If your daughter has confided in you that she is experiencing abuse, or if you suspect that there may be abuse or betrayal in her relationship, then you can be a central figure in helping her seek safety.
Read on and tune in to the BTR.ORG Podcast to learn 3 Ways to Help Your Abused Daughter Seek Safety.
The Absolute Necessity of Unequivocal Support
Abandon the “it takes two to tango” mentality, and invest your time and energy into supporting your daughter. This means that you are NOT:
- Bailing the abuser out of jail if he’s been arrested
- Meeting the abuser one-on-one for heart-to-heart talks about how he can change or win your daughter back
- Trying to convince your daughter to consider salvaging the marriage
- Fraternizing with the abuser’s family and friends – your energy is best spent on your daughter (and her children)
Become Trauma-Informed & Educated About Abuse
When your daughter has experienced psychological and emotional abuse, financial control, and sexual coercion and betrayal, she is likely experiencing significant trauma.
As you become more trauma-informed and educated about abuse, you will naturally be able to empathize with her and be more sensitive to her trauma. If you want her to feel safe with you, then take the time to:
- Listen to the BTR.ORG Podcast
- Read the books we recommend, including Why Does He Do That? And The Verbally Abusive Relationship
- Watch our educational videos
Choose to be a Pillar of Safety & Support
Your daughter may feel like her entire world is crumbling around her. The last thing that she needs right now is to feel like she has to earn your love, respect, and support.
- A place to live
- Financial resources so that she can afford a good attorney
- Your unequivocal support
- A listening ear should she ever need to vent or confide in someone
- Your absolute belief in her story, without any need for proof
- Your willingness to make a safety plan in the event that the abuser tries to harm her or the children
- Your willingness to testify on her behalf
Your support can be the difference between your daughter feeling completely alone in a terrifying world – and feeling loved, safe, and resilient.
Please be the parent that your daughter deserves.
Welcome to BTR.ORG. This is Anne. If you’re new to the BTR podcast, you may want to consider starting with the oldest episode first and then making your way forward chronologically. If you do that, you’ll take the journey with me as I learn more and more. You’ll hear a change in my voice as I grow in confidence and skills. It’ll be like a friend holding your hand as you make your own way to peace.
I have a really special episode today. My father is here. We had a man named Jim reach out. He is the dad of a victim and she’s living with him and also her three children, and he reached out and was like, how do I help my daughter? What do I do? He was like, could I talk to your dad? So I thought, let’s do a podcast episode about it and talk about some of these issues. So welcome Jim.
Thank you. I’m happy to be here.
So Jim, do you wanna just start with what’s going on with your daughter?
When Jim Began to Understand That His Son-In-Law Was Abusive
Sure. She’s been married about 10 years has three children. The youngest one is a year and a half, basically. So about the time that she had the baby, she came to me with a little experience when the baby was about a week old. She was asking for some newborn photos or something and, and her husband basically just became unglued to the point that she was like shaking and like it was the turning point for her. And she came to me and told me about that and my wife. And I think it was a turning point for us in basically being able to tell her, you know, you do what you need to do. We’ve got your back.
Did you understand that as abuse at the time or did you just think he was being a jerk? What did you think?
“They Did Some Marriage Counseling, Which Made Things Worse”
You know, I’m not sure when the words came cuz certain things happened that helped give us vocabulary, if you will. I think that the, the term that came to my daughter first was verbal abuse. And so she looked it up and started saying, wow, I’m getting a lot of that. At some point in there, you know, she, in hindsight, you know, she had been concerned about their marriage for at least a year before that. And in hindsight, you know, even much before that, but particularly enough that she wanted to do something and she started asking him about it. And toward the time of the baby they did some marriage counseling, which made things worse and he suggested that at some point that she was suffering postpartum depression. So this would’ve been after that experience I described. And she was recommended a counselor and went to this counselor and the counselor specialized in postpartum depression and in the first session she said, “You have no postpartum depression; I think you’re being abused.”
And that helped confirm. And I can’t remember the order of things, you know, obviously she told us her experience before that with the counselor. But a few things just started to lock together and give her an ability to describe what was happening. And, you know, in hindsight, was there all along, even from the beginning of their marriage when you’re trying to support your kids in their marriage, you’re not like looking for those sort of things. It’s kind of a, a goodwill attitude that, that you have towards it. And, and I must mention that, that he is very, very skilled at reading people and manipulating them basically is what it turns out. But that’s quite, quite personable and quite funny and all those things, you know, and that, that was the big thing for me was, you know, how can somebody be so friendly and personable to everybody else and treat his wife so badly?
Abusers Choose Victims of ALL Personality Types
Can you tell us about Sarah’s personality? Like is she kind of quiet? Is she assertive?
She is, you know, overall fairly quiet. We contrast with some of her other siblings, she was always the, the type that was interacted with friends but not with adults so much. Whereas a lot of our siblings enjoyed adult conversation with adults. And so she was different that way. Just a little less assertive I guess in her mind. Marrying somebody who was outgoing was supposedly going to be good for social things, but kind of turned out to be the opposite.
The reason I ask that is because as my dad talks, my personality’s very assertive, like extremely. And so many people when I started talking about it were like, well, you couldn’t get abused because of your personality. You’re gonna confront everything. That was one of the things that was hard, I think, for my family to really like process. That’s helpful to know where she was coming from when she initially said that, was it easy to wrap your head around? Were you like, oh yes. Like did light bulbs come off or was there a time or a moment where you’re like, ah, I’m not sure if she’s processing this correctly, from your point of view?
Abusers Don’t Take Accountability – So Marriage Books Aren’t Going to Help
A little of both. I mean, I don’t think I was surprised cause I’d observed all along, but you know, my initial reaction was to try to fix things, you know, that’s how my personality is. And so it’s like, well, this great marriage book here or this great marriage book here. And <laugh> one in particular Gottman’s book where he talks about the four horsemen of the apocalypse. I don’t know if you’re familiar with it.
Yes, we are.
When we’ve discussed that with her, she’s like, hmm, yeah, he does all of those. You know, I’m, I’m defensive, but he does all of them. And so it’s like, it’s kind of hard to, to come to the terms at first that your daughter’s marriage is gonna fail, you know what I mean? It’s, it feels like a big letdown, you know, and so when you bounce it against the four horsemen kind of thing and you’re like, well, there’s gotta be some way out of this. And, but the more you you look at it, the more you see that, you know, it just really isn’t owning it very much. So not much chance of change.
Why Gottman’s Book Doesn’t Apply To Abusive Situations
I’m very familiar with Gottman’s book and, and one of the things that came to mind as you were talking Jim, was their observations they did in the lab and they could predict marriages are gonna succeed or fail based on the instances of those four horseman issues coming up in the daily lives and conversation of the couple. That was a big aha moment as I was reading through that material.
The interesting thing about Gottman is that he doesn’t use the word abuse. He says criticism, stonewalling and stuff, but he doesn’t say this is psychological abuse, which it could or could not be. It depends like a victim for example, she might be trying to protect herself and so she decides that she’s gonna just stop talking, which could be quote unquote stonewalling, but she’s doing it to protect herself, whereas an abuser with an abusive character is gonna stonewall in order to control. And so because the goal is different, it’s not necessarily abuse. I think that’s interesting. And people have a hard time like knowing the nuances of victim and perpetrator relationships.
Pornography Use in Abusive Relationships
Yeah, the, the, the words are important because abuse word gets people’s attention. In fact, when she left it wasn’t, her idea wasn’t that she was going to leave, she was asking him to leave for a while to, you know, do a separation and she basically used the word, you know, emotionally abusing, you know, well that word sets people off <laugh> if they don’t like being accused of that and you know, within a day it changed his mind from thinking he might leave to, no, I ain’t going anywhere. And he never left the house.
Mine vacillated between, I’m leaving, I hate it here, you’re terrible to me and I’m not going anywhere. And that was really interesting. Really quickly before we go farther, did you know, or were you aware of any pornography use?
No. And that, that’s the puzzling thing because, you know, he’s adamantly denied that if he’s used it, he’s been able to keep it very secret.
There, you know, there are telltale signs of, you know, lots of time on the computer, et cetera, et cetera. But no, no admission and no, no real evidence.
But highly likely in this case.
Is Sarah Safe Right Now?
So, so how, how did he eventually leave the house? Or is he still in the house?
He’s still in the house.
Is the divorce final?
No. Yeah, after a year we’ve finally got to some temporary orders that were basically negotiated outside the judge’s chambers, I think cause both attorneys were afraid to go in there. I dunno, that’s what it felt like.
Unfortunately the court system with the amount of time that it takes to do things and everything, it does not protect victims per se and actually makes it a lot more difficult for victims. So I’m really sorry that that’s happening. So he’s still in the home and your daughter lives with you and what’s the custody arrangement?
The temporary is 50/50 right now because the attorney was convinced that that’s what the commissioner was gonna give no matter what.
Did your daughter work before this?
Okay. And what is the soon to be ex’s financial situation? Does he make really good money? Is he the average person?
Just a little above average I would say.
Alright. Okay. So thank you for sharing that.
Trauma Mama Husband Drama
I’m gonna take a break here for just a second to talk about my book Trauma Mama Husband Drama. You can find it on our books page which also has a curated list of all of the books that we recommend. My book Trauma Mama Husband Drama is a picture book for adults. So it is the easiest way for you to explain what’s going on to someone who might not understand it. It’s also just a good reference for yourself because it shows what’s happening with very telling and emotional illustrations as well as infographics at the back.
Let’s talk about whatever you want. Now, do you have questions, Jim?
I think I listened to at least one of yours where you told the story about, I think it was a protective order or something, that happened such that it created space where you figured this all out. And then I guess the question is, you know, how did you approach your family about it and how did that go over?
Anne’s Story From Bob’s Perspective
Well, I have the privilege I guess, of a very awesome family. My parents are amazing. They’re really involved but not annoyingly involved and also not overly involved. And so they were always here at just the right moments and really helpful. So do you wanna tell the story from your perspective of the day that he punched the wall in the therapy appointment?
That’d be a good place to start.
Maybe. So my ex and I were in a therapy appointment, like a couple therapy appointment. It was online and both of my parents were here to tend the kids and they were upstairs and we were downstairs. And during the therapy appointment he started pounding on the desk and like yelling in my face and spitting and he broke the door and he put two holes in the wall during this therapy appointment and the therapist was like, get outta there right now. So he was the first one, and this is like seven years of therapy later that mentioned the word abuse. And I went upstairs and I, I told my parents, cause they were there and I’m also talking to the therapist on the phone cause I get out of there, I go upstairs and I’m talking to the therapist on the phone. I tell my parents and then basically he left right that, well, he didn’t leave the house but he –
He was still downstairs.
Well he, oh, he was still downstairs. Okay. So yeah, why don’t you pick it up from there, Dad?
“It Was Clear To Me… That He Did Not Want to Remain Married”
Well we, we heard the noises, the doors being broken and the walls, you know, so we knew something was bad was going on. And then Anne came upstairs and, and I went right downstairs and cause I wanted to talk to him and find out what was going on and had a pretty good relationship with him. I could, I could talk with him and, and we talked for 45 minutes and basically, you know, do you want a divorce? What will happen if you get divorced? What will the financial arrangements be? And man, I was just asking him questions and he was responding and then making comments of his own in terms of where, where they thought they were at. But it was clear to me through that conversation that he did not want to remain married, but he couldn’t figure out an acceptable and financially feasible way to get out of the marriage. And there was nothing definitive that happened out of that conversation.
Remember when you said something about the police and he was like, oh, I I I know how to deal with them or whatever.
“I’m Not Worried About That; I Can Talk My Way Out of That”
Yeah, well I, I said, “You, you know, the police could come over right now and arrest you for abuse from what’s what has transpired here today.” And he said, “Oh, I’m not worried about that; I can talk my way out of that.” And, and he said some other things about divorce and money, but, so that kind of laid it bear between the two of us of knowing where he was at and what was, what, what was going on in his head. And it was only a month after that that he, he, the incident happened that –
He actually got arrested.
He got arrested because of some physical abuse that happened in the house.
So from your perspective, dad, at that moment where you’re like, my daughter is married to someone who does not care about her, like he wants to get divorced, but he can’t figure it out. Like, what were you thinking in your head?
“I Didn’t Understand the Nature of Abuse”
I’m going to admit where I think I went wrong and where my thinking was wrong at that point in time. And Jim, you mentioned something I think was critical to that in terms of you telling your daughter that she needed to do, do what she needed to do and you had her back. I think I was deficient in that area. I was still of the mode of, you know, what will correct this and takes two to tango and, you know, I didn’t understand the nature of abuse. I hadn’t read some of the really important materials that I needed to read to understand that. So I was still more equivocal of this or that and I was not as unconditionally supportive as I should have been at that moment, at that time. And that’s one of the big issues that I would like to communicate to all the listeners in terms of family support is to my observation is in abuse, the tendency to say there’s two sides of this goes out the window and the abuse victim needs unconditional support from those close to her in particular her parents and her siblings and other family members.
And again, from reading an observation, I think that’s one of the things that’s, that really is damaging and that’s lacking in, in these abuse cases.
“It Damaged My Relationship With My Daughter And It Was Damaging To Her”
You know, that moment when I told her I had her back was after you know, after I finally woke up because, you know, there were a lot of signs along the way. In fact, I’d been sent up there a few weeks before to talk to him and asked him to leave. You know, I was unsuccessful. But cause he’s a good talker and to be honest, we had a great talking relationship cause I guess I like to talk and he liked to talk and, and we had common interests. Although my daughter makes it clear now that, you know, sometimes she thinks some of the interests are faked interests, you know, just to <laugh> kinda, I don’t know, groom the parents a little bit too. I don’t, I don’t know what you’d call it, but –
That was going on in our case as well. And, and maybe I am being too hard on myself, but I don’t think so. I I I was too willing to hear and listen to him and, and it damaged my relationship with my daughter and it was damaging to her. And, and that’s what I had seen in retrospect.
Fathers: Don’t Empathize With Abuse.
Well, I think one of the things that like hurt me during that time was that like, I’m not perfect, right? Like to have obviously my abuser using my weaknesses against me and weaponizing those. And then also my strengths, he was exploiting and weaponizing those as well. And then sort of being able to word it in a way that my dad knowing me so well was kind of like, well, I can kind of see your point of view, right? Because Anne is really opinionated and she is very direct and she’s very, you know, whatever. And so because of that, instead of being like, that’s not the issue, the issue is your abuse and sort of having a little bit of empathy, would you say, toward him…That, that was hurtful to me because there’s a lot of women who are maybe quiet like Sarah is, or maybe assertive like I am, but they’re not getting abused, so that doesn’t really have anything to do with it.
Yeah. But this is a broader issue than just a, a parent. I, I think a bishop or a pastor, a minister, a therapist – anyone that’s in that kind of a role interacting with an abused victim, is going to have these kind of tendencies that, that I had that, that I recognize afterwards as being hurtful and detrimental to my daughter.
Also just flat out not true. So for example, he could say, well, if she would just do this and that and, and it, those weaknesses in her may be true, but it’s not true that if she were different, he would stop abusing her. That’s, that’s where it’s just not true.
Abusers Know How to Weaponize The Victims’ Strengths & Weaknesses
I think that that hits it exactly right because I, I will say one thing about Sarah as in our family, she’s the one that is probably the best at self-care, I’ll just say that. And that annoys siblings sometimes. And those are the kind of things that he would, in fact, I think he would, particularly around her family bring those kind of things up, you know,
And weaponize them like yeah, I’m guessing she’s not selfish per se, she’s good at self-care –
Yeah, if everybody took care of themselves as good as she did, the world would be a better place.
But taking it farther by attacking her character with that strength and saying she’s selfish. She doesn’t, you know, things like that. Like taking it farther than it needs to go to attack her character, which I’m not saying that he did that, cause I’m not aware of that, but that’s the type of thing that an abuser would do.
Yeah, pretty much. Yeah.
Those are some of the things that were going on in my mind during that time. I, I’d had a prior interaction with –
John, we’re gonna call my ex John. Yeah.
The Necessity of Unequivocal Support
Pornography, abuse and some other issues that had gone on years before. I was really direct, but I was also empathetic and trying to be understanding. I wasn’t trying to be an ogre and beat him over the head, but I I did beat him over the head in a, in as nice way as I could. So we had that history as well coming into this. But I, I did not understand the nature of abuse and the, the continuum of, of abuse and I didn’t understand the damaging nature of my lack of unequivocal support for my daughter.
One of the things that was interesting, Jim, is the night, so he was arrested at night for domestic violence and I, my parent, I called my parents, they were really helpful that night, but the next morning, was it that night or the next morning that you were like, well, should I go bail him out? And mom was like, no. Do you remember that? Because he was like, what do we do? You know, because did you kind feel like he was your responsibility sort of?
Support the BTR.ORG Podcast
Well, yeah, and he’s family. I mean, yeah, again, the, the, the detachment of being fa- and, and you, you referenced this Jim as the accept defeat and to recognize the, you know, the situation you were in and I was still in the, this, this can be reconstructed and you know, what can I do to help? And I didn’t realize that it had, it had passed beyond that, that point. But I, I do think there’s that pivotal transitional point where, and, and Jim, you alluded to it as you, you don’t want to be a nit picker and actually damage their marriage when it’s salvageable. So when do you, when do you recognize you need to make this pivot and change the way you’re viewing it and the way you’re seeing it and the way you react to it? And I, I don’t have an answer to that. I mean, that, that’s, that’s a tough one. But I, I think the transition needs to be made and maybe it needs to be made more intentional and more conspicuous. I, I don’t know.
We’re gonna pause the conversation here and continue the conversation with my dad and Jim next week, so stay tuned. If this podcast is helpful to you, please support it. And until next week, stay safe out there.