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Elliott, LPCC, NCC
Elliott, LPCC, NCC, Psychotherapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 7664
Experience:  35 years of experience as a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor, National Certified Counselor and a college professor.
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My sister-in-law is claiming that her 13 year old daughter

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My sister-in-law is claiming that her 13 year old daughter beat her from head to toe. We found out about this because she sent and email with a grainy photo of a bloody arm to her 29 year-old daughter who lives out of state. The 29 year old contacted my husband's brother after she was not about to reach her mom. He assured her that her mom was okay, and called us, since we had just seen her. We did see her last Sat, one week after the alleged attack. She had no marks whatsoever on her, and she and her daughter did not seem at odds. I called my sister-in-law today and asked if she was okay. She said, "Yes, why?" and I said, "because I was sent a photo that makes it look like you might not be okay." She said that this actually happened two months ago because her daughter was angry about having to wake up and go to school. Then she went on to talk about another event that I had not heard about before. She stated that she had "tapped" her daughter's leg to get her out of bed, and child services was contacted and charges were later dropped. I am concerned that my sister-in-law may hurting her daughter. She moved to CA from Oregon a few months ago with no job and no home after a rough divorce. Her ex-husband became addicted to crystal meth. She stayed with him for awhile - even left her daughter in his care when she knew he was doing drugs. She also has a history of drinking. I am extremely worried about my niece. i have only seen her twice since she moved here, but she does not seem like someone who would hit. She suffers from social anxiety, and is very quiet. She says she prefers to be alone. (I asked if it was scary to stay alone in a hotel room when her mom went to work.) Is there anything I can do?
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Dear concerned aunt,

You have every reason to be concerned. Your sister has fallen into a pattern or meth use, in all probability. As a former (?) alcoholic she is also prone to addiction. Meth is probably part of her daily lifestyle. Your niece may be exposed to the lifestyle and even the dangerous chemicals used in its manufacture.

One of the symptoms of meth use is extreme paranoia, which may characterize your sister's behavior.

The child is definitely subject to neglect, if not outright psychological abuse. Who knows how much more abuse is going on, especially with drug-crazed friends passing through her family, and probably her household.

If you go through social services you are taking a big risk, in my opinion. Some solve problems, while other increase them.

Is it possible that you can take care of this child? Talk it over with your husband / close family, then if they agree, talk to the girl. If she agrees as well, talk to the sister. Try to avoid legal action.

To save a child, sometimes legal action is required, and you are certainly an interested party.

Weigh your options. I believe that girl needs to be protected and nurtured and you are perhaps he best hope in the world.

I hope that I have given you some important things to consider, and if you agree, please accept my answer, and help me continue the important work that I do helping others in pain and need.

Great blessings to all of your family,

Elliott Sewell, LPCC, NCC
Customer: replied 7 years ago.
My sister-in-law's ex-husband is the meth addict. He is completely out of the picture now. My sister-in-law never became involved with drugs, to my knowledge. My concern is that my sister-in-law is stating that her daughter is beating her. (the child is beating the mom) My gut tells me it is probably the other way around. I don't want to throw out false accusations and alienate them. I don't want to do more harm than good. In your opinion, is getting the two of them together with my husband and I & asking them directly what is going on, and showing both of them the picture of the bloody arm appropriate? I worry that if I anger my sister-in-law, she will take her anger out on her daughter.
Dear friend,

I agree with your gut feeling. Asking the directly will not necessarily get more than what they think you want to hear.

While schools are still closed for summer holiday, perhaps you could arrange an outing or short vacation with your niece, and slowly gain her confidence and learn the truth that way. In no way should you alert the sister-in-law to your suspicions.

If they are well founded, perhaps your sister-in-law will be furious, but the child will be moved from harm's way. If she is abusing the child (who may also have been abused by her ex-husband), then the little girl will need counseling and protection.

The picture she sent was probably a cover story to establish deniability for her in case her abusive behaviour was revealed.

This is a tough job for you. Move cautiously, have facts on hand, get backup if you need it (from social services). Use observation of body language.

You have not only a right to protect this child, but a duty as well.

I hope this further clarifies things for you.

I shall be back online n the morning, although I believed I have answered your questions with sound professional advice. If so, please accept my answer.

Best wishes,

Elliott, LPCC, NCC and other Mental Health Specialists are ready to help you
I work with drug users every week at a county jail. Meth use very often involves husband and wife. This proves nothing, but it is a statistical indicator. I hope with all my heart that you can help this little girl.