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Dr. K
Dr. K, Psychiatrist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 358
Experience:  15 years clinical experience in all areas of psychiatry. Holistic and practical approach.
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My sister's husband is emotionally abusive to her and their

Customer Question

My sister's husband is emotionally abusive to her and their kids. They've been married for over 15 years and I just figured out that he's emotionally abusive. I brought it up to my sister who didn't do anything about it, which is no surprise because by now he has worn her down to the point that she just doesn't do anything about it. In fact, I spent a week with them recently and noticed she and the kids just ignore his tantrums and other abuse. I don't feel right about ignoring the issue. Is there anything I can do about it, or is it all in my sister's hands? When I'm around him I don't want to ignore his abuse like everyone else. But I'm not sure what I can say or do.
Submitted: 7 years ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  Dr. K replied 7 years ago.

I think the hardest thing here for you is accepting your helplessness. Recommending counseling was a great idea, but she's obviously not ready yet. Another idea is getting her some self-help books. Here are a few titles: The Emotionally Abused Woman : Overcoming Destructive Patterns and Reclaiming Yourself by Beverly Engel ; "Boundaries" or "Where to Draw the Line" by Anne Katherine; Bad Boys, Bad Men: Confronting Antisocial Personality Disorder by Donald W. Black [although just because he is abusive doesn't mean he has antisocial personality...but the concepts in the book should still be helpful].

Keep in mind that even if you would rather confront his abuse when you're around him, this may make it worse for you sister and her kids (he may get more abusive). And if the abuse ever gets physical you should consider calling the police (but again, this may make him more angry & abusive).

Try to empathize with why it's hard for her to leave him, but let her know that you will always be there when she is ready to make that move. Take to other mutual family & friends too to see if they have ideas. Even if they at least use the same approach as you, that will be helpful by sending a consistent message to your sister.

I hope this helps. Let me know if you need further advice. Take care.

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