Dear Steph – My Mother hangs out with my violent ex.

Hi, 

Let’s get stuck in…before my husband I was in a relationship with a very violent cretin, who beat me up regularly. One time he ended up in jail for it, due to how bad it was…15yrs on and he still terrifies me…I have frozen on the rare occasions I have seen him..(he’s in jail more than out of it, he’s a burglar to feed his habit)

My Mum lives in part of the city where Travellers live…in a trailer…she has been having said ex round, long story short I’m feeing really betrayed.. AGAIN and let down by Mum AGAIN!

I’m now way too scared to pop round there in case he’s there and I certainly won’t be taking my children to see her!!!

I’m always getting  hurt one way or another by my mum  this letter is literally the tip pf the iceberg 

What do I do about it? X

Rebecca – UK

Dear Rebecca,

I am so sorry to hear that you suffered so much abuse from your ex. I know the long term psychological impact a volatile relationship can have and it sounds as though the abuse you suffered was well beyond the level I myself am familiar with. What’s as upsetting to hear, is that it doesn’t sound as though you’ve had much support from your mum in processing what you’ve endured. You’re not clear in your email on the nature of the relationship your mother has with your ex, but what is clear from is the impact her being in contact with him is having on you. To answer your question ‘what do I do about it?’ I think you need to ask yourself firstly what you want to do about it. If the goal is for your mum to step up and tell your ex to back the fuck off, consider her doing this and whether that would actually lessen the betrayal you feel, and if not, how you would rectify that in the long term. I believe that when it comes to our parents we have ideals that often don’t meet reality. You report you feel let down by your mum again, so this is not the first time she’s betrayed you. Is the reason you are unable to cut her off because of some inherent loyalty that she clearly isn’t capable of reciprocating? In your situation I would want to be having this conversation with my mum, imploring her to understand the impact her repeated betrayals have had on me. As is often the case in these circumstances though, we don’t get the response we anticipate. I understand you may love and want a relationship with your mum and if that’s the case you need to be calling her out on her behaviour. The issue here of course, is that she may not hear you, or offer you the apology and love you crave. Should this be the case my advice would be some trauma counselling, and possibly some radical acceptance work to help you accept an apology you may never receive. It’s a really heartbreaking situation to be in, we frequently base our lives around familial connections and accepting that in your case your mum isn’t able to participate in a reciprocal relationship must be soul crushing, it also might be necessary in order to move on with your life. As for your ex, there is no valid reason to see or speak to him again, I would continue to stay out of his way.

I’m including here some instagram pages you might find relatable and also the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy website as this is the best place to start if you one day consider looking for an accredited therapist.

https://www.counselling-directory.org.uk/

I wish you the best of luck.

Steph x

Dear Steph – My daughter was assaulted.

Can you advise how to communicate with my 15 year old daughter after sexual assault as we’re trying everything and failing, suicide attempts, self harm….She’s missing so much school she’s withdrawn but still wants to go out all the time with friends. We’ve got counselling through the police and school. Trying to just be there for her and show love and understanding but it’s affecting the whole family her younger sibling is self harming as she sees her doing it and thinks that’s how you handle things. I should have protected her but I’ve let her down.

Dad – East Anglia Uk

Dear Dad,

First and foremost I’d like to express my sincere apologies for what you and your family are going through right now. I can only imagine how traumatic this must be for each and every one of you. I’m really pleased to read your daughter has been referred for counselling, as someone specialist in this field will be paramount to her healing. With regards to her still wanting to go out with friends, I imagine it might come from a place of craving normality. Her friends will likely be carrying on as normal to some degree, where as you as her parents are understandably concerned and unable to ignore the enormity of what she’s been through. Many victims of sexual assault will feel misplaced shame in relation to the attack, and this can have an impact on familial relationships. I am not a mother of teens but I have been a female teenager who suffered with her mental health, during a time when sexually inappropriate behaviour was common place. My advice is purely based on me empathising with your daughter and not from experience or professionalism. I personally wouldn’t advise forcing her to talk, it may be simply that she isn’t ready yet, or hasn’t fully processed what happened to her. I do recommend that when she is ready, having frank and honest conversations about the assault. Acknowledging that it happened and was extremely traumatic for her, may be an important part of her healing. It sounds as though she is unsurprisingly experiencing extreme emotions around the incident. There is a particular type of therapy I have found really useful for emotional regulation. It’s called Dialectal Behavioural Therapy and is focused on coping with uncomfortable emotions and better managing the effects of them. It really helped me with intrusive thoughts and extreme anxiety and panic attacks. It could be worth asking your GP to refer your daughter or looking to see if there is anywhere that offers sessions in your area. I would also suggest that if you are ever concerned about your daughter taking her own life or attempting to, calling 999 or taking her to A&E. Many GP’s are proving, in my opinion, quite useless recently, so if you’re ever concerned for her mental health and aren’t getting support from them, hospital is the next place to try. I understand that might not be what any of you want, but my experience of being in hospital for my mental health actually turned out to be a really positive one. I believe it saved my life. Your daughter may need trauma counselling alongside DBT so still accept the offers from the police and school. Additionally I want to address what you’ve mentioned about feeling as though you’ve let her down and didn’t protect her. I have heard this being a really common thought process for loved ones of victims, but I need to stress that you are not responsible. You are clearly a loving and concerned father and everything you are feeling right now is valid. But you cannot take the blame for someone else’s actions. You didn’t cause this, you didn’t allow it to happen, and you are not in any way shape or form to blame. I think every parent on the planet wants to protect their children at all times but unfortunately it’s not possible for us to do so. Please if you take nothing else from this response, know this is NOT your fault. I hope that the police are providing you ALL with support, but if not please ask your doctor for help or talk to someone you trust. Lastly in relation to your younger child, I would recommend trying to access counselling for them too and having a chat with their school to see if they can offer some support. I’ve listed below support services that may be able to help you further. You may already be aware of some of them.

Young Victims provide support for both victims and families.

Young Minds could be well placed to support your younger child to process what’s going on in the family.

Give us a shout offer free and completely confidential text support to anyone struggling to cope. This may be useful for yourself and your daughter.

Rape Crisis England and Wales these guys have some useful resources for supporting a loved one.

Finally, I’d like to wish you and your family healing and hope. Please know you are not alone, you are not to blame and you are doing everything you possibly can to help your daughter. Being strong for our children isn’t easy and in these circumstances I can’t begin to imagine how difficult it must be for you. I hope that with the right support your daughter and your family will be able to heal.

Take good care of yourself.

Steph x