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How Do You Turn Your Back On Your 19 Year Old Daughter?

Question:

I have a daughter who was date raped at the age of 15. We did not know until approximately 1 year later where we immediately got her help. She was cutting her self and started smoking pot. She saw a therapist for quite some time and then she decided she didn’t want to go back. She has stopped cutting herself for about 1 year. During her high school years, she was hanging out with kids that we really disliked. In spite of it all she graduated with good grades and went off to college. We had her living on campus hoping she would find new friends and start a wonderful life leaving those behind. She chose a college which was about 1 hour away since we still wanted to keep in close contact with her. We found out she was coming back to our area hanging with those same friends, smoking pot and hanging with kids that were getting into all sorts of trouble. She failed all of her classes the first semester. After her first semester, she lost her scholarships and she got into a severe car accident as a passenger. We thought that would be the changing factor in her life since she was severely hurt. After medical treatment and taking off some time she wanted to go back to school. We found out she failed her second semester and was on academic probation where they suspended her for a semester so she moved back home. She found a job after 3 months of living here and does not want to go back to school . She started hanging with her old friends, smoking pot everyday and staying out all hours of the night. She does not help in the house nor does she care about anyone in this house. I told her she needs to move out by January 1st. I am afraid that she won’t save money and she will remain here. I want her to leave now but she doesn’t have anywhere to go. Do I just kick her out? I don’t want to enable her any longer but I feel that we are. I am always the one in her face, my husband gets angry talking with her so he doesn’t say anything. I don’t know where to turn. I wanted her to go to a narcotics meeting for pot but she will not go. It has gotten out of hand. I don’t blame her friends, I blame her for the choices she is making. She is wasting her life. I have begged her to stop hanging with these people for the last few years, but she chooses them over us knowing that she will not have us in her life. I never thought I would turn my back on my own child. We have two other children that are doing well but I feel bad for my other daughter who has to live with this dysfunction. Please help. I live in an area where we don’t have many options for help. I am desperate for advice. I don’t have anywhere to turn. Thank you, Desperate for help.

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Answer:

The situation that you describe about your 19 year old daughter does not appear to that of the typical older teenager who is abusing drugs and acting rebellious. Therefore, I believe there are some important things you need to understand about her before you go any further.

At age 15, a very tender age of young adolescence, your daughter was raped by a group of boys or men. Among the many things that makes rape such a vile act are the following:

1. It robs the individual of their dignity and self respect.
2. It is a violation of their body against their will-power, robbing the person of having any sense of choice or control over their life.
3. It produces a terrible sense of GUILT. You might find that surprising but young women who have been raped often carry within them the false idea that they caused the rape. Of course this is non-sense, but they strongly cling to this way of thinking.
4. Their self esteem is deeply wounded, believing that they are nothing but "trash" because of the rape. Again, this irrational but is what they think.
5. As a result of much of this, they go about their lives proving how no good they really are and how unworthy of love they are.

She is not fully aware of it but your daughter, a bright and capable young woman, is acting out all of these false beliefs about herself.

If I were to make an educated guess, I would guess that, underneath it all, she is quite depressed. In my opinion, the trauma of the rape has never really been "resolved." I use the word, resolved, with great care because I am not sure that such a trauma can ever be fully resolved. However, I have seen people make a much better adjustment to this terrible kind of thing than your daughter has.

I know that you, your husband and your other children are in emotional turmoil and do not know what to do. However, in my opinion, by demanding that she leave you are falling into her trap of proving how "no good" and how unworthy of love, she believes herself to be.

Please understand what I am about to say:
Things could be a lot worse than her smoking pot and hanging out with people you disapprove of. If that is the worst that is happening right now it is a lot less bad than you may suspect. After all, she got herself a job and is working.

In fact, I would gently suggest to her that you are pleased she is working and could she pay some small rent or fee to the household because the economy is bad and you need her financial help now that she is working.

I suggest you do this without the threat of forcing her to move out. This could even send the message to her that you now think of her as an adult and want her to take some home responsibility.

I also want to suggest that, in my opinion, you need to "get out of her face." These arguments serve only to reinforce her low opinion of herself and, also, make her more rebellious or stubborn.

Your report that she went to therapy after the rape so there must be some type of mental health services in your area. If there is I want to urge all of you to go into family therapy. This is a family issue and, as you point out, impacts on all of you.

Please try to remember, it is not that she is "bad" or "uncooperative." She is not "choosing" any of this. In fact, she does not feel like she has any choices except to make all of you feel as bad as she does.

From family therapy she might consider therapy for herself: to help her deal with the rape and her low self esteem. However, in my opinion, this has to start with the whole family. By the way, the issue is not the pot.

All of this is my opinion, of course, and based on the information you have provided.

Best of luck to all of you. 

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