Helping My Sister Deal With an Abusive Relationship?

My sister has a history of having a difficult marriage. It is only more recently that we, her family, are finding out just how difficult. Her husband has been verbally and emotionally abusing her for years. She has 4 kids with him and lives in a different state than we do.


Their one child is a special needs child and he, in particular, is who my sister worries about the most. She is concerned that her husband will "go after him". I don't know exactly what that means, she says he is not physically abusive, but he spends all his time hollering at the kids when he gets home from work.

He has made it clear to my sister that everything (all possessions) is his. Last night my sister had to run an errand, she usually keeps the kids with her all the time, but she couldn't take them. When she got home her 2 middle boys were upset to the point of being traumatized.

She had an argument with her husband and tried to go to a friend's house which is two hours away. Her oldest son, 12, ran away from her, upset. He ended up going to his paternal grandparents home. My sister was not leaving her husband at this point but just trying to get a break from her husband and so she could rest a little (she has kidney stones right now). She was also trying to convince his family to help him with getting professional help.


This morning her husband called, informed her he froze all assets, and the kids had to be returned home, and that if she left, he would bring up her family's mental issues (my brother has an illness which he has sought help for). I can only assume he is implying that he will try to say she is unfit to parent based on her family's mental issues?

Anyway, long story short, his mother calls, saying that her oldest boy is besides himself. She asks her to come home to take care of him and calm him down. Of course, she went home, being worried about him. She (the mother in law) then goes on to lecture her that she needs to stay with her husband because they have 4 children to raise.

We are extremely upset and concerned. He does carry a gun in his car. How can we best help her or point her to help? We don't have a lot of money, while his side does. We've considered moving there to try to help her with the kids, but she is hoping to get out of the state she is in because she hates it there.


By concernedsister

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August 31, 20110 found this helpful

I am so sorry. I can relate more than you will ever know. I have an illness from my ex-husband. I have had years of mental, physical, and verbal abuse. Ending where I have an illness that Dr. say "no cure" he busted my implants which causes lupus, auto immune shut down.

Back to all the problems; your sister is in a co-dependent relationship if she could be talked into counseling, or group support outside the family would really help. She would hear story after story like mine. She wouldn't feel so alone. Being in a relationship where someone threatens you after awhile you begin, no matter what you tell her she feel deserving. Sounds dumb, you don't understand.


I know you want to help her but the only thing you can do it make sure the kids are alright. She is an adult, they aren't. No child needs to think this is normal, it isn't. Maybe if the children weren't there she will see that no matter what he does, money or no money, it isn't worth it. She thinks she can't make it, and in a strange way you will never understand it feels normal. I know, it is like; who else would ever want me and I cant be alone, how could I support my kids? Until she is forced to see the truth (I hate saying it), "not much can be done".

If she would go to a meeting or a therapist they would show her how many woman die, yes die, or end of killing the man and going to jail themselves. The rate of the children thinking this is ok, and having a relationship like they grew up in is so much in favor of the abuser than one would think.


I'm sorry this isn't what you want to hear. I was afraid to write afraid to upset you. If I can save one woman or one child, from not living handicapped or hearing another story about a death, double suicide or even killing family members, I will.

What I said about save the children will take everything you have in you and prayer. Call the local Child Protective Service get them out; maybe she will choose her children over the abusive husband. He wont change, they are bullies. He will do what less than normal high schooler would do. If she wont press charges, because of fear of mental illness in the family is her not having the right counsel. If she sought this out it would show she was the one trying to do the right thing. I also had adopted a special needs child who I thank God, ended up raising alone for most of his life. She has so much going on, that even sticking to one decision is hard for her. It seems over whelming.


There is help out there but she need to seek it out (or you can help find it). Being a good mother means not having her children traumatized by him screaming and yelling at them. Right now they all need help. If you won't call CPS (can do anonymously) I believe she will be fine if she left, but help is way past due. It will not get better, this I can promise. Not once have I heard "he changed" or "oh it's all fine now" Never.

There are churches,programs,charities and so many places that will help. Encourage her to go after help, before something bad happens; him having a gun is not a good thing!
Please leave me a message and I would happily talk further with you. I will pray for you and her. God answers all pray and this is a situation where neither family side seems too see how bad,really, really bad, this could end. Leave message if I can help you.

God Bless, Luana M.
PS you didn't mention what state so different rules in each but all federal laws are the same. If he carries a gun it must be a state where usually the worst happens before good if no intervention happens. Maybe you could check the state law on abuse, child custody, and who gets the possessions, etc. However none of these "things" matter. Things can be replaced your sister can't be. Most any state would make him support his children. I know women who were left under ground, and didn't care to just save the children and themselves. I now have peace and I got awarded alimony till I die or he dies. I never got a dime; my peace of mind is worth so much more. Being able to sleep without fear is worth so much more than money. Good luck from bottom of my heart. I wish you all the miracle that comes from God and encourage you time is of the essence!

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August 31, 20110 found this helpful

I so agree with Luana! I was married to the devil's son for 17 years and it doesn't change or get better. Oh now, it's OK for a little while after a bad one, but it always repeats itself! As my momma told me for years when I would defend him "a leopard doesn't change their spots!" She's right!

But I know exactly how your sister feels and their is nothing you can do except be there for her when she does get enough. My breaking point came when my ex punched my 14 year old son like he was a man! And yes I almost killed him that night! Now money is hard and we are barely making it, but we could not be happier (even our dog is happy)! It's so peaceful and we all agree we love him, but could never go back to living that way again! And thank God my family was there when we broke away.

He has her brain washed. He can't take everything. That's him trying to control her! I never had to deal with the child welfare, but I'm so sure that they will talk to the kids and know the truth. Do your sister a favor and just ask a lawyer or call a women's shelter in yours and her state and ask them about the laws and what her options are. That way when she does get ready to go, she won't be doing it with his crazy talk; believing what he says will happen.

With a special needs child in the picture she will get more help from the state. I know we don't like to think of being a welfare case, but its better than living in fear and frustration all the time. The happiness is so worth it!
But until she's ready all you can do is wait. I'm so sorry!

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August 31, 20110 found this helpful

The best thing to do would be for your sister to pack up what she can in her car, take the kids, and go to their bank and withdraw a reasonable amount of money to get her out of the town that she lives in and into a battered women's shelter. This will have to be done while he is at work or doing whatever out on the town activities that he does, and it will have to be done quickly.

She should also keep hers and the kid's birth certificates and social security cards where she grab them, and put them in her purse quickly. That is the first step to getting away. From there they will help her with advice.

I lived in a verbally abusive marriage for 20 years. There was always the thought in the back of my mind is he going to get physically abusive? When I hear of a young girl or woman that is considering getting into a domestic relationship, I advise them to put away a little money each week where their significant other can't get to it, and doesn't' know about it. If she isn't working, she can always skimp on household money and groceries and put some away. If she can also have her own charge card that would be an advantage. I didn't do this and would have been better off if I had.

Your sister's special needs child should also be eligible for disability, if he/she isn't already on it. I was really relieved when my now "ex" filed for divorce. I am harder up financially, but better off emotionally. I no longer live with if he says "jump" I have to ask "how high?" If she can't get any of the furniture when she has an actual place to live she can always find either free or thrift store furniture to get by.

I have been divorced since 1983 and to this day when I am around a man that swears, shouts, etc. I just automatically withdraw. I knew a man in a support group for widowed and divorced people that said during the two weeks that he was at National Guard Camp one summer, his wife got a U-Haul truck and loaded up every piece of furniture in their house and moved to another state. He stated that he didn't know why, but I, in the back of my mind, I always wondered what he had been doing in the marriage. I would just urge your sister to start preparing and then take what she can and get out fast.

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August 31, 20110 found this helpful

Despite what he's told her, he can't freeze the assets. The courts will determine what she is to get, not him. There is little you can do except listen when she needs to talk. It's very complex as to why women stay with these men.

You might enlighten her that by remaining with this bully that this is how they will be when they get married. She owes it to them to get out and miles away. If she ever decides to get out, the dumbest, most dangerous thing she could do is tell him that she's going. These women often wind up dead, the husband in jail and the kids spread out in foster homes. She owes them more than that.

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September 1, 20110 found this helpful

I am no expert but it seems to me that the authorities should be notified. As nothing concrete has happened, the authorities cannot do anything but perhaps your sister would be allowed to file a report so the authorities are aware of what is going on in the event something does happen.

Your sister might want to check with her local Neighborhood Legal Services to get help and information to protect herself and her kids.

Is there a woman's shelter near where your sister and kids could get refuge temporarily? Can any of your family take in your sister and her children until she gets on her feet?

Does your sister belong to a church body that might help her?

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September 1, 20110 found this helpful

She thinks he is going to change. He is not. Call the child welfare in her state and inform them about the special needs child and the other children. They will investigate and determine what should be done. She could leave this abusive man if she would but at least the kids need to be made safe. You must do this because you know about it. To not do it makes you a standbyer.

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September 1, 20110 found this helpful

It sound as though your sister is in a very bad, dangerous place. She needs to contact the nearest battered women shelter and follow their advice to the letter-the most dangerous time for a battered (physical or verbal) woman is when she is trying to leave, and it is more dangerous when there are children. The shelter counselors will be able to tell your sister how to escape safely.

BTW, yes, he can take her assets if everything is in his name, or is written as Mr OR Mrs. I know this because my ex was able to wipe out 18 years in a heartbeat due to the way everything was listed-Mr OR Mrs. He went to the bank, the DMV, etc. I lost everything.

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September 1, 20110 found this helpful

There is some excellent advice here. Way too many of us have been there. You do feel overwhelmed, which is only natural. It is a very difficult and frightening situation. I recommend your sister contact a women's shelter, or a battered women's group. They know how to plan a safe escape. The steps required are not something a person in the situation can come up with. Especially with someone who carries a gun. People at these shelters know exactly what to do, and how to do it safely.

Perhaps one of her family could make some preliminary phone calls to different shelters close to her and find a contact for her, then let her do the phoning from your house. Then she won't be all alone making tough decisions that she doesn't have enough information to make. When she sees a way out I am sure she will take it. Bless you all for helping her. One day she will be beyond grateful.

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September 1, 20110 found this helpful

My husband had a brain injury which caused him to be verbally and emotionally abusive. Taking medication helped him (and us). For some reason or another, there were two time periods when he wasn't taking his medication and life sucked for us all. Once I cried on his Mom's shoulder about it and she got him to take his medication again.

The second time, I didn't know (but should've guessed) that he had stopped taking meds and I poured out my heart to my pastor asking him to pray for us. He talked to my husband and had us counsel with him. Then it came out that he wasn't taking meds. He went back on the meds and is now a much nicer man to be around.

Your sister's husband is a bully. If he hasn't had a brain injury, there is no excuse for his behavior.

Good advice here. Hope she and her kids get out soon. I would wonder about the truth about the frozen assets, too. Depends upon which state she lives in.

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September 1, 20110 found this helpful

I wouldn't worry about the family mental issues of your brother. It nowhere near compares to the mental issues of the husband. I wonder if he is bi-polar.

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September 1, 20110 found this helpful

Calling child welfare is not going to do anything unless they see something that could harm the kids. When they show up and everything is good then they will leave. I have a separate checking account and I try to put a little in it each payday or whenever I can. I advise every woman to have one, in this day and time you never know when you are going to need it. I also use it for things I want or gifts for my husband, it serves 2 purposes. My husband and I do have a joint account also. I will be praying for that situation.

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September 12, 20110 found this helpful

God bless you for your love and concern for your sister! I spent 15.5 years in a farce of a marriage with a man much like your brother-in-law. Neither his family nor mine had much money, and he had our pastor on his side. He browbeat me into forking over every possible penny, he even got insurance settlement money out of me that was rightfully our children's. I had nowhere to turn. My children and I all regularly went hungry or lived on Ramen noodles and hot dogs. I looked like a scarecrow; my children looked, literally, like concentration-camp inmates. (I mean no offense to my Jewish TF family, but that's really how bad we looked.) Like you, all my family was at least two hours' drive from where we lived.

I sought God for the answer, and then for a way out. It took awhile, but it came and when it did, I never looked back. Of course my children went with me. We found shelter with a strong protector who is now my husband, although we'd begun as only friends. My mother gladly paid for my initial divorce filing fee. Like your sister, I got threatened with losing custody. That turned out to be a bluff. It was obvious my ex was the unfit parent. We never had joint accounts, so he couldn't freeze my assets.

Now I have a sister in a pretty bad situation with a husband who bullies her. Like you, I wish I could just step in and rescue her. However, I know from experience it's rarely simple. Please be patient with your sister, and keep her in your prayers. Perhaps, like me, she's also praying for God's will and help. She'll let you know when she's ready. My prayers go with you and her, and those precious children.

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