or abusive. Be patient and non judgemental as it may take some time for her to gather the courage to seek help. If her children are in danger you may need to call CPS. Debi
I would secretly give her a C note and look her in the eye and tell her sincerely that if/when she needs to get away from him, she should use it for the taxi or motel, get to a phone and call me (you) so I could get her a ticket. I would not tell ANYONE and stress that to her. That way, he would not know that you are her ace in the hole. Stress to her that you are not making judgements, but if it were you, you would be looking for options and you want her to feel free to come to you if she needs a refuge. Also, I would try my best to stuff any feelings about permanance. She may need to leave him several times before she can sever all ties. Ask her to please never tell him so, you can always be her secret safe haven. That's what I would do.
I think it is great you are supporting your sister-in-law. She needs to have support in order to leave him and establish safe boundaries for herself and children. If you feel the children are at risk, call child protective services. They will enforce the safety of the children. Then there is someone outside of the family who can be objective and help them to see what they are doing. They will let her know that if she chooses to be with her husband at the risk of herself and her children, then the children will be taken away, and likely, in this, case be given to family members. It is very scary because the homicide rate amongst spouses is so high. When he is out of control, even if he doesn't intend to seriously harm her, he can easily endanger her life. She needs a safey plan. A way to escape. Practical and well thought out, to reduce risk. If you confront him, then let her go home with him, be sure that she will pay, and be further isolated from the family. I advise you to work with her and empower her to leave. He will not listen to reason or get help unless the stakes are high for him, and losing his wife and children just might be the wake up call he needs. (I would not recommend a public humiliation or confrontation. He will only be defensive and she is likely to take his side.) Let her know that you don't judge her, you just want her and the kids to be safe. She is scared of being alone. He has broken down any strength and self-esteem she had. She needs to slowly rebuild her strength for herself and kids. There is not an overnight solution, other than to begin to take the steps.

Perhaps you can call the domestic violence hotline and get advice and more resources. There are safety plans online. Educate yourself about the cycle of violence and how the good times often make it difficult for the person to leave. Lenore Walker is the expert who has a lot to say about this topic.

There are support groups like CODA - for the codependent, a 12- step group for people who risk their own safety to be with someone who is bad for them. If there is substance abuse, Alanon is another group for her and the kids. There is so much to learn on this subject. Waking the Tiger by Peter Levine talks about the traumatic experience of violence and how disconnected one can become from their own body and experience. She probably has PTSD. I wish you well on this journey. Let me know if there is anything more you need. Anyway... Take care!! Michelle Lane


I survived a horrendously abusive relationship (we're talking physical torture) and am now happily involved in a healthy one. so feel adequately well-informed to address this topic. First you say that you recently ''found out'' about the abuse. I'm assuming that was through another family member. If the SIL didn't tell you herself, and you have expressed your concern, then you have done what you can. That doesn't mean her siblings (your husband, et al) should be keeping quiet, but as a SIL, all you can do is offer a safe place to go in the event she decides to leave, and offer her resources. If you ''out'' the abuse, as you seem to want to do, you are potentially setting her up for increased or intensified abuse, or worse, more abuse on the children.

Tell your SIL as well as her children (separately), in private, that you will help in any way you can, and will provide a safe place for them to stay. You don't need to do this very often; it's not like they don't live with it everyday. Try to keep from being pushy and judgmental. If you push her too far, she'll probably shut down, out of shame, fear, and terror that her children will be taken away.

You need to be talking with your husband and any other siblings, and/or their parents. Tell them you need to call CPS because the children aren't safe, and that their family member needs their support, not their silence, in order to survive. Tell them that women are killed every single day by abusive husbands. Tell them that abused children turn into abusing adults. Tell them that their silence or denial keeps your SIL from growing the courage she needs to get out of the relationship. If you can unlock your in-laws code of silence, then perhaps they can all offer to assist your SIL safely out of this relationship.

In the end, understand that although you can dive in and try to save the kids, you can do nothing to persuade her to leave if she refuses to do so. I'm not saying be hands-off, I'm saying be careful -- women in these situations often protect their abusers, and if pushed, may strike out at you. They often are fiercely guarded and don't want to be intruded upon. They do, however, need to know that you are there and willing to help.

I have far more to say on this issue, but will leave it here. If you want to email me, please feel free. heather


Call any domestic violence hotline or the national domestic violence hotline 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) and ask.

My gut feeling is - don't bring it up to the husband ESPECIALLY in front of a group. Your sister-in-law will feel it later. In her husband's eye's, she is the cause of her own abuse. It is her fault, not his. She is the only person who can choose to leave the situation. She may be staying for a variety of reasons. For instance, are there children in common between this husband and wife? Often, courts will give the chilrden unsupervised visits with the abuser, especially if there is no legally documented history of abuse, who will then take out his anger on them since he can no longer abuse the Mother. The mother will go back into the relationship to spare the children the physical abuse.

You can help out by getting her to at least call a domestic violence shelter and have them help her safety plan. For instance, if he is beginning to get into a mood where violence is likely, then move into a safer room of the house (stay out of the kitchen where there are knives or a bathroom where there are no exits/lots of hard objects like tile). Her local shelter can also help her know what legal strategy and other resources she has at her disposal should she decide to leave.

I think that it takes nine attempts for the average victim of domestic violence to finally leave an abusive relationship. While working at my local shelter, I saw many repeat guests. I learned not to look down on them because they kept going back, but rather look up to them for trying. -anon


Verbally abusive brother at family gatherings

Sept 2005

My daughter is now old enough to recognize that my brother is verbally abusive towards his wife, my mother and me. My husband is ready to have words with my adult brother. My brother says, ''shut up'' and ''f...u'' in anger and in front of our kids. I understand that siblings fight and his wife and my husband usually stay out it, but lately it is getting worse and much more public. He goes on and on in front of all of our kids and owns it by saying, ''That's just how I am, so I am a jerk! Sue me!'' He is an attorney who is always on the offensive attack. Should my husband stay out of it or tell him to watch his mouth? Will my brother see this as a declaration of war? I am tired of my child seeing us being disrespected. Big Sister


I'm actually at a loss as to why you even have contact with your brother if he is that awful. Do you have to see him, for instance at family gatherings? If so, keep the visit light and cordial. If he flies off the handle, leave with dignity (e.g., by saying camly, ''You're not rational and I'm not subjecting myself and my family to this any longer.''). The guy needs help, and if he won't get it, then you need to cut him out of your life. I have had to do this with a sibling and it wasn't easy, but in the long run it was the right thing to do.

I think YOU need to handle this, not your husband. And regarding your child, Yes, his behavior will affect your child in any number of ways (will hate his uncle, will wonder why you take it, might even see that being a bully is effective, etc.) Not Taking It Anymore


Excuse me, but why would your husband be involved with YOU setting boundaries with your brother? Unless your brother tries to haul off and hit you, of course.

Really, YOU need to tell your brother that you love him, and you love yourSELF too, and you're not going to let him treat you this way anymore. When he says he's just this way and he's a jerk, tell him you respect that, and that is his choice, because it means he cannot come around anymore. Don't let your kids be around that abuse. Seriously.


I believe that you owe to your children to not expose them to such behavior. You don't have to ''sue'' your brother, but you don't have to be around him either. I would arrange play dates with his wife so that the children can still play with eachother and try to avoid him as much as possible. Perhaps he values family more than he values his jerky ways.

I think having your husband talk to him will only escalate the situation, so I would avoid that option. Your only choice is to hold him accountable for his actions. I'm sure this is a very difficult situation. Good luck! concerned


My brother's wife used to be verbally abusive and my husband, son, and parents became very uncomfortable around her. We tried confronting her whenever she cussed, but that did not work. That approach just fed fuel to the fire. What I found to be most helpful was when I made it point to spend more one-on-one time with her. I got her to open up to me, and after we became closer friends, she was able to talk about what made her tick. This was great because once she was able to admit she had a problem, she began making a conscious effort to correct it.

However, this effort to improve herself brought back a handful of past experiences that she didn't realize she was so angry about. Eventually she opted for counseling which was emotionally nerve wrecking for a while. In the long run, she became happier and the cussing just went away. Ana


Hi, Sounds like you should follow your gut on this one. Just tell your brother ''I'm sorry, but we don't want to expose our kids to rough language.'' Then you can decide if you want to: 1) not see him when you have the kids with you. 2) Leave immediately any family gathering as soon as his language gets rough.

My hunch is that he's set in his ways, in which case #1 would be the way to go. Hey, life has it's consequences. He'll just have to face these. JM


Why is this brother allowed to visit your house? You are in charge of the climate in your home and people who don't follow your house rules are not welcome. Just because someone is a relative doesn't mean they are welcome or have a right to act any way they please. Sounds to me like nobody ever spelled out their boundaries to this man - just tolerated him and therefore put him in charge. Deal with him like raising a toddler (isn't his attitude at that level?). His choice is to speak nicely when he visits you or he cannot come to visit. If he messes up, he needs to apologize or leave. Chances that he improves are low because of his age, the engrained pattern, his sense of entitlement and the way he treats women, most likely you end up with smaller, but peaceful family gatherings. But you are removing a bad example from your children and by doing so you are setting a good example. Take the power back that you and your mother have let him have for way too long. If he was a stranger or just an acquaintance, would you ever invite him back? By setting your standards, you may indirectly support his wife too, who must be fed up herself tolerating the verbal abuse. It's time for consequences. I have zero tolerance for disrespect. Born in the year of the tiger
It is so hard to deal with abusive people and it is clear your brother has no intention of changing his behavior. I think you can only set your own boundaries and try and stick to them. I would tell your brother (you, not your husband), that you do not want to be around him when he is abusive and uses fowl language- especially in front of your kids. I would make it a point to leave as soon as he becomes abusive. Explain to your daughter that your brother is not being nice and is not treating the people around him kindly and that you won't be around him when he is acting like that. I would treat him like a child since he is acting like one- you know, where if your kid has a tantrum in the store then you leave the store and don't take him back until he learns to control himself. I think if you have your husband talk to him he may become more defensive. I think you should talk to your brother privately when neither of you is upset and just lay it out. That you love him and want to spend time with him but that you will not subject yourself or your children to his behavior and that you will leave if he becomes abusive towards you or anone else in your presence. On some level he is acting this way because he can. If you don't tolerate his behavior he will lose you or he will shape up (hopefully!) anon
No one should have to put up with that. Is he only this way to women? That seems to be a bigger problem if your daughter is learning that it's okay for men to talk to women that way. This seems like much more than siblings fighting. He might see a comment as a declaration of war, but he has already declared war on you, so what is there to lose? recovering from a family of yellers
You can't change him. There is nothing you can do to change him. But you can change whether you'll let him treat you that way. Tell him that you will no longer tolerate the verbal abuse. Tell him how you want to be treated and that if he is verbally abusive, you will take your family and leave his house, your mother's house, wherever he is. And if he is in your home (though I wouldn't invite him over until he has proved he can do this), then you tell him to leave and if he doesn't, you call the police.

There is no easy way to do this. It will be made easier if you and your husband get on the same page about what you consider respectful behavior and what the consequences will be when (not if, when) your brother tests your limits.

By doing this, you and your husband would be giving a great gift not only to your family but to your daughter. Otherwise, she'll likely grow up thinking it is ''normal'' for an adult male to verbally abuse women.

You have the strength and courage to do this. And the family that is your priority now is your daughter and husband. Good luck. Rachel


My step-kids' mother is abusing the kids when they visit

Jan 2005

Hi there, I am a full time step mother of 2 kids (6 and 8.5) , they live with my husband and i and usually see their mom every other weekend. I say usually because sometimes she misses visits or they dont want to go for various reasons. In general she is very absent from their lives, and when she is present, she is either neglectfull or abusive. That being said, here is the current situation that we need some advise on: My step daughter came back from her visit with her mother this past weekend saying that she had been spanked and that her mother had layed on her and squeezed her mouth shut to get her to stop crying. She said that her brother had been smacked on the back of the head and that They has been cussed at, being called f**kers. ( earlier this year she called Ana (8.5 years old) a bitch.) This is not the first time something like this has happened, though the time my husband and i called CPS we were told that things like this were considered a parenting style and not abuse. That abuse was somehow measured by the marks left, is this true?

We have communicated to her that we are NOT ok with any of these methods of parenting, and either have gotten the response of ''they are my kids i will disipline them how i want'', or, ''Ana is lieing'' ( she said that when Ana called afraid because her mom had gone next door to watch a movie at night and left them home alone). Most of the time though our e-mails get no response when dealing with this issue. Jason, their father has full legal and phyical custody. So, we dont know what to do. If we did something legal what would we do? We dont think that her not seeing them is good for them either, though, we cant stand by and let these things happen to the kids. We also cant afford a lawyer. We also worry that when she is angry at us,like when we bring these issues to her attention, that she takes it out on the kids.

We would love advise on any aspect of this situation, from legal to emotional...... thanks cris


That definitely sounds like abuse to me. If the mother wishes to continue to see the children, your husband should only allow her to have short, supervised visits -- in other words, he should be there as well. Horrible for him, I'm sure, but he HAS to protect his kids. I am no lawyer, so I won't pretend to give advice on that front ... but isn't there a Legal Aid or something like that in this area? Good luck. Your instincts are right on. Protect the kids!!! Sara
I spoke with my boyfriend who is a counselor with an agency that that works with CPS. He says that first of all, if you have to ask, it's abuse. Second, you have to keep calling, it's the accumulation of calls that will get CPS to investigate. Third, if you need to, get pictures of physical evidence. If you have any more questions, email me. lenamari
I trained as a Marriage & Family Therapist and I can share the situations from your description which would have been reportable as suspicion of child abuse. CPS then makes the decision what to do, if anything, but at minimum they should take a report and start a ''paper trail,'' i.e. if they get enough reasonable reports on the person they are likely to follow up on it. Firstly leaving a 6 and 8 y.o. alone at night sounds like possible grounds for child neglect, which is a type of abuse(how long? did they have access to food? their feeling scared/ unsafe are important factors.) Secondly, yes marks left are considered proof of physical abuse and CPS takes it very seriously but as a step/parent you are entitled to report the ''hearsay'' without marks; in your situation it actually sounds like concern for emotional abuse(another form of child abuse, harder to ''prove'' but CPS should hear your concerns and hopefully offer the mother some sort of support/ parenting class) even more so than physical abuse- the nature of the name-calling, the hitting and squeezing the mouth to stop her from crying may hurt their self- esteem and feeling of basic safety enough to be considered ''officially'' emotional abuse. I really feel for your dilemma- not having contact with their mother could be emotionally devastating for them, yet there are some real concerns for their well-being in her care, however infrequent it may be. You can't force her into therapy or parenting classes, but I personally would be remiss to let the children be around her if she doesn't get some help. I do think the current situation is abusive and emotionally damaging. The children are very lucky to have such a caring step-mother and father and they will still have to contend with the person their mother is. I hope you can all get lots of support whenever you need it. anon
Consider monitored visiting rights only. That way a social worker will watch the interaction and the mother won't lose all connections with her children. But, if the father has full custody he should play his toughest cards. It sounds like mom doesn't have any real interest in mothering except for the fact that she's trying to create waves by throwing her weight around as the biological mother. Also, consider apply for full guardianship/adoptive mother. That way you and your husband can fully protect the rights of those children. Keep a very precise journal of all phone conversations, times and dates, email interactions, marks or bruises, schedules of the kids, the words their mom chose when approaching you, anything the kids say that the mom said to them...EVERYTHING..All this information compiled is a great way to keep your story straight and clear. Good luck to you and your husband! Concerned For You
The verbal put-downs and cursing is emotional and verbal abuse. CPS is not likely to intervene but they will take a written report and keep it on file if you insist. The holding down and holding mouth shut should be considered physical abuse. There do not have to be marks, depending on what is occurring. Whether or not CPS intervenes depends on a number of factors - they will have to tell you what other considerations there may be. BUT, you should always call CPS unders these circumstances and insist they take a report. Even if they don't assign a social worker to investigate, that report will be on file. In essence you are ''building a case,'' so if further incidents occur, or if it becomes more serious, CPS now has a history and a better sense of the level of concern and need for intervention. In the meantime, educate your children about how to seek help - to always tell you or a teacher or other person of authority if they have been hurt in any way. And, teach your children how to protect themselves in more dangerous situations. (E.g. call 911 if they think they are in physcical danger.) Encourage your children NOT to exaggerate or embellish, or make anything up. If this happens, credibility can be lost and it can be harder to receive necessary help if ever needed. (I speak as a practicing child/family psychologist (Ph.D.) and mom!) Deb K.
Aside from the fact that this woman, your stepchildren's ''mother'' calls them names and hits them (which is reason enough to not let her see them, in my opinion) leaving them alone in the house is reason for anyone around them to call Child Protective Services. I have only one question for you. Why do you think it's not good for them to NOT see her? If this were an aunt or uncle would you put up with it? It seems to me if your husband has full legal and physical custody, there is no lawyer needed here. Just stop the visits. Sure she'll be pissed off, at first. But it sounds to me like she'll get over, based on what you describe of her. Just because she's their biological parent doesn't make her their ''mother''. Sounds like you and your husband are their true parents. I say stop the abuse (yes, it is already) before it gets worse and something more serious happens to them. anon
This is a very sad situation. To answer your question re ''abuse,'' the problem, in my understanding, is that an agency would have a very hard time making the allegation of abuse stick unless there was incontrovertible ''evidence'' such as bruising or scratches. Thus, the agency cannot address it as ''abuse.'' That said, it IS abusive, and something needs to be done about it. If they were my children, I would use whatever money is necessary to go back into court, armed with a document listing specific dates and complaints reported by the children, and ask the court to order supervised visition. I would also ask for an order barring overnight visitations with her until the abusive behaviors are stopped. This means that she would have to pay someone to supervise all her visits with the children, which should curtail at least some of the abuse (and you would have a witness if the abuse continued, which would be helpful in bringing charges). In my early childhood I had similar experiences. I am now 62 and want you to know that I am very grateful my father sought to protect me and allow me to have a more normal life. Ilene
I don't think your husband should allow the children to visit with their mother unchaparoned. She is doing damage to them whether the State thinks it is child abuse or not. Your husband holds all the cards since he has legal and physical custody of the children. I was in a similar situation with my ex-husband when my children were your children's ages. I had physical custody of the children. My ex was an alcoholic and I would not allow my children to visit him unless they were chaparoned by his sister or mother. His family promised me they would let me know if he started drinking during a visit so that I could come and pick-up my children. It turned out that my chaparones weren't always informing me when my ex was drinking and my children were too young to be able to associate changes in behavior to drinking. My daughter came home very upset one day by the things her drunk daddy told her. I told her that her father was sick and that she wasn't going to visit with him until he got some help and got better. I told my ex the same thing - I wasn't going to allow my children to visit with him until he got sober. The good news is he finally got sober and has been in recovery for many years now. Had he not, I would not have let my children see him again. The psychological damage and hurt that he was unintentionally inflicting on my children was unacceptable to me. Now that my children are in their late teens, they have told me more horror stories about their visits with their father when he was still drinking. They were happy I ''saved'' them even though they couldn't articulate that feeling when they were younger. been there
I would be very concerned about the mother's interactions with her children. I see restraining a child by laying on them and holding their mouth closed as physical abuse. If I were in your position, I would find a family law attorney immediately. There are places that provide free legal advice (for example in Contra Costa County such free sessions are held a few times a year. Call your county bar association for information about such services in your area.) Dealing with a non-custodial parent whose behavior is irresponsible is very difficult and painful for the parent who is truly concerned about the welfare of their children. I have had a similar experience and I found that documenting everything is very helpful; keep good records of what the children report and what you know of the mother's behavior, activities, track record. If you know that the non- custodial parent demonstrates irresponsibility by perhaps disappearing (no communication), doesn't hold a job, etc., these things may be helpful in demonstrating to the court that this person is not responsible enough to have unsupervised visits. The court can require that the visits with their mother be supervised by another family member or friend that you trust. Without getting legal help, you are on your own dealing with a person who may have mental health problems or worse. It sounds like she makes things up in an attempt to cover her own bad parenting. These types are very slippery and hard to pin down, especially if the abuse is viewed as ''minimal'' (how can abuse be minimal?!) or hard to document. Good luck. Been there
I am unclear as to what these children are getting out of a relationship with an abusive parent. Maybe CPS would not define it as abuse, but I am guessing if you spoke with a therapist who deals with children & abuse, he/she would say its abusive. Perhaps no overnight visits? Perhaps supervised visits by a safe but neutral thrid party? Tc
Hi! I am not an attorney, but I used to work as a paralegal for a family law attorney who did custody work, mainly for dads seeking custody of their kids. It sounds like the answer to your problem is right there in your question- their dad has full legal custody! There is no way to undo the harm that their Mom has already created, but the kids' Dad can take immediate action to protect them from further abuse, and it is definitely abuse no matter what CPS says (CPS is totally overwhelmed and understaffed). It sounds like the kids are put in some pretty dangerous situations by their Mom, let alone the psychological stuff that is going on. The kids don't need to be totally cut off from her, just protected from her- and this will allow them to have a better relationship with her anyway. As long as there are no visitation terms in his custody agreement, it is up to him to set the parameters of how much involvement the Mom has. So, never, never let the kids stay at her home again- that sounds way too dangerous for the kids! He can make sure that when she visits them, its in a public space, or in the Dad's home or Dad's relative's home. If the Mom has a trusted family member who would agree to supervise her visit in their home, that would work. But usually, an abusive parent has bad parenting skills because most likely, they were an abused or neglected child themselves so their relatives are usually of little help when it comes to good parenting. The children are still young and vulnerable enough to be hurt by their Mom's neglect and abuse- don't wait until something really bad happens- protect your kids, get tough and lay down some rules. Trust your instincts, act on them. When the kids are a little older, it will be different, but they need your protection now! all for being a proactive parent

My sister-in-law wants out of an abusive marriage

June 2004

My sister-in-law is mired in an abusive marriage. We've spoken about the numerous positive benefits that her and the kids would get if she and her husband divorced. But the problem is that since her marriage began 8 years ago, she has been very depressed and recently things have gotten worse. Her husband's business went into bankruptcy, (she worked for the company too), and she is now completely overwhelmed. Money problems, both unemployed, abusive husband that is horrible to her son from a previous relationship, younger kids out of control, I could go on.

She wants out but doesn't know what to do or where to begin. I think her depression is a big part of her inability to take action. Are there couselors for this type of thing? Or does she need a divorce lawyer right away? A place that has both? She needs a solid, step by step plan, and enough emotional support to be able to go through with it. Other family members will be no help.

We both agree that things will get even uglier with her husband. She's worried about him fighting to the bitter end (and he will) to get custody, and that divorce will be so expensive that she'll end up with nothing. I'm worried about her safety. He owns guns, and will not tell her where they are.

No negoiation/limit setting/mutual agreement works with this guy. Any advice to what steps she should take? concerned on the sidelines


The first thing that your sister-in-law needs to do is focus on getting out of the abusive relationship and finding a safe place for her children. The divorce can come later. Call 1-800- 799-SAFE (7233), the national domestic violence hotline, as soon as possible. They can refer you to the domestic violence center that would handle your sister-in-law abuse issues. You may want to contact the local domestic violence center first (center is the new improved PC name for shelter) to find out what services they provide. You may want to make the initial calls to find out what the center can offer and some general advice on helping your sister-in-law.

Typically a center will provide counseling for the abuse vicitm and children, they will provide safety planning, help obtaining restraining orders, etc. These services are available regardless of whether a family chooses to stay in shelter. Additionally, they can get her appointments with legal aid to handle her divorce pro bono or very cheaply, help her find low- cost housing (the shelter which I work for also will provide furnishings down to the pots and pans for the new home), and put her in touch with organizations who will do everything to find her a suit for court appearences and set up interviews for her.

Good on you for helping your sister-in-law. Jan


Possibly abusive husband

May 2004

I'm posting this for a good friend of mine who lives an hour away. She(''Jane'') met a man(''Bill'') in 2000. They very quickly moved in together, married, moved away from her family, and had a child. The first time I met him, I found him to be controlling, and I told my husband that I was worried about Jane. Bill was ''separated'' from his wife when he met Jane, although the wife called Jane, looking for ''my husband''. This past summer, they planned another pregnancy. A few months into it, their house burned down. Then their dog died. Bill then announced that he didn't want to be married anymore. The day after their second child was born, Bill left. A few months later, he returned, saying he wanted to work on things. The current situation is this...... -Bill has converted to Mormonism, and is giving them money. -Bill has had affairs with at least 3 women that Jane knows of. He is still involved with at least one of them. -Bill has decided to go to Iraq for a job, quitting his job here and leaving Jane and the kids with no benefits, etc. We don't know when he'll be leaving, as they've stopped letting people into the country for now. -The worst part is this. He has systematically been emotionally abusing Jane for months. He controls the money (she's a stay-at- home Mom). We don't know what will happen when he leaves for Iraq, although he is currently paying all the bills. He's threatening to file for divorce right before he leaves so that all their assets will be frozen. At first, he wouldn't come home, but now he's threatening her physically and refusing to leave. -Bill is a cop. I am NOT making a value judgement about all cops, just this one. He is very controlling of Jane. He issues his threats in a way that he knows can do him no harm. Jane has been so scared that she's tried to lock him out of the house, but he breaks in, saying that it's HIS home and he's not going anywhere! Last week, he said that he would kill her if she ever touched his stuff or called one of his girlfriends again. The next day, he reminded her of that. He also told her that she'd have no luck with the police because he had ''already laid the foundation'' with his coworkers, telling them that SHE had been threatening to harm HIM! Jane now knows that she has to leave him. She has applied for jobs, and she is planning to talk to a social worker. We, her friends, try to do whatever we can. How can Jane protect herself, physically and emotionally, from this abusive man, who happens to be a cop? How can she protect herself, financially, when he leaves the country? So far, her lawyer just says it's going to be tough because he's a cop. Any advice would appreciated.


Dear Happy Camper: 1. Even though Bill is a cop, law enforcement needs to be contacted. He's threatened Jane's life which is against the law. 2. My guess is that Bill has physically harmed Jane. If it was in the presence of the children it should be reported to Child Protective Services. 3. Jane should also contact a domestic violence agency. She will be connected with an advocate who can help her to leave this situation and to learn to protect herself and her children. You mention that Jane ''plans to talk to a social worker.'' If she does not seek professional help, I urge you to call these three agencies on her behalf. You can make anonymous reports to law enforcement and Child Protective Services. She's lucky to have you as her friend. Best of luck to ''Jane''
I don't remember the exact post but if you believe your friend is being physically abused by her husband. Please help her to get out of the situation asap. I had a slight intuition/suspicion of my friend who never admitted to me but had a husband who was clearly not good to her. I sat on this intuition/suspicion for over a year, until one day on her birthday I visited her with my husband and she came out of her home without inviting us in. She had the ugliest shiner on her face. We immediately took her to our house and convinced her to go to the police the next morning. The police let her know that what her husband did was a serious crime and I believe she realized this for herself consciously as she watched him being taken away by the cops. She had a hard adjustment period for a year after this but now she is in such a strong and happy place in her life that I have not ever regretted helping her. She still has contact with her husband, but now she is in the position of power over herself and her child. a Proud friend of a survivor
Hey friend- I work at a Domestic Violence Shelter and from your description of this guy, all signs point to yes, he may be physically harming his wife. His behavior is on several sections of the power & control wheel (as opposed to the equality & respect wheel) and some of the other things you said (the dog may have been killed by the Bill. There is a high correlation between guys who kill/torture house pets and practicers of domestic violence...also, power & control type behavior may surface or increase when a woman is pregnant)

That said, she needs to call her nearest shelter hotline to get advice. It is best for her to meet with an advocate, but if that is not possible, then she needs to talk to a person on the phone. They can help her develop a safety plan so that when she decides that the time is right that she can leave. Some abusers make a telephone call or trip to a meeting nearly impossible.

The shelter can provide temporary housing if necessary. They are confidential locations -- a cop may know where it is, but he will not be permitted on the premises unless he has a darn good reason (dropping off a victim and then they are not allowed inside or serving a warrant). Even the serving a warrant thing is very tough.

Also, some jurisdictions will have an advocate at the courthouse who will help a victim of DV with a restraining order, help with safety planning, etc.

Safety planning is two-fold. It will teach her to survive in her current situation (ie, when an argument takes place, try not to be in the kitchen or bathroom b/c more pain can be inflicted in these places, there aren't good escape routes, there are lots of weapons, etc) while also helping her find the best time to leave if she chooses to leave. Only she knows her situation and it may take some time for her to lay the groundwork to be able to leave. That may take some time. A woman is most at risk to be murdered by her husband when she is trying to leave the abusive situation. She must plan her escape carefully.

Things may be more difficult b/c he is a cop, but it is not impossible. Your friend is going to need upstanding members of the community standing behind her when she asks for that restraining order, etc. Her husband is probably a known quantity at the courthouse while she is not. Your friend is also going to need your support and understanding if it takes her more than one try when it comes to leaving him (the average is about 9 tries). There may be reasons that she goes back. For instance, the court may award him unsupervised visits of the children. If that happens, she is probably going to go back, because when he can't abuse her, then in all likelihood he will turn on his children. She will go back to him to protect them. He will leave the kids alone if he can torment their mother.

Jane will be fine, eventually. If Bill is convicted of domestic violence, he will lose his livelihood as he will no longer be allowed to carry a gun (cops aren't much good in this country if they can't carry a weapon), but she will receive a lot of help on the other end. She may be on welfare for a while (that is what it is for and she shouldn't be embarrassed to take it while she gets back on her feet.) while people help to find her a job, daycare etc. The advocates at my shelter know everyone in town who is willing to help out victims of DV. They help them find apartments at reduced rates in good neighborhoods. They know the employers willing to take on someone who is 'a bit fragile at the moment.'

The best thing that you can do is offer to be there to help if she needs someone to talk to...have the number for her shelter at the ready. She may be too embarrassed to admit that there is physical abuse and shy away from talking to the shelter. You can let her know that shelters are just a great resource for people in a situation where the husband is a 'bit controlling' and that they may be able to help her find some peace.

Just an aside, 'Bill' may be mad at you for any help that you provide, but generally you are not at any risk. He is laser- locked on controlling and hurting one person. You aren't that person. Jan


Husband is shoving me and threatening violence

January 2003

I am in a verbally abusive marriage that has gotten out of control since our son was born 3 months ago. My husband is irrational and threatening and has started to shove me and while Im sure he didn't mean it, in a recent fit of anger he actually threatened to kill me and the baby. Anything I say or do to defend myself is ultimately turned around and used against me.

The only solution I can see is for me to leave, since there is no way he'll ever go. I have family in Southern California and Colorado that can provide me and my child with a place to stay until things can get sorted out. I'd leave now but Im afraid that if I just go somehow Ill be accused of kidnapping.

Can anyone tell me how far, how long and under what circumstances I can legally take my child without my husband's permission, OR how I can make him go.

Seperately if anyone can recommend an AGRESSIVE but honest divorce attorney I'd be grateful (I have reviewed the digest list of divorce attorneys). Not gonna take it anymore


GET OUT RIGHT NOW!!! I know it's easier said than done, but it is clear your husband has some serious issues. Contact the nearest women's shelter (I only know the one near my home in Newark)and find out what they can do to help you out. I don't recommend going to a relative's house, only because he'll know to look for you there. Generally, abusers enjoy seeking their ''prey'' at any cost. You need time to settle in and seek legal help and not worry about him finding you.

Please get out for the sake of your child. There have been too many cases in which the spouse stayed because of fear or uncertainty. Let me tell you, there is light at the end of the tunnel-Run as fast as you can! Concerned Mother


I was in a similar situation a few months back (though I ended up not leaving and going to counceling instead). My husband was making similar threats. I talked to a lawyer and he said that as long as my husband knew where I and the baby were, he couldn't accuse me of kidnapping. My leaving could, however, look bad and he might be able to use it against me in court.

What I would recommend is that you talk to a lawyer and make a plan for leaving. YOu may want to talk to a lawyer both here and in the area where you are planning to go. anon


You are NOT alone! Here are two resources for you:
  • A Safe Place (domestic violence hotline) 510-536-7233
  • Family Violence Law Center (crisis #) 510-540-5354

    --If you don't feel safe, please trust your instincts. These numbers have people who can talk to you about all of your options. It's OK to call even if you aren't sure about what has been happening to you or what to do. Good luck--My thoughts are with you! Rebecca


    Keep a detailed journal of everything your husband says and does to you. It is hard to remeber everything (You can share this with your lawyer). Take all threats very seriously. Get a restraining order and move to S. CA. with your family. Good luck to you. Stay strong. I am glad you are getting out. Markel
    Most people are not purely evil, though behavior most certainly can be. Yelling, threatening, shoving all come under the heading of evil behavior.

    Getting yourself and your baby out of the way sounds like a smart short-term solution. However, someone who is hurting so badly that he does these terrible things to other people might continue harming himself and others, even when you are out of the way. It sounds to me like getting an ''aggressive'' divorce lawyer is your way of trying to get even with him. (''My lawyer is bigger than your lawyer'' which is another way of saying might is right.)

    From what I've seen, this will merely set the stage for years and years of bitter battles over child support. It would seem to me that your better long-term bet would be to an civilized parting (if part you must). Obviously, that can only happen once he has been ''civilized''. And that's where I would start.

    This is what I would do in your situation: If he gets abusive again, dial 911. Once he is no longer a physical threat, find a way to get him some treatment so that he can deal with whatever is turning him into this monster. Remember that your child can only ever have one dad, no matter how whacked out he may be.

    If you are loath to call the cops, try a rape crisis hotline or battered women hotline. DON'T put up with it any more! Anon


    When you leave, which I hope will be soon, IMMEDIATELY go to the county courts for an ex parte, in other words known as a restraining order. Don't let the legal red tape prolong your stay, you can always get legal advice AFTER you are PHYSICALLY safe. My thoughts and prayers are with you. You've taken a huge step in looking out for you and your child! More power to you!!! Good luck!
    Boy..do I feel for you and your little boy. Your best bet is to quietly consult a good, aggressive attorney who will get you a restraining order from your husband at once and can maybe see about bringing your husband up on domestic battery charges. It's best not to try to leave without that piece of paper, otherwise you will be accused of kidnapping. What you don't say is whether you believe your husband will act out on his threats, but you may have good reason to fear for your and your son's safety. If so, you don't want to be where your husband can find you. Good luck. anonymous
    I am so sorry that you're going through this. There is NO question as to whether you should leave--you MUST put your son first and leave IMMEDIATELY. It sounds like this situation has been escalating and I'm very scared for you and your son that your husband might follow through on his threats. After you leave, call law enforcement and report all of these incidents. When law enforcement offers you a restraining order, ACCEPT it as it is a means to further protect you and your son. If you can't find a place to stay immediately, call a domestic violence program (in the phone book) and get yourself and your son into a shelter. A concerned friend
    By leaving you are protecting yourself and your child. I used to work at a domestic violence shelter and I've never heard of anyone being sued for kidnapping in this type of situation. But then again, that wasn't in California. There is a shelter in Oakland that you could call and I know they would be able to answer any legal or other questions you have. Their phone number is 986-8600 and the hours are M-F 9am-5pm. There is also a 24 hotline 794-6055. I'm not sure what shelter it's for, but it's not for the Oakland one. I really want to encourage you to do whatever it takes to make sure you and your child are safe. Don't give him the chance to follow through with his threats. Sarah
    First of all, I have to say you are very smart & brave to be taking this step to leave. I have worked in the domestic violence field for several year & have a few suggestions.

    In terms of getting hubby out of the house, you could get a restraining order. It does not matter that he has not physically abused you- he has threatened to kill you & is vebally abusive, & that is enough. Think about whether it will cause him to escalate, though.

    As far as you leaving, since you both have custody, you can both take the baby. (Scary thought since he could take the baby, too.) If you do leave, make sure you aren't leaving a trail- that means not using credit cards, ATMs, cell phones- anything that will have a bill that will show your location. Abusive partners tend to want to 'track down' the person they were hurting.

    I would suggest calling a domestic violence program to get more info on leaving (you need a safety plan), divorce, etc. If you decide you want to stay & try to work it out they also have resources on counseling for him. DO NOT agree to couples counseling- that can just turn into a forum for your husband to get more fodder to verbally/emotionally hurt you. There are also free support groups & counseling you can access even if you stay.

    Best of luck & feel free to e-mail me if you would like. Virginia


    My advice: Be careful who you hire as an attorney. I hired a male attorney who has been recommended on the website, who did a horrible job in advising me and representing me. Make sure you feel in your interview that this is someone who is interested in helping you on custody issues, or otherwise, go elsewhere. And yes: you should leave a relationship that is abusive! Seek legal counsel and emotional counseling if you can afford it. Take good care of yourself and your baby too. Anon.
    Not gonna take it anymore? Good! As soon as I read your post I read it to my husband who in turn called his mother who is a Psychiatric Social Work (MSW) who has helped many a battered woman. She has worked for the Long Beach Women's Shelter in the past. She said that everything you described is a classic pattern of abusive behavior, and that women are in the most danger when they're pregnant, just had a baby or are getting ready to leave the relationship (if he suspects she's about to leave). If you don't leave, my M-I-L says that the abuse WILL escalate. She added that statistically close to half of all murders are committed by men beating the women they say they love.

    As far as taking your baby and leaving goes, my M-I-L says that the legally best way to do things is to go to a women's shelter first. It doesn't sound inviting or like any experience any woman is longing to have (but then again who ever wants to be abused?), but they will believe you, will protect you and your baby and will advocate for you. They will help you get a court order keeping your husband away from you and the baby. My M-I-L also said that it will be too easy for your husband to track you down through family if you just go straight to family, and that doing it that way, it is possible that you could be charged with kidnapping because there is no documented legal reason for you to be keeping your child from his father.

    It's obviously harder to go the shelter route because you then have to out your husband as an abuser. But, it seems to me to be the more permanent way to end things, that simply going to stay with family isn't enough. My M-I-L is certain that his occasional shoves will turn into hitting, beating...

    You have a precious little baby to protect now. And especially since he's a boy, you do not want him around an abusive man only to grow up being abused and then to become an abuser himself. Please, stand by your words and DO NOT TAKE IT ANYMORE. No one deserves even the slightest bit of abuse!

    God be with you, Jennifer


    If your husband/father is truly abusive, you can leave the area without risking a childnapping allegation if you file a ''good cause declaration'' with the District Attorney's Office in your county -- the Child Abduction Unit. This will allow you to travel to your support network and take a little time before filing an action, which you must do eventually. Call the DA's office. An Attorney
    I don't have an attorney to recommend, but I was concerned about your situation and wanted to encourage you to do what you are considering. I strongly recommend you figure out a safe hiding place to keep a notebook and start documenting (dates, times, people present, quotes) the abusive things your husband does. This takes a lot of discipline, it's easy to think you will remember these awful events, but it's amazing the details you can forget. Also, reviewing it later will help clarify your thinking about what happened and why it was vitally important for you to leave. Also, it's possible it will be handy if you have to build a case of abuse. Good luck, and let us know how you are doing. Louise
    You must make plans for leaving. I have some suggestions based on my sister's experience. She was in a similar situation, with a husband whose went from belittling, to threatening and paranoid. He threatened to kill her and the child during a wild drive, and she escaped at the filling station with nothing but her 18 month old in her arms. She went to a women's shelter, and eventually hired an attorney. She and child are now fine, that's the good news. Her crazy husband still got 50% custody, that's the bad news. (Remember, OJ got custody!)

    Here are some of the things she'd wished she'd been able to plan ahead for, once she realized how unstable her husband was. One: document every weird thing he says and does. Write it down in a notebook which you keep hidden. Every now and then, take the notebook to a copy place and give copies to a friend to keep. Two: Tell a friend or relative what's happening, and every time something scary or weird happens. Don't be ashamed and try to keep a secret. Others need to know so they can help you and they can testify. Three: Make a copy of all your legal documents - your driver's license, credit cards, birth certificates for you and child, bank statements, everything. If you have to leave in a hurry, you may not be able to even grab your purse. Make sure a copy of all these documents is somewhere safe (wish a friend, relative). Three: Watch your bank statements. Is money disappearing - he may be trying to keep assets from you. Four: Do not hesitate to leave, and/or call 911 if things get scary again. Your safety and your child's safety comes first. You are not ''kidnapping'' the child if you go to a shelter. Have the phone number and address of A Safe Place on you at all times (536-7233) Call if you're worried or scared. Five: Be aware that even if you leave, you probably won't be able to make him go away. But you can fight for yourselve and your child with the help of your friends, family, documents, and a good attorney.

    You need to get out of this marriage. You and your child deserve to be safe. =Bless You=


    Call Domestic Violence for information and advice on how to leave and be safe with your baby. I couldn't find the phone number, but am sure that the crisis hotline at 510 849-2212 (24 hours) can give you the number. Anon.
    Yes, you can leave. I did not, until the children were 5 and 3. I only wish I had left earlier. Whatever you do, do not leave without the child. There is a terrible danger of losing custody to violent men. You say you are afraid that you will be accused of kidnapping. Has your husband threatened this? It is possible for a violent man to use the courts as a method of abuse. Custody cases can be brought as a means of abuse to a woman. ''What's the best way to hurt a woman? Take her child away...'' - that's a quote from my ex. As soon as you're somewhere safe, get legal advice. Be careful, get out now. Abuse can really escalate. Trust your instinct. Good luck, Been there, scarred but surviving, Anonymous
    Here is the national 24-hour hotline with information on resources in our area she can call: National Domestic Violence Hotline (800) 799-SAFE (7233). And here's the url for a pdf (Adobe) file from UCB that has a full listing of local domestic-violence resources: http://www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/publichealth/domesticviolence/dvocres2.pdf Alexa

    My husband calls me names and swears at me

    November 2002

    I am bothered by my husbands name calling and bad language. We have the usuall problems most couples have such as house work and helping with child care. He is also not a very affectionet person and I usually have to ask for a kiss or hug. He is telling me I am bad, even when he sais it in a funny way it still hurts. When we argue about our issues he usually calls me names such as bitch or nag. He tells me to shut up, mind my buisness or he sais f--k you. I told him many times to comunicate differently about the problems we have. The sad thing is that he sais these nasty words right in front my 1 year old daughter. If I tell him that I don't like the word fuck he just tells me in a very calm way that I just don't understand different words. Do a lot of couples fight in this way or am I one of very few. When I asked his family for advice ( his grandmother which he grew up with ) she just said that's normal for todays society. It's impossible to sit down and talk about this issue with him, because he never has time and he gets extremly defensive. I often cry about it and than he also gets upset because I am not happy. Why does he treat me with such disrespect ?


    Oh boy, does your posting ring bells for me. My heart is with you.

    Let me just get to the heart of the matter: Your husband's treatment of you is not love. It is useful to think of ''love'' as a verb more than as an emotion, and with this in mind, you should realize that he is not LOVING you! Others who reply to you, I'm sure, will also say this: His behavior constitutes ABUSE.

    If you continue to allow his verbal abuse, your daughter will grow up thinking that his behavior is normal, and that this is how people who love each other behave. It is not. People who love each other do not call each other ugly names, they do not say ''fuck you,'' they do not have to be cajoled into loving behaviors such as a kiss or a hug.

    I advise you to seek marital counselling immediately, but I have to say from my own experience, this may not work. He may refuse to go, or he may go and refuse to participate. Sometimes the best thing about counselling is that when you look back on it all later, you know you did everything you could to save the marriage.

    I used to be treated very much as you are now. I was afraid of divorce for many reasons -- the opinion of family and friends, my own self-image, etc. Most especially, I was afraid of raising a child alone. What I discovered is that raising a child alone is infinitely more joyful than raising a child with a verbally abusive spouse.

    I know you haven't asked about divorce, but I want to note that if you decide to get divorced, be prepared for all his ugly behavior to become magnified by a factor of ten. It goes without saying that you should get a good lawyer, but get a good support group of friends to help you out emotionally (as well as logistically), too. He may well make your life hell to every degree that he can, for as long as he can, which might be for the next 17 years ('til your daughter is an adult). But YOU CAN DO IT and YOU WILL BE HAPPIER.

    You deserve to be loved, and your daughter deserves to be loved.


    Dear Anon,

    If you don't get help for yourself now, do it for your daughter. You risk setting an example for her that it is OK for a woman to be yelled at and mis-treated by a man. You don't wish that for your daughter (or for yourself).

    Your husband may not wish to be mis-treating you. If you seek help, both you and he may find other ways to relate to each other.

    Please consider calling a domestic abuse hotline to talk to someone - even if you don't think you are being abused. Or you may consider seeing a therapist (there are therapists available to UC students and faculty and their families at Tang Center; and free and low-cost therapists available in Berkeley and Oakland).

    "Domestic abuse" is a pattern of power and control. One person controls the other through intimidation, threats, insults, emotional or sexual abuse, economic control, isolation or physical violence.

    You are in an abusive relationship if your partner has: 
    -frequently criticized, shouted or called you names 
    -withheld approval, sex or affection as punishment 
    -humiliated you in private or in public
    -ridiculed or insulted your most valued beliefs 
    -isolated you from family or friends 
    -controlled where you go 
    -controlled your money
    -shoved, slapped, punched, kicked, burned or hit you 
    -thrown objects at or near you
    
    Statistically, 20-30% of women experience "domestic violence." It is possible that includes you. Nobody wants that to be true. But you deserve better.

    In Alameda County, you can call a 24-hour CRISIS HOTLINE at any time, day or night: (510)536-7233.

    [This information comes from a pamphlet that I helped write from Shalom Bayit ("peace in the home") a group of Jewish women who support battered women and those who assist them.] M.


    Your husband is emotionally and verbally abusive. It's his problem- his anger and self-loathing, and nothing you do, or don't do, will change his behavior. If he is not open to couples therapy, I suggest you consult with a therapist who specializes in abuse so that you can begin to chart a more positive and healthy course of action for you and your young daughter. No one should tolerate abuse, no matter what the form. Good luck. anon this time
    No, it is not normal in today's society for a husband to speak rudely to his wife and call her names and belittle her. It's no wonder you are bothered. Being called nasty names is extremely upsetting and hurtful for anyone, but coming from the person who's supposed to be your partner in life - that is really terrible. Even if he and his entire family thinks bad language is OK, your husband could at least respect your wishes not to use it around you and your child. It seems like he doesn't care too much about how you feel. That's not love, is it? I don't think I could live like that and I hope you can figure out a way to either get him to stop, or else you get out of that awful situation. There are so many wonderful men out there who would never call you a name, never use bad words, and would respect your request not to use language you don't like. Why waste your time on someone who has no regard for you at all, and who just makes you feel bad. A mom
    Nobody should have to endure that kind of verbal abuse regardless of whether a child is involved. And that's just what it is...verbal abuse. If you're husband thinks it's OK to call you a bitch and say ''f--k you'' then you need to ask yourself, if you want to continue living with this person. If it doesn't stop now, he will continue to subject not only you but your child to this kind of language as well. Is that what you want? You need to get yourself and your husband to a marriage counselor, and if he won't go or try to change his behavior, then I would see an attorney. Rob
    I am sorry to hear that your husband is so cruel and disrespectful to you. No, most husbands do not treat their wives this way and the ones that do should be in therapy. I wonder how long this has been going on and whether it has become worse recently? I also wonder if you are foreign born, since he tells you that you don't understand the words. If you are, you seem to understand them very well and to realize that this is unacceptable. You have the right to be treated respectfully. I also worry about the impact that his behavior has on your daughter. Children early on understand tension between parents and his treating you so poorly sets a bad example for her - that it is okay to treat women badly (which makes me worry about her relationships with men as an adult). In any case, this is emotional/verbal abuse (you don't mention physical abuse...?) and I would strongly suggest that you get into couseling as a couple, or if he refuses (not unlikely), that you get into therapy yourself (if money is an issue, there are many low- fee/sliding scale clinics). Good luck
    You are dealing with an emotionally abusive husband, who shows you no respect or consideration. Your husband is rude and full of contempt about his life, but you are not the cause, nor are your children. You need to decide what you deserve, and why you live with such a person who makes you unhappy and ultimately unhealthy. Your husband influences your children negatively and will ultimately harm them down the road. You deserve a life with respectful people, and those who will love you. Your husband is not one of them. anonymous
    You will probably get a lot of responses like this. Your husband is abusing you. His behavior is not only unacceptable, it is abusive to you and to your child, and it must stop. You must insist on counseling, and if he refuses, go alone. You should not have to raise your child with his poor influence. He is no kind of partner to you, and you don't have to accept his treatment of you. His language is just a symptom of a deeper disrespect for you and perhaps women in general, and certainly disrespect for your partnership as parents. This is very, very serious. Please, for the sake of your mental and emotional health and that of your child, get help from a counselor. I am so sorry this is happening to you. anon
    Wow! It seems to me, the problem isn't just your husbands bad language, either in front of your daughers or not, the problem is disrespect. His behavior is normal only in a disfunctional and abusive marriage - not a healthy and supportive one. Also, I think, his grandmother is mis-directed if she thinks his behavior is normal. Your concerns are definitly valid, sounds like you DO understand his words and his meaning. Anytime someone says or does something which makes you feel upset, there is a problem. My suggestion is you seek a marriage counselor. If your husband won't go, you might benefit from advise even without his attendance. Sometime just talking about your concerns really helps. A counselor may give you some suggestions regarding how to deal with your husbands bahavior.

    Regarding your child: I definitly would NOT want my child growing up thinking this was the appropriate way for a husband to treat his wife. Your husband's treatment will not only effect your self esteem, but your daughters as well.

    I know there are non-profit organizations which can provide support for little or no fee. Try looking in the phone book or perhaps someone on-line will have a recommendation. Good luck, linda


    Wow - this hits too close to home. I'm in the same boat. My husband knows that the 'c' word will not only push my button, it will set it on detonate. And he STILL says way too often. What I've had to do - and it is SOOOOO hard - is to maintain my calm and address him directly by saying, ''you have gone WAY over the line and there is no reason to resort to name calling/belittling. I am trying my hardest to stay calm right now even though I'm fuming. We need to de-escalate this NOW.'' As I say it calmly, he usually understands that his emotions got away from him and apologizes. If he is still furious, I just say ''This is over and we'll talk when you can be respectful.''

    I always follow up the conversation later when we are both calm and relaxed and explain, yet again, why his behavior is totally inappropriate and unacceptable. We try to lay 'ground rules' we both follow when fighting - ie not doing/saying the things we know will set the other off.

    The bottom line: it is up to you to be the more adult one and maintain your cool even if it means walking away from the situation. Your husband is pushing your buttons on purpose. Just as with a child, you have to show him that button won't work anymore by staying calm and not reacting the way he wants you to.

    I'm sorry your husband talks to you this way as there are way better ways to communicate much more effectively. obviously anon


    Please take a look at your marriage as a whole. Bad language seems like a narrow way to describe a pattern of maltreatment and abuse. Please get some outside help, if not counseling for both of you, just for yourself. There are low-cost options at the UC School of Psychology and the Women's Therapy Clinic in El Cerrito. My best friend from college finally got herself out of a 13-year marriage where the pattern sounded similar.

    You deserve to be treated with respect. Anonymous


    You end your message asking why he treats you with such disrespect. I think it is because you let him treat you that way. I could not stand a relationship with a person who does not respect me. And it is definetely not normal in todays society to call each other names over a disagreement, neither is the use of the F-word in any circumstances when adults are taking to each other.

    In my opinion you have two options:
    1. Get out of that relationship.
    2. If you want to stay in the relationship, get marriage counseling (both of you). If your husband doesn't want counseling, back to 1.

    Here is why: Your issue is much more than bad language. Your issue is disrespect and not being able to communicate. If you don't change a thing, how is your daughter supposed to have any respect for you later if you let yourself be called a bad person without standing up for yourself. You owe it to your daughter that she can grow up in a better environment than that.


    Well, I'm going to give you the advice I'm giving EVERYone these days: check out ''The Passionate Marriage'' by Dr. Schnarch. Dr. Schnarch would probably say that you and your husband are ''emotionally fused.'' You're husbands behavior may be his attempt to control your behavior, because your husband's identity is so wrapped up in you: you are so important to him (and this scares him) that he must find ways to control you. You may have your own ways in which you exhibit ''emotional fusion.'' Well, Dr. Schnarch would probably say something along those lines, but more indepth. I am recommending his book to everyone I know because I think that it is incredibly insightful, obviously successful and he has quite a lot of practical advice. Just so you know: the book includes a lot of stuff about sexuality between married couples (he understandibly sees that a couple's sexuality together is reflective of the quality of their overall intimacy). But this book isn't just about sex, it's about emotional closeness. I think it's fabulous and I can only reccommend that you read it and see if you find it as useful for understanding your situation as I have found it useful to me. Best of luck to you! ~Alesia
    Your husband is being emotionally abusive to you. The fact that he says 'fuck' is the least of it. He's putting you down, belittling you, calling you names when you fight, and doing it in front of your child. Do you have a good friend you can confide in, who won't judge you? If not, or even if you do have a good friend to share this with, you should try calling one of the domestic violence hotlines. Look in the phone book under domestic violence or battered women for a number. Emotional abuse is just as bad as physical abuse. He's intentially hurting you. You don't have to put up with it. You need to trust yourself and your own instincts. Try to get your husband to go to couples counseling with you. I feel for you. anon
    I am sure you are going to get so many responses to this one. Please be assured of the many people on this list who sympathize with your situation and feel that you do not deserve to listen to abusive language, particularly when it is directed at you as an insult. This is a form of violence, meant to force the other person into silence and humiliation. If it is ''today's culture'' then we have to do what we can to change our culture -- today. I was listening to a speaker recently on the subject of violence against women who noted that most violence begins with debasing language, name-calling. You are doing the right thing in speaking up about this and refusing to accept it. I was brought up in a household where the father used abusive language and had temper tantrums; he also developed a drinking problem. Your husband probably needs help with managing his temper and issues of self- respect (let alone issues of respecting others), but it will be difficult to make him see that. You need to protect yourself and your child from his temper and immaturity as best you can. Know that you are in the right. I wish I could offer you more concrete advice, but I do offer you my support. Sign me, I'm done listening to that kind of talk.
    Your husband's behavior is not acceptable. What he's doing is extremely damaging to both you and your child. I would like to suggest that you call STAND Against Domestic Violence. Even though your husband's abuse may be limited to language, STAND can be a very valuable resource for you. Please call them - even if you only want someone to talk to. All communications are strictly CONFIDENTIAL. Counseling, treatment, emergency housing, and transitional housing, are amount the many services they provide. Their 24-hour, toll-free phone number is 1-888- 215-5555 or you can also call 676-2845 during regular business hours. Please, please give them a call. R.L.
    I don't think this is ''normal for today's society.'' Yes, people use more foul language today than years ago, but directing it at one's spouse in the way you have described sounds like plain old abuse, in my opinion. My husband and I use foul language about various things, but never directed at each other and never in front of our child. If he's upset that you're not happy, then he needs to look at his behavior and how his disrespect is contributing to your unhappiness! anon
    You do not deserve to be spoken to this way! Perhaps it is ''normal'' to his family but it sounds like verbal abuse to me. It is damaging your self-esteem and if it keeps up, it will hurt your child as well. It was great you reached out for support from this network! I urge you to get professional help. If your husband wont go to couples' counseling, go alone. Also check out the book -the Verbally Abusive Relationship: How to Recognize it, How to respond by Patircia Evans (it's on sale at Amazon.com!) In the meantime, whenever he calls you a name, tell yourself the opposite: ''I'm lovable'', ''I'm a good person''. Good luck! Peggy
    In my humble opinion, it is NOT okay for your husband to call you a bitch and use other derrogatory language directed towards you. This is a form of verbal and emotional abuse. Yes, all couples fight and it is hard to know ''how'' to fight in a fair and respectful manner. I used to call my spouse names and swear out of anger. I grew up in a family where name calling and losing one's temper was the norm. So naturally, I felt okay doing this in my marraige.

    However, my therapist said it was completely unacceptable to call my spouse names. She said it was abuse, pure and simple. Over many years, I have learned to walk away when I am angry (most times). I still yell but I rarely call my spouse names anymore. When I do yell in front of (or at) my daughter, I always talk to her afterwards and explain it is not her fault.

    I would encourage you to talk to a therapist so you can get support in dealing with this. Hopefully your husband will acknowledge it is not okay to treat you this way. But if he doesn't, you might want to consider how best to take care of yourself.

    I also firmly beleive this behavior is harmful to your child. She will soon learn to talk and will be a little mimic. Maybe this will motivate your husband to refrain from this behavior while in her presence. If it does not, you might need support from a profeesional therapist on how to deal with this. A therapist named Deborah Joy (in the white pages) specializes in abusive relationships. You may not feel you has reached that point, but it might help you to talk to her. Best of luck! anon


    I feel horrible for you. I was there last year. My daughter is now 19 months old. Her father and I are not married, but lived together. He would walk into our home after work and not say one word to me and would become angry if I tried to speak to him. He'd call me ''stupid'' and ''bitch'', and once, when I tried locking myself in the bathroom so that I could just cry, he tried to unscrew the lock because it was his apartment and he had a ''right'' to be in all the rooms if he wanted. I knew he was an abuser (not physically, but mentally and emotionally), but I didn't leave because I couldn't afford to. His mother eventually gave me a place to stay, and that is how I left. One woman wrote that men like this get 10 times worse when you leave, and he did. I left because I will not tolerate any man speaking to me disrespectfully in front of my daughter because she will tolerate abuse from men based on the example I give her. I'm not close to you, but you MUST LEAVE HIM. HE WILL NOT CHANGE IF YOU STAY. He may not change at all, but he WILL NEVER CHANGE if you stay. You must leave and tell him, EVERY SINGLE TIME he calls you (and he will try to contact you constantly) that you left because you cannot let her see him treating you this way. You must also say ''Staying with you means I'm teaching our daughter to take a man spitting on her the way you do me''.

    When I left, he was HORRIBLE. Each time he called, he threatened to take the baby, he called me names. He'd be kind to me and tried to reconcile with me, and I'd let him in, but I'd slame the door if he even got CLOSE to HINTING at abusive behavior. Since my leaving, his work forced him to look at other people and their relationships (he's anti-psychology because his mother is a psychologist and he doesn't get along with her since she took my side). He began to grow on his own and began talking to other men in healthy relationships (another thing I used to tell him all the time.) He'd tell them his side only, but, eventually, his lies where transparent because he could never get the baby to come near him unless I was there.

    Slamming the door on him and his crap, in addtion to my openly dating other men, has made him see that he had to change to get me and our daughter back. I CONSTANTLY remind him that he is lucky I'm around, and I also remind him that if he cannot be a soft place for me to fall, he is useless in my life - period. We are not living together again, but he is a new person. It has taken a year an a half, and I still don't think he deserves us, but we spend time with him now. We never would have gotten to this point if I had not left. Staying with him, no matter WHAT you tell him, gives him the message that you condone his horrible treatment of you and your daughter (it hurts the baby when he does this to you - believe me, it hurts her. If he raises his voice for any reason to me, our baby tells him to stop, and he does). We have a long way to go, and I may still end up with someone else, but he is more human than ever before since I left. If we do not end up together, I now know that he will at least be human to me because I've stood up to him and called his every bluff.

    He may not love you, but YOU must love YOU AND YOUR DAUGHTER enough to leave. Men like this are taking out their insecurities on you, and they cannot heal and become men if they have women like us to kick. He need to figure out how to grow some self-esteem so that he doesn't feel so powerless that his only power is the power he has over you and your daughter. If you don't have the money to leave, find a friend or family who will take you and get out. Perhaps counseling will help, but from where I sit, leaving is the only way to preserve you sanity and self-esteem for you and your daughter. Christina


    I did not respond to your message at first... I figured you would hear from other concerned people, and they really came through. Thank you all; I wish I had had this forum when this was happening to me; one of the ways my abusive husband controlled things was to convince me that it was inappropriate to talk to anyone else about my concerns about the marriage - being able to ask anonymously like this would have probably saved me years.

    I want to comfirm what they all (or almost all) have said: your husband is abusive and disrespectful. He may say you are important to him or that he does respect you, but loving and respectful people care about your feelings and try NOT to do things that they know bother you. I found the book that someone else mentioned: 'The Verbally Abusive Relationship' to be very valuable in understanding what was going on in my marriage.

    Given that, I do have a few of things to add:

    1. If you do get your husband to go to couples therapy with you (and I would encourage you to try) please evaluate your therapist and SEE SOMEONE ELSE if this one is not working for you. There are wonderful people out there, but there are also people like one of the 4 we went to, whose action item for my husband's verbal abuse was to suggest anti-depressants for me so I wouldn't mind so much.

    2. Know that YOU CANNOT MAKE YOUR HUSBAND CHANGE. I spent so much time and energy trying to figure out ways I could act; things to do or say, that might make my husband behave differently. This is what they call 'co-dependant' behavior, and was a waste of time. He has to understand that the way he is behaving is wrong, and want to change, and then there is a chance. And you cannot get him to that place.

    3. Contemplating being a single mother is scary, but, if your husband will not stop his abuse, separating from him might be what you need to do. I, too, weighed the alternatives: I knew it would be better for me personally to live apart from my husband but could not do it until I decided that it was better for my daughters to have their parents live apart than to grow up in a household where their father was mean to their mother every day. In my case separating was what I needed to do. It has been rough, but I have never regretted doing it for a minute.

    4. Talk to people. Get a therapist of your own if you can. You may decide to do some therapy on your own first.

    Good luck to you and best wishes. Been there, too


    Dependency on disrespectful and controlling husband

    January 2003

    All the advice to the person with the abusive husband is sound and correct. Getting out of the abusive situation is the best.

    All abuse not not consist of yelling, threatening and hitting. I am in the unfortunate situation of having my personality abused - as opposed to my person. I live with a control freak who has systematically cut me off from any friends I had prior to marriage, ridicules any and every hobby or activity I want to take up and has created essentially a prison for me by setting up situations where I am the one who has to be there for the kids. He gets to go to all his football games, visit all his relatives who live in town, play golF etc. while I get no rec time or ''fun'' time at all. I could not financially take care of my children on my own salary.

    I do not have any family to go to. I can't leave town because I have a job in the area where I am treated like a human being and I have to keep that for benefits and retirement, etc. There is no way I could leave my children in the care of my husband and the influence of his own dysfunctional family upon them. Plus I am really afraid that if I did take the kids and leave, whether I pressed for divorce or not, we would be out on the street and I would never get the husband out of the house. There would be a big legal battle - not over custody of the kids but over the house which he would then try to take control of.

    I put most of the work into fixing the place up and making it a home for my kids. My husband does very little axcept pick up the kids from school, watch them for about 1 1/2 hours in the evening until I get home from work and on Saturday mornings for 4 hours. Then he goes ''somewhere.'' My husband has lots of family in the area and since he is always over a one of their homes I think he should move out and live with them. The one time I kicked him out because he was taking advantage of my mom who was visitng - he basically treated her like a maid - he went to stay with his parents for 2 days, but when my mom left - he came back. He thought my mom was the problem.

    Essentially I feel like I am a single parent living with a partially absentee emotionally abusive, controlling, self-serving husband. I do most of the mom work, housekeeping, yardwork (''man's work - building , repairing things, ec.) and yet I am financiallly dependent on this person to pay for childcare, groceries etc. I pay half the mortgage, my own car payment, the phone bill, the kids clothes, toys etc and some groceries and my own gas and car insurance. After that I have nothing left. I am also too physically drained on a daily basis to proactively go out and find legal assistance.

    I think there are many others in this situation where they would be divorced, but the high cost of living in the Bay Area has them trapped in less than moderate relationships. I, myself would appreciate any advice from anyone out there familiar with this sort of situation. I already have all of the abuse hotline information, battered women's shelter numbers, etc. etc. The problem is that police don't come unless you are being physically injured or threatened. The abuse in our household is one of emotional neglect, disrespect and control by a self-centered dictator which essentially just wears you down and breaks you so that you have no energy left to stand up for yourself or your kids anymore and leaves you imprisoned in a very closed environment where your ideas are not important, your thought are not heard, your needs are not met - because they are not those of the one doing the controlling.


    What you are experiencing is as bad as physical abuse, and probably harder to recover from. I'll bet $100 he's having an affair, and the next time he goes ''somewhere'', you should quickly call a sitter and follow him with a camera and catch him in the act, then get a lawyer on a contingency and take him for everything. You'd win, and he'd get what he deserves...just my 2 cents worth. TC in Berkeley
    I am so sorry to hear your awful situation. I left a bad marriage many years ago but mine paled in comparison. I am sure you will get lot's of advise as to why you should leave this marriage. All I want to say is that you can make it. I escaped a bad situation by leaving my house and everything else by taking my then two year old in the middle of the night from his home outside the Bay Area to stay with a friend. I never had a full- time job and no appearnt job skills. I also have no family in this country who could help me out. I thought I would never be able to support myself and my child. Well I did. I found a job that did not pay a lot, but had a lot of opportunities to ''move- up.'' Also, do not forget that your husband will have to pay child support! With his support, and my meager salary, I was able to get a small little apartment and take care of my child. My child is now a happy 7 year old, and his mommy is very happy too. Please get all the strength you can get and plan your move. Leave the house, if need be. It is really just a house! Nothing will be as important as for you and your child to be happy. been there too!!
    I could have written your post, and my response is as much for myself as it is for you...get out.

    If your husband is like mine, things will not improve. It doesn't matter whether you learn to be assertive or whether you continue to be accomodating, any effort to get your needs met will be shot down and you will continue to be manipulated. The phrase that keeps echoing through my head is ''anything you say can and will be used against you''. It's a no win situation, and its bound to get worse.

    Talk to an attorney (there have been several listed in recent recommendations digests). Aim for divorce with the knowledge that things may be harder, even excrutiatingly painful. You may go into debt, or compromise your standard of living. But I know in my heart that nothing will ever be as bad as being in a relationship where you have lost yourself.

    Remember, other than the lifestyle your husband's income provides, you already feel like a single parent. LET THE HOUSE GO (that's been a big challenge for me). Its just a house and not nearly as important as the emotional well being of you and your children. If you're anything like me there was a time in your life when you got anything you put your mind to, start scanning craigslist for places to live. Make a plan, don't wait any longer. You're not alone


    You don't have to live like that. Don't be afraid to go. You can do it - other people have done it. When I left my husband, I was a grad student with two kids and no money and only a halftime job and a bunch of student loans. I walked away from the house and from all the stuff, literally walked - I didn't have a car - and I stayed first with a family member for a few months, and then I moved into a house that I shared with 3 other working adults. It was affordable. I was the only one who had kids, and there were some downsides, but heck, it got me out of that marriage. It worked out fine. I think the hardest part was making up my mind to do it. Once I made up my mind, I started figuring out how to do it, and it turned out that there was a way, and it was not so bad. Totally worth it. Good luck
    Yikes! Your situation sounds dreadful, please accept my sincerest sympathies! Of course, I want to say ''get outta there!'' for your sake and the sake of your kids, but clearly it's not that simple or easy.

    One question that came up for me after reading your post was ''do you get sick leave from your job?'' You mentioned feeling too exhausted after work to consult with a lawyer. I'm thinking that if I felt that way, I'd take a sick day off and consult with a lawyer! For one thing, with California's community property laws, if your husband insiststs on keeping the house, doesn't he have to buy you out?(Which would be helpful for getting started on your own somewhere - perhaps closer to your family?). I don't know your situation, of course. You may feel that your husband would try to avoid giving you any money (which seems a likely tactic for a control freak). I believe, however, that you can send a sherrif over to collect for you, if he doesn't cough up the divorce settlement.

    Well, regardless, this will likely be a very difficult situation to extract yourself from. I hope you are able to get yourself and your kids away from your husband. alesia


    Your message really resonated for me. I think I've had pieces of your experience over the last several years, and I want you to know you are not alone. You don't really say whether you want to try to save the marriage, or if you just feel stuck in it, or whether he does. And you're right-- verbal abuse is abuse. I did two things when I hit bottom: I talked to a lawyer to understand legal and financial options, and I talked to a therapist to try to get clear as to what I wanted, instead of having everything operate in reaction to my husband. I decided to give therapy a shot, to see if I could unlock my own patterns that were feeding a bad dynamic in our household. I was SO prepared to ditch him (and our house, car, life but NOT children) if I didn't get a lot more optomistic about the prospects for our marriage. It sounds like money is tight for you, and I too spent months convincing myself I couldn't afford it, until I finally called my work's benefit plan to learn they have an Employee Assistance Program or EAP, that basically covered the cost of therapy for over 18 months, except for a very low copay. I had the option to see someone near my house or my work, so it would have been possible to go at lunch once a week without him even knowing, and it's totally confidential. What's come to the surface for me through therapy is that my husband's own depression and guilt over some really bad acts in his past made him want to put me down all the time--especially as he saw me doing back flips trying to keep everything together. The amazing thing is that he didn't even realize he was doing it. I also realized I was pretty much a door mat--not that you are-- but in my case I felt so beaten down that I walked on eggshells trying to avoid another bad scene, felt like crap about everything and was so overwhelmed that getting my kids to the park felt like a major deal. It only got better (and it's much better) when I vented enough of my own anger elsewhere that I could calmly start pointing out to him the things he was doing, and how they were affecting our family. I think it made all the difference that when I was able to stop viewing him as the devil, he felt it. As to options for leaving, I too felt absolutely stuck with children, mortgage, job and that I couldn't possibly do it on my own. But I decided that if therapy didn't work, I was prepared to live anywhere to live happily. You also should know that if leaving feels like the only option to you, assuming you've been living in CA for your married life, the law does protect you and afford you rights, especially for child support and possibly alimony. Paying a lawyer for a one hour consultation to understand your options may just give you the comfort you need to know you do have options. Good Luck. anon
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