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Abusive Father

Question:

I am 19 years old and I am having problems with my father. I am his only daughter, and the youngest of four. All of my brothers were sexually abused, possibly by my father, and I am not sure if I was ever molested. I am having a lot of problems recently with my mental health. I am diagnosed severe depression for about 3 years. I am trying to get past everything but I cannot remember everything that happened when I was a child. My father was very verbally abusive and sometimes would hit my other brothers. I, myself have not been hit, or I cannot remember. I do remember seeing the beatings of my brothers. I want to move on from my father because I have so much hate for him. I do not live with him, my parents are divorced. But he is a sociopath (he fits the descriptions perfectly) and very deceiving. He manipulates me with guilt trips and buys me things now to win me back.. i can not get rid of the guilt that I feel for him, and it is hurting me a lot! I need to know how to move on and I am just scared, but I don’t know what of. I do not want to see him anymore but the guilt and hopelessness I feel are holding me back. I have a very low self esteem issue and he was the problem of that, I believe. I just need to get away… Please Help!

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Answer:

You’re at a good age to get help now and to protect yourself better if you choose it. As a child you are necessarily under the domain of your parent. If they are abusive you don’t have much power to stop them. As a legal adult (at age 19), you have the legal status necessary to become independent of your parents. You can live independently of them and you don’t have to accept it when they are abusive.

There are some principles to understand here.

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  • Depression is not a moral weakness or anything wrong with you as a person. Rather, it is a real illness that can, in many cases be brought on by toxic environments (such as living in an abusive home, or remembering times that you or people you care about were abused, tortured, or tormented). It’s a little like Cancer in that it isn’t clear why some cases of it occur, but it is clear that you are much more likely to get it if you work with radioactive materials or pesticides (toxic materials) than if you don’t. You are much more likely to get depressed if someone is abusing you than if you are not being abused.

  • People who abuse other people are sick people. They are wrong in the head and in the heart. They are often unable to appreciate other people as independent people. Rather, they can only relate to them as people they control or people in their way. Abuse is a sickness of control – what an abusive man (or woman) wants is control over the people he torments. They will hurt you and/or manipulate you psychologically so as to maintain control over you. Don’t let them do either.

  • You aren’t alone. There are millions and millions of people around the world who have been abused in one form or another. Even millions of people who have been very violently abused such as yourself. Wherever you go, wherever you work or go to school or church or whatever, many of your fellows will have been abused. They won’t admit to it in public, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t the case.

  • Your situation can improve if you take the proper steps. If you take steps to emancipate yourself from your father, you can lessen the control he has over you, and begin the process of recovery. Some steps in the right direction could include:

    • Finding a supportive, trusted, non-abusive person or people in whom you can confide. Like a therapist or a friend, or a trusted clergy figure (if you can find a compassionate one).
    • Reading books about how to recover from abuse, and how to become assertive. Reading and learning about abuse is healthy because it stimulates you to learn to form your own thoughts, independent of what your father thinks. (And don’t let him tell you it’s stupid or foolish for you to do this…)
    • Finding a safe place to live where your father can’t get to you easily
    • Decreasing or entirely eliminating any need you have to get money to support yourself from your father.
    • Refusing to see or speak to or contact in any way the abusive person on an as-needed basis (determined by yourself and no-one else) so that you have the space you need to start to find yourself.

  • When you start to challenge the grip that an abusive person has upon you, what you will find is that they will tend to do something to try to maintain their link to you and their control over you. They will probably first try to dominate you by escalating their abuse and violence until you cringe with fear. If that doesn’t work then they will predictably be sweet to you and say they’re sorry and have changed and that things will be different. They may even mean it – it may not be a lie at the moment they say this. You may be very very tempted to believe that they have changed. However, whatever sweetness they can offer you will be temporary only and the abuse will start up again pretty much as soon as you don’t appear to be escaping anymore. It is important for you to not only become more independent of your father, but also to find supportive friends or allies who can help you to recognize and withstand all attempts your father may make to prevent you from becoming a psychologically emancipated person.

  • Finally, know that you don’t have to totally cut yourself off from your father forever in order to get well (at least there is a decent likelihood of this). You will need a time protected from him (and any other controlling abusive man or woman) where you can learn how to become yourself. When you are more self-confident and feeling better about yourself and have learned how to be assertive, you will be more easily able to cope with this man (albeit possibly only for short periods of time). It ain’t perfect, but show me something in this world that is (grin!). Good luck.

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  • Comments
    • Anonymous-1

      Great article.

      Thank you.

    • Anonymous-2

      I completely agree with everything in this article. I am a survivor of abuse from a very depressed, very sick father. I am the youngest of six. Like you, I have never been hit like my mother and siblings, but the emotional abuse ruined my life, UNTIL I decided that he would not take me down. When you are ready, you will make these changes that Dr. Dombeck has suggested. You will come to a point when there is no other choice. Sink, or swim. If your father is anything like mine, you cannot even hold a conversation with him. Write a letter to him. Tell him how you feel and why. It took me four years to finally mail mine, but now I have an incredible inner peace, and feel that I have done my part--my siblings and mother agree.

    • debra roberts

      I can remeber my father beating my mother and i was 4 or 5, I would hide behind a chair or something, my sister tryingto pull him off my mother cause he was choking her and my sister was 8 or 9, we would pee the bed. my brother i dont remember him to much he was there though we were all about 4 years apart, sometimes my mom would watch out the window for him to start to come down the long driveway and she would tell us we were going go outside and pretend we were trees it would be dark and we did it and i guess he would pass out from drinking and i dont remember to much after that, he came to my school at recess time (this was back inthe 60's) and he would be drunk and take me from the crowd of kids and the teacher would let him, he would take me back to the house and then the troopers would come and talk him into letting me go. my mom left him and things got better and worse for me. he never left us alone he would break into the apartment, yell outside in fromt of all the nieghbors, we had a landlord that molested me, i was about 11 at that time so from there i just went in a downwrd spiral of destruction, nothing was right school was awful, flunked out, i would pull clothes out of the goodwill box for school, it was just awful and to this day i have never had healthy relationship with a man, i do not trust men, do not ever feel capabel of being loved by a man, and of course i know why, but cant ever get rid of it

    • Anonymous-3

      my step father he is an alchoholich and he hits me and yels at me and that caused me to becom emo and now i have bypolar becoase of that and i think it is all my fault. i have 4 brothers and they get hit and beet i as well think that is my faul because when i was little i ask if he was my father and he said shur so its all my fault. i just want it to stop i was going to run away but my brothers told me not to. i remember when i was 4 he took a pop buttle cap and smaked me in the mouth and he hits my mom.

    • Anonymous-4

      The source of all healing is Christ. Seek you comfort in the scriptures (not necessisarily religion, which is different from faith, but have faith in Christ. I was abused as a toddler, raped at age 9, and married a man who pretended love but really just used me for 31 years. i am healing now, learning to be myself, and I know that healing is available to everyone.

      It is not easy. We have to study and apply God's word, but it is there for all on us.

    • Rudy

      The issue with the following scenario is that my mother is never willing to be apart from my father. She is tied to him literally, the good wife.

      My father mistreated me since childhood in many cruel ways. We have been at odds forever. I sent him an email, stating that I forgave him for all the suffering he put me and the family through. He denied it all, stating the “I” was the one who was wrong.

      Well, I stopped visiting my parents home completely, having told God to take over because I did not know what to do with a man that denies something so overwhelming. Here's man that never calls his son, but he called me after I graduated with a nursing degree, to wish me ill, after years of no contact. Imagine that. I was like, "who could that be"?

      "Don't get so happy now. You could always loose your license," and he hung-up.

      I think I went into a rage, but he hung up before I could unleash.

      My poor mother has been home missing her son (crying etc), but he apparently could care less that his wife suffer.

      His actions set the family apart, sibling against sibling. He essentially destroyed the family.

      As children he tortured me . He use to take grains of rice, and have us kneel on them, while he laughed with his friends at us, me and my little brother.

      My earliest memories are of him beating me with an electric cord, He did that routinely for no reason at all. He would come home, and drag me into the bathroom, and beat me with an electrical cord. He humiliated me during potty training. I remember. Later he would show me toys, grin, then hide them. He would destroy my things, and throw me out of the house while I was a minor, often. Once, he asked for my report card, and when I showed him I had good grades, he crunched it up and hid it, not willing to give any praise. He never made contact, except once, when he patted me on the head as one would a dog.

      All of a sudden, today, he came over with my mother, and just pranced around my house, looking through it without even asking permission, like he owned it.

      Then he smiles at me like nothing ever happened. My poor mother, she stands there hoping peace will be made.

      So, I say, “but our business is not finished.” You owe me and this family an apology. I have forgiven you, but you will not have my respect until you fess-up to your deeds.

      Then he says that he never did any wrong, but begins to point out all the wrongs that every individual in the family had ever done “him.”

      At that point a rage began to come over me, but I contained myself. I asked God to help me with this.

      Well, they both left, a bit rushed, for I was eager to have him leave my presence. He rushed out with my mom following.

      Then I just felt bad, like I had been spit in the face, and all the wrong he ever did just came back like a flame. I also felt condemned, like I dishonored my parents. The door almost hit them on the way out. I am concerned because of the commandment to honor your father and mother. My mom will not be away from him, so I cannot have any private time with her. The only other option is to suck it all up, hand them both flowers, and sing Kum-ba-ya. I just don't want to go to hell.

      Any advice?

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