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Thread: need help with my 13 yr old niece

  1. #1

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    Default need help with my 13 yr old niece

    Last year my 13 (then 12) yr old niece witnessed her mother (my sis) being beaten up by her step-father. He is an alcoholic and although he often gets verbally abusive when drunk, this was the first time he ever got physically abusive. He beat her up pretty bad and my niece had locked herself in her bedroom calling the police while it happened (the police didn't take her seriously and didn't come to help until the step-father rang the police saying my sis was beating him up... the [email protected]#$^%rds believed HIM when he didn't have a mark on him rather than my sis covered in blood) anyway... she's never talked about it since and is a very private young lady. It has had an enormous impact on her. The family no longer live with the step father but he was incredibly remorseful and my sis still has a relationship with him. He supports them to an extent financially by allowing her to work in his business and he helps out with things wherever possible. He is not allowed at my sister's house if the kids are there and my niece refuses to have anything to do with him. I do understand this.

    Following my sis's lead, I have forgiven her husband in an attempt to be true to myself and what I believe in and also because I don't want her to feel she can't come to our house and relax etc. with her husband. With christmas coming up I talked to her kids about how they felt if I invited him to join us for lunch. I told them I wouldn't invite him if they felt it was too much. The boys were fine with it but the girls (this niece in particular) were not happy with it so it's not going ahead. My sis has now decided to work and not take part at all in celebrating because she's so upset about it. I relented to my niece because she was reduced to tears and this is a VERY unusual thing for her. There are strict conditions on him coming over (no alcohol etc) but she's still not happy about it so yeah... not happening.

    I guess through my rambling I'm wondering this: she's in a bad spot, refuses counselling and refuses to talk to anyone about it but is clearly needing some outlet and some connection with someone. I want to try and help her but don't know how to approach her on this subject. Or what to say. I think initially it will have to be an email to give her the option of opting out of seeing me and discussing it. I don't want to talk her around and make her agree that the stepfather should be there or make her love him etc. I want her to felt understood and valued and help her come to terms with the fact that her mother has a continuing relationship with this man.

    A bit of background - her first husband (the kids father) also beat her but the kids have forgiven him and see him as often as they want to (one lives there the others visit every few days and stay whenever they want).

    I'm sure I'm going around in circles here but I really am struggling to get my head around her. If anyone has kids around this age or maybe (heaven forbid) have been through a similar thing, I'd love to hear from you. My sis has welcomed any help I can provide here as she's unable to work things out with her - niece is currently not speaking to her and hasn't been for some weeks now.

    Feel free to ask questions, I'll try answer, I know I haven't been all that clear.

    Oh, some stuff on me - I have some training as a youth worker but have not had to deal with this sort of thing and have never actually gotten to working in the industry yet. I have a good raport with my niece but don't want to push her away over this. help?

    One other thing - other than the brief chat we had about christmas, I haven't tried to talk to her about this issue so I don't have any history there - it's a fresh communication.



    Thanks in advance

  2. #2

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    this is a very hard and versatile situation im one of those ppl that were brought up with a step father who used to be a drug abuser n alcholic and used to get extremely physical with my mum... often leaving her in either hospital or in a very bad way... i am the eldest of 3 children and i often used to be the one shielding my brother n sister from such events... very sad life style... i would probably take her out for lunch and approach her on this situation and ask her what her negatives and positives towards this situation are... it sounds like its alot more than just that occurance her to still be sooo against this man being near her family... or get her to come stay the night and chat about the memories of that day/night and what her fears are.. i know i used to turn on my step dad really badly and i would treat him like crap and it really used to tear my mum apart.. the last time he ever hit her i was pregnant with my last son on new years eve in 2006 and he tried to choke her with the lanyard on her keys and i jumped in while they where going at each other lets just say my son was born 2 days later... this can be a very scarring memory and sometimes thats all it takes is too instill fear in such a young brain.... its sooo sad and maybe the thought that after always mouthing off and then this has came to blows it could be an unforgivable thing... i hope it works out... n i hope ur sister understands that her young mind is very volatile.. but gl ** BIG HUGS**

  3. #3

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    Oh Gee .. your post brings tears to my eyes to you and your niece.

    I know what its like from both sides ... unfortunately ... This is going to sound horrible, however, my mum uses my abusive x to 'put me in my place' so to speak - but I have learned to use it back at her - she was & still is in an abusive relationship (not my father) 25 years later. Sad really.

    I hope with your neice's situation she doesnt fall into the cycle like i did ...

    I would recommend you try to strengthen the relationship with your neice without pushing too far itms? Let her know upfront tho - that you will be there for her if she needs to talk or needs a shoulder to cry on, or talk about anything at all that is bothering her.

    I often felt quite angry as a teenager and would often think about how good it would feel to beat him up for what he had done to my mum - obviously never happened tho .. maybe let your neice know that its okay to be angry, hurt, upset, confused, scared. It is NOT ok for abuse to happen. She may even feel she is to blame? Maybe gently reassure her it is not her fault? Perhaps let her know its ok for her to feel all of the above and she doesn't have to forgive him EVER! if she doesnt feel like it!

    I wish I had aunties who cared enough about me to want to help me as a teen. Unfortunately, abuse was and still is alive in my family (hence the reason i dont have anything to do with them)

    Perhaps you can offer her a night at your place once a month or whenever she feels up to it and the 2 of you can veg out and watch movies have a girly night when the kids have gone to bed?

    Sorry for the ramble, just thinking of what might help?

    for your neice tho - this is such a tender age!

  4. #4

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    thanks amali, it helps to have feedback from someone who's been there. I'm so worried about scaring her away and making her lose any trust she might have in me. There was lots of verbal abuse and he made it clear that he didn't want her kids to be there (the two girls lived there). On one occasion he beat up his own 5 yr old son and when my sis talked to his mother, she said it wasn't the first time etc. but refused to do anything about it. I can't report it myself because I wasn't there and did not even see evidence of it (I never used to see his son more than once a blue moon). She has a whole world of reason to hate the guy, I guess I just want to somehow show her that it won't help her to hate him, it will only help her to ignore him as much as possible. Usually she does that but she's always been really close to her mum so this has shattered her to the core.

    It i a tragedy that your mum is still in such an abusive relationship after so many years. Even more so that you had to jump in there pregnant to try and break things up. Thank you so much for sharing your story with me and for your advice. I really appreciate it. All the best with the last few weeks of your pg and I hope your little princess has as beautiful a heart as you do

    naenae -I don't understand why people will stay in such awful relationships for so long. Though I suppose my sis was with her first husband for 16 years and he beat her up numerous times including breaking cheek bones etc. And he wasn't an alcoholic. He was just a really angry man. There was never the excuse of substance abuse to cover his abuse. I love your idea of inviting her over to stay. I think she might go for that as a means to get away and have some space away from it all. When she stays at her dads house, the place is so small that her and her other sis have to share a bedroom with him. It's all above board and not bad etc. just a small house and they are hardly there so it was the only option. I spoke this evening with my other sis (there are three of us - I'm the youngest, the one with the kids is the oldest) and she reckons the same, take her out shopping or something, buy her lunch chat if she wants to hang out and have fun if that's all she wants to do etc. No pressure.

    Thank you so much, both of you, for your willingness to share some really hard things you've been through and continue to go through. I wish you both happiness and peace and will let you know how I go! thank you a million times!

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    you are more than welcome its a shame that this is happening and that poor lil boy ( that really makes me wanna cry the innocense is being taken from him for a default in his own father... he should be reported or a least warned a single hit in a child can cause tremendous damage and lets not mention the worst of all out comes... i hope u have a resolution sooner than later.. i think i am now seeing why ur neice is so against him coming back.. i reallly cant blame her at all.. i just wish this lil boy had a choice or someone to speak out on his behalf which should be the job of his own mother thats appauling... GL babe and all the best well wishing thoughts u could imagine
    Thanks for your generous thoughts and GL and massive hugs and kisses

  6. #6

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    Exactly what amali said!

    Good Luck with everything - I hope it all works out

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    All I can think is that I completely agree with your neice's stance on this issue. She should not have to have anything to do with that man - regardless of how her mother may feel about him. And from her perspective, it must feel in some ways like her mother is choosing him over her own kids, just in the fact that she is choosing to continue the relationship. All the bad messages that she is learning from her mother (regardless of the mothers intent) - that the step father is more important then the children, that it is ok for a man to beat up his wife, that it is something that can be forgiven. It is tough enough being a teenager and learning to deal with the world and going through all the usual issues regarding self worth and self confidence, without having to deal with this too. It is heartbreaking.

    As much as you love your sister, I think your neice needs to know that their is someone who will ALWAYS take her side, unconditionally. I don't think she is getting this from her mother, and your attempts to pacify everyone just reinforce the idea that it is OK to ignore what happened and pretend things are different then they are.



    I know you are put in a really tough decision here, but I think you need to talk to your neice and make a decision that she will come first - even before your sister - and ask her what she wants and expects from you and then make sure you follow through. Your sister is an adult. Your neice is a child. As sad as your sisters situation is, she is making the choice to be in that situation. Your neice has very little choice in the matter. And IMO, a childs needs ALWAYS take preference and priority over that of an adults.

    I understand not wanting to alienate your sister, but your acceptance of her husband, when your neice clearly does not accept him in this situation, is sending the message that his behaviour was OK and forgivable. It is not like we are talking that your neice simply doesn't like the guy, He beat up her mother!

    I hope I haven't been to harsh, I am not trying to critise you at all, I just don't think the approach you have taken is what this girl needs.

  8. #8

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    Hi misty, not harsh. I told the kids that if they didn't want him there then he wouldn't be there, simple as that. As soon as she indicated that she didn't want him there, I said that's fine, he won't be invited. So he has never even been told that it was a possibility that he'd be invited.

    I agree with you that she should not have to see him and as it is now, she never does see him. He is not allowed at their house and they do not live together. My sister spends one night a week with him and works with him two days, other than that she doesn't see him so I don't think that it would be accurate to say that she has chosen him over her children (though I can see how her children may read that into things). By not living with him she now has to work 2 jobs while she is studying full time at uni in order to make ends meet. I agree that my sis is doing the wrong thing, however, I think she is doing it a lot better than she could be. She could have insisted they continue to live with him. She hasn't, at great expense. She could have refused to press charges. She didn't. She could insist that the kids continue to see him, she doesn't. This doesn't mean I like or agree with her decision to be with him. I want to find a way to support my neice. She's been through a trauma that she needs help with and until very recently, I was not aware of how deeply she continues to hurt. She has not shown this to me to date, and with a new baby, I've been quite distracted. They live almost an hour from me so I don't get to see them as often as I'd like to but in the past I've had a lot to do with them and have supported them through some pretty tough times.

    I've seen my brother in law twice since he beat up my sister a little over 13 months ago. I've made it very clear to him that I do not approve of what he has done and I'm very unhappy with him for doing it. I have spoken with him about this as well as emailed him. He is under no misconceptions about how I feel. However, I learnt a long time ago that for my own sanity, I must forgive people as it only hurts me if I don't, it eats me up and I end up feeling bitter and victimised and that is far worse than anything anyone else can do to me. This is something that I'd like to eventually teach my niece and certainly teach my own children. BUT, having said that I forgive does not mean that I trust him not to do it again (though I'm pretty sure he won't) nor does it mean that I'm all buddy pals with him, I still prefer not to see him. It simply means I forgive. I move on with my life and refuse to let him or his actions consume me. This is, of course, much simpler for me since I don't have to be involved in the situation on a daily basis like my niece does.

    My post isn't about 'how can I make my niece forgive him and be a big happy family'. It's about "my niece has been hurt, how do I approach her to help her". When I asked them about christmas, I was not aware of how deeply she still hurt, if I was, I would not have asked.

    Last night I emailed her and asked her if she felt like hanging out during the holidays. She's besotted with my DD3 (loves babies) and I put it to her that I thought she looked like she needed a change of scene. I also offered her the opportunity to stay the night here at any time if she felt like she had to get away from everything, and said that I'd pick her up any time. She emailed back thanking me and I though she didn't want anything further but have since had a couple of positive little notes from her. I've also offered to take herself and her siblings out for a fun activity during the school holidays as I know her mum can't afford it. I think the best way for me to help her out is to show her that I have a genuine interest in her happiness and that I'm not wanting to talk her into being best buds with her sod of a step-father as I have had no intentions of doing that.

    I would love to hear any suggestions that you may have based on the above and also on your previous post. I don't want my niece to think that I have taken her mother's side on this issue and I certainly don't want her to think that I've taken his. I'm new to this whole type of mess as previously I lived interstate when this crap happened to my sis.

    Thanks for your comments, I do agree with pretty much everything you've said. If you have some ideas on what I can try I'd appreciate that as well.

    ps. I think everything can be forgiven. I have forgiven my ex several years of cheating on me while I looked after our children oblivously. Doesn't mean I stayed with him to allow him to continue to do it to me but I did have to forgive him to be able to move on and find happiness. Without forgiving people who do us wrong, we just keep reliving the wrongs and being bitter and angry victims and we don't move forward, we are stunted in our emotional growth. Forgiving someone does not mean that we think that what they did was right, ok or acceptable. It just means forgiving.
    Last edited by LittleOnes; September 18th, 2010 at 08:19 PM.

  9. #9

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    littleones i dont think that any of this is anyones fault maybe something has happened in his life that has made him be so angry inside and i AM NOT in any way wat so ever condoning what he has or will do... your sister is following her heart as many of us have done and will do in the future, love is a very strong and pulling emotion and some ppl cant handle it the way others do.. your sister sounds like she needs as much help as the children she is the one that was assulted and probably doesnt know how to approach the kids on the matter its a very tough situation and my heart cries out for them and his poor dear son...
    these situations always have so many turns and no one can predict them nor judge them ppl make mistakes in life, (ie. your sister) it sound stoo me she is doing everything she can for the sake of those children and even though the kids may not think or feel that she has to do wat she has to do...
    Forgiveness is the key to freedom and happiness.. you dont forgive you will be living in hatred and saddness not so much forgiving what they did but forgiving them to free yourself its never a get out of jail free card... its a warning that nothing lasts for ever and you abuse that then its your lose and my way of moving on.. IYKWIM..
    I think that this family may consider family counselling which can be provided through the government and individual counselling also..
    at the end of the day this is a real life situation and family that stand to lose the most important things ever in life..
    "EACHOTHER AND COMMUNICATION"
    once thats gone im scared you'll be trying to pick up splintered pieces and i hope it doesnt turn out like that
    sorry for raving on

  10. #10

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    Sadly, it sounds like your sis just cant seem to let go for whatever reason, fear, embarrassment etc and as amali said - the whole family will require counselling to deal with what has happened. This is probably the first thing to do - i am surprised counselling hasnt been offered?

    Sadly, I do not believe abuser's can change. The beatings only get worse, there is always an apology and always an excuse for why it happened. And its always someone else's fault, not their own.

    Your sister need's to stay away from this man, and so do the children. That may sound harsh however this is my opinion, and I am not your sister (it took me 7 years to leave an extremely abusive relationship)

    On the subject of forgiveness, I would like to point out your niece will not only (hopefully one day) try to forgive your BIL but also her mother. I often struggle to comprehend why my mother LET it happen so many times, why *I* had to be the protector of my younger siblings etc. I wonder if your sister realises this? I am almost 27 and still have not forgiven either one of them. I often still get upset at what I seen and then get angry - not looking for any sympathy/pity here - just wanting to point out a few things for you

    Is your sister aware of how her daughter feels about this man? Have you spoken to your sis about why she is still seeing this man? I know it is difficult to leave an abusive relationship, as we dont know what type of 'hold' he has on her. Perhaps financial? Perhaps she is better off looking for another job to cut ties with him also?

    I would also like to point out - Your sis being upset about her DD not wanting the Abuser to be at an Xmas lunch/dinner I feel she needs to be more supportive of her daughter in dealing with her emotions about what happened. Does she expect your neice to brush her feelings under the carpet? It might be an idea to point this out to her, in a caring aunt type of way Or your sister may risk losing contact with her own daughter. Personally, I left home at 15, didnt have any contact with my family for a few years & rarely see them today.

    I do feel for your family going through this - but there seems to be a bit of a pattern here - 1st partner was abusive also?

    Of course you dont have to come back and answer any of these questions - I am just writing what I am thinking.

  11. #11

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    Little ones - I completely get what you are saying, and I truely think you are in the hardest position. As ideal as it might be to want your neice to forgive, I don't think it is something that can be expected or encouraged, without risk of causing her to feel undue pressure. Hopefully she will come to this in her own time, but forgiveness is a process and it sounds like she still has alot of angry and hurt to deal with before she can reach it. She should not feel like she 'has' to or 'should' forgive him.

    I think when people talk about forgiving someone, that really mean acceptance. I cannot 'forgive' some things that have happened in my life. But I have learnt acceptance of them and am now a peace with them. But it is a long process. And it does not nessecarily means forgiving someone who abused their position or trust. It does mean accepting that that person is what they are and things happened as they did, and letting go of the anger and hurt and betrayal to move forward with their lives. I don't think there really is anything anyone else can do to help a person through this process, other then being there when they are needed and giving unconditional love and support. It is an internal struggle that will only be resolved when she feels ready.

    At the moment she is still on guard and defensive. Because he is still in the picture this is unlikely to change. How can she relax enough to reach acceptance when the cause for fear is still there. He may not be living with them or having much interaction, but he is still there in the background, and may possibly return at any time. This has got to scare her, it is like a timebomb that might go off at any moment, and she has no control over any of it. Something that was clearly demonstrated to her when she rang the police and they refused to belive her. She lives in fear that he might beat her mum up again at any time, that maby he will once again move back into the house, that maybe one day he might beat her or one of her siblings. It doesn't matter if this is actually likely or not, This is her reality.

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