Your son-in-law tells your daughter who she can be friends with, what she can and can’t wear, how much she should weigh, and even how long her hair should be. Your daughter seems miserable, and you think your son-in-law is a controlling jerk…but he is also a domestic abuser?
Domestic abuse can take many forms. Of course, the most visibly evident form of domestic abuse is outright physical violence. But, domestic abuse can be non-physical and includes behaviors such as stalking, belittling, threatening and attempting to control the life of an intimate partner. In fact, before domestic abuse becomes physically violent, it is usually preceded by other types of abuse, such as controlling behavior.
When patterns of controlling abuse are present, as newhopeforwomen.org explains, “In the beginning an abuser will attribute controlling behavior to concern for the victim (for example, the victim’s safety or decision-making skills). As this behavior progresses the situation will worsen, and the abuser may assume all control of finances or prevent the victim from coming and going freely.” If you are noticing that your son-in-law is attempting to isolate your child from you or from other important people in their life, both friends and family, this could be a red flag.
Some questions to ask yourself:
- Is your son-in-law acting jealous or possessive of their partner? Do they seem to become angry if your child is simply speaking to another person? Do they dictate with whom your child can associate?
- Are you noticing that your son-in-law is constantly checking up on your child? If he is not in your presence, is he repeatedly calling or texting their partner to determine his or her whereabouts? Are you noticing your child having to frequently “check-in” with your son-in-law and becoming anxious if they cannot return their call immediately?
- Is your child complaining that your son-in-law controls all of the family finances? Has he removed your child’s name from bank accounts or has he begun confiscating their paychecks and not providing any money to your child?
- Has your child told you that your son-in-law is monitoring their phone calls or their computers? Have they found tracking software on their cell phones or notice a private investigator following them?
If you are concerned for your child’s safety, talk with them about your fears. Do not take the approach that it is none of your business or that you simply don’t wish to meddle in your child’s relationships. They may really need to speak with someone but are afraid to discuss their situation. Talk to them in private and express your concerns letting your child know that you are there for them, no matter what, when they are ready to talk. Assure them that no matter what is said, you will keep it confidential. If they are being abused, they are without a doubt in fear of their abuser and what the repercussions may be if they are discovered talking to you about the abuse.
Do not judge your child or blame them for their situation and do not pressure them to make any decisions. You may want to consider attending a local support group for friends and family of domestic abuse victims for further tools, advice and guidance on how to help your child and help yourself through this extremely difficult situation.
If your child is ready, you may want to suggest having them speak to an experienced family law attorney for some advice on the restraining order process in the New Jersey family courts, if he or she is ready to take the step and file for a temporary restraining order.
We can help. When your family is ready, please contact us to schedule a free, confidential consultation with one of our knowledgeable, experienced and compassionate family law attorneys.