Monday, August 18, 2008

Being the champion of your child - even over the age of consent

I’m seeking feedback from parents of grown kids between legal age and 40 for this essay. If you fit the description, contact me for more discussion at the addresses (both e-mail and snail mail) given or comment on this article. If you are an adult in that age range yourself, I’m not looking for a response from you, but you can tell your parents about this request.

This essay is geared towards parents of under-40 adults undergoing abusive relationships. Though I’m not a parent, I’ll turn 28 in a month and a half (September 26 to be exact). I was involved in a relationship where my “girlfriend” lied to me, then stole from me. After I broke up with her, I tried to stay friends with her, but that led to more problems, culminating in stalking between August 2006 and December 2006, and then in June 2007. She managed to steal, con, or extort almost $3000 from me before it was all over. My father (my mother died 6 years ago) lives in a different city from my own, but I wish that I had his support during this time period, not just after. Many grown kids wish the same.

In an abusive relationship, there are a few obvious signs – like bruising, bleeding, or the abuse of grandkids – something egregious enough to warrant a prompt police response. These cases are blatant, not subtle, and you can support them during the legal actions to come. But there are more subtle forms of abuse that your grown child may not know about, and that’s where your experience comes in.

When your child always comes home depressed or sad after an encounter with her “boyfriend” or you notice that her husband is turning her against you, there is no question that some form of abuse is going on. Abusers isolate their victims as a way of breaking them down. You have known your child for 20, 30, or 40 years – the abuser has known her (or him) for only a few years in most cases. You know their strengths and weaknesses, but unfortunately, so does your grown child’s abusive “partner”.

There is no question, in these cases, that your grown child’s date, “partner”, or spouse is not conducting themselves in a way beneficial to them. There is no question that a predator has charged through your (and you child’s) life and is threatening her spirit and soul (if not their very life). There is no question that you must do all you can legally do to prevent further damage.

There is no “partnership” because partners are peers, equals, and abuse by definition feature power differences. Even if they are the same age and come from the same background, abusers can never be peers to their victims because that would take away the reason for their manipulation, deceit, and their scheming. Even if the abuser and the abused have wedding rings on each other’s hands, there is no real relationship other than that of predator and prey.

Be a parent. Parenting doesn’t stop when your son or daughter turns 18 or 21, it just becomes an advisory position. Your first duty is not the same as it was before they went off to college or out on your own. However, whenever there’s danger, you must become the protector of your daughter (or son) if they don’t recognize it. When there is an abusive relationship, there is no love, but only power and control. Like the 15 year old with the 30 year old, the victim in an abusive relationship (including an abusive marriage) believes that they are in love with their perpetrator, but in reality, they are being worked over for the perpetrator’s power and control needs.

If the dynamics of an abusive relationship between adults and an abusive relationship between a 15 year old and a 30 year old share similar characteristics, then the remedy should be similar. This means that parents should watch the situation between their grown child’s abuser and their grown child closely. Encourage them for file for a restraining order or divorce if need be. Take them to the women’s shelter or a relative’s house, but don’t leave them in the current situation! If there is obvious signs of bruises or you see your adult offspring physically abused, call 911 immediately, regardless of whether the child wants to or not. Your 1st duty is to protect your kids from harm, and physical violence is definitely a form of harm. They will thank you for this down the line if they are grateful.

It’s not a mistake or a bad temper – but deliberate abuse, deliberate stealing of a soul that you are dealing with. You must snatch your child from the abuser’s mouth. You must tell her (or him) that true love does not involve abuse, manipulation, or power over someone. You must remind them that the things you have done for them in the first 18 years (or 21 years, or until graduation) is true love, not the situation that they are in. Love builds up, it does not tear down, belittle, or hurt.

After the ordeal is over, it is time to mend the relationship that you’ve had for the past few decades before the abusive “partner” intruded into you grown child’s life. It is time to help your child pick up the pieces (not pick them up yourself), and guide them to a new life, one without abuse, manipulation, or deceit. Above all, your support will show them that while friends come and go, and partners or spouses (abusive or not) may come and go, your bond with them will always stay as long as you are around.
An abuser won’t always stay married (or involved with) your child, but you will always stay their parent.

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