On Your Mind: She keeps going back

The question below reached us through our “online hotline” button which lets anyone send a question to Lauren Levine, a local counselor — completely anonymous. The email comes in with no email address and no identifying information. We set it up this way so women would feel free to write about anything on their mind.

Question: How do I convince my daughter not to go back to her abuser for the 5th time? The last time I drove to pick her up and he ended up abusing me in front of her. She saw this and now a couple months later has somehow forgotten how he treated her, and she has an infant daughter to look out for, too.

While I know your question wasn’t asking “why” your daughter would return to her abuser, I think it’s important to have some understanding of this pattern as a way of helping her. It is so difficult for loved ones to try and understand why an abused woman goes back to their abusive relationship.

In these types of relationships, there is very often a confused sense of loyalty or love or an inappropriate sense of self blame. And of course fear. Fear is the primary reason that people go back to their abusers. While the reasons not to return seem clear to an outsider, it is not as easy to understand for someone like your daughter who is experiencing the effects of “coercive control.

Your question is about how to “convince” your daughter not to return and the sad truth is that you can’t “convince” her. However, you can offer her support in the following ways:

Keep the communication door wide open. Rather then trying to “convince” her of anything,  let her do the talking. She is already fatigued by the “convincing efforts of her spouse. Too much “convincing” will leave her more exhausted and confused and feeling further controlled.

1. Let her know you are always there for her and when she is ready you will help her.

2. Let her know you are afraid for the safety of her and the baby and that you are concerned about what impact this situation will have on a child. (If you believe the baby is at risk of harm or neglect, then it’s important to report this to DHS or police right away.)

3. Let her know that the way he treats her is not her fault nor does she deserve to be treated in this way.

There are some good resources in our community, not only for your daughter but also for you to reach out to for advice. (Northwest Arkansas Women’s Shelter will be able to speak to you about the best approach to supporting your daughter).

My Google search brought up several supportive and educational articles on the subject of how to support a victim of domestic. The following was most helpful: http://www.speakoutloud.net/crazymaking-gaslighting/mothers-concerned-for-daughters-in-abusive-relationships

Thank you for your difficult question. I’m sure many will benefit from you having asked it.

CLICK HERE to read more about therapist Lauren Levine. If you’d like to ask Lauren a question about something on your mind, click the butterfly icon below and submit your question. The form is NOT tied to your email address or any other identifying information, therefore your question will be submitted anonymously. You can read the answer to your question by reading the therapist’s response here on nwaMotherlode.com. Click HERE to read other questions and answers in the On Your Mind category.

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