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Abusive Parents FAQ

Abusive Parents FAQ

Sections:

  • Was I abused?
  • Dealing with narcissists + toxic people
  • What to do if kicked out
  • How to document abuse
  • Stalking
  • Restraining orders
  • How to leave abuse
  • Why is it hard for me to leave my parents?
  • Trying to change your abuser: it’s a trap
  • Therapy + mental health
  • Life skills
  • Someone I know is being abused

Was I abused?

First off, you are not crazy.

  • A simple test is to apply the golden rule: is the potentially toxic person treating others the same way that they themselves would like to be treated?
  • Emotional abuse is abuse.
  • Many abusers need to hurt and control others to feel safe.
  • Don’t worry about other people “having it worse”.  You are not competing in the Abuse Olympics (which do not exist).  If your victimizer is consistently acting against your best interests, then it is abuse.

If your “normal meter” is broken, then you may find these links helpful:

Acronyms

The RBN wiki has a list of common acronyms.

Dealing with narcissists + toxic people

No contact

Many people find that the best approach for dealing with toxic people is to stop interacting with them.

What to do if kicked out

If you are a minor, go to the police and document what happened.  Child abandonment is likely illegal in your state/province.

If you are an adult, your parents may be legally required to give you a set amount of time (e.g. 30 days) to move out by.  One option is to sneak back in after the drama has died down and then start transferring your government documents and other important possessions out of the house.  Afterwards, you should start putting together a plan to move out.

How to document abuse

To record phone conversations, you can use Google Voice, Android apps, or paid iPhone apps.  You can also record in-person conversations on your smartphone (e.g. voice memo), although you should check the audio quality beforehand as the audio may not be good enough if the phone is in your pocket.  In states with two-party consent laws, secretly recording conversations without the other party’s consent may be illegal.  The exceptions are:

  • There is generally an exemption in the state law (e.g. Illinois) if there is (A) reasonable suspicion that the other party has committed or may commit a criminal offense and (B) there is reason to believe that evidence of that offense may be obtained by the recording.  If you aren’t sure if secret recordings would break the law, do your research on your state’s laws.
  • Non-private conversations can be recorded, e.g. it is obvious that the conversation is taking place in a public area where others can hear the conversation.
  • Consent from the other party is obtained.

If there are injuries, go to a doctor or nurse.  If the professional’s opinion is that the injuries are consistent with abuse, have them write it down in the victim’s medical records (and/or in a letter to you).  You can also take photos/videos of the injuries.

Stalking (from the RBN wiki)

Restraining orders

If your restraining order has been violated, document the violations.  If the violations are serious enough, go back to court with evidence.  The court will punish the restrained person harder and harder until they comply with the court order.  If you fear for your safety, talk to the police to see what they can do.

How to leave abuse

Leaving your parents as a minor (<18)

Think about where you want to live:

  • Job Corps.  This is a US government program that provides housing, job training, some money, and health benefits.  It will help you finish a high school equivalent education and some programs teach you how to drive.
  • Live with a friend or relative
  • Live on your own and pay rent.  This will allow you to pursue emancipation.
  • Military.  In some states/provinces, you can join the military at 16 while also finishing a high school equivalent education.
  • Couch surf
  • Youth shelter
  • Foster system
  • Other – vagabonding / homelessness, live in a van, psych ward, youth jail, etc.  (These options are a little extreme.)

Then, research ways to get there:

  • Ask for permission.
  • Trick your parents.  Some abusers want to hurt you, so you can pretend that they would “hurt” you by forcing you to do _______.
  • Leave and hope that your parents don’t use their legal powers to make you go back.
  • Get a restraining order against your parents.
  • Run away repeatedly.  Talk to the police because they likely do not want to waste their resources putting you back into an abusive household.
  • Go to the police, because most forms of child abuse are illegal.  You should usually go to the police before Child Protective Services as the police are less likely to fail you.

See this guide for more details.

Leaving your parents as an adult

In addition to many of the options available to minors, here are some options:

Why is it hard for me to leave my parents?

It is very normal for abuse victims to want their abuser to change (or finally love them), to want their abuser to apologize, or to want the world to see who their abuser really is.  There are different explanations for why this is:

After leaving, many abuse survivors find that there is some social stigma attached to not loving your parents.

Trying to change your abuser: it’s a trap

Therapy + mental health

Finding a therapist

Psychology Today has a directory of mental health professionals.  Many people report negative experiences with therapy, e.g. being invalidated by their therapist.  One tip is to find a therapist with experience dealing with children of (“cluster B”) personality disordered parents.

Self-help

Panic attacks

Getting off addictive psychiatric drugs

WARNING: please do NOT suddenly discontinue psychiatric medications as it can be very dangerous to do so.

Life skills

Renting

Cleaning

Communication

  • Use Dingtone or Google Voice if your cell phone service is cut off.  You will only be able to take/make calls when you have wifi/Internet access.

Dental

Digital

Employment

Starting out on your own

Food

Homelessness

Marriage

Other People + Relationships

Smoking

College finance

If you want to go to college without taking money from your parents, you’ll want to look into a dependency override that will make your eligible for more financial aid.  Finaid.org has a good overview of dependency overridesGetting a dependency override is discussed here and FAFSA advice is given here.  Also see people talking about their experiences here and here.

Poverty finance

r/PovertyFinance has a wiki with links to resources.

Food

  • Free meals:  Charities, churches, and other organizations provide free or heavily discounted meals.  You can look on Google to find out where this is happening in your city.
  • Food banks:  The people who donate to food banks would definitely want to see abuse victims use the food bank to help them get on their feet.  Bring ID, pay attention to the food bank’s rules, and bring things to help you transport the food.  If you are living in a household with a partner or kids, say so and you will get more food.
  • Dumpster diving:  Pizza shops (e.g. Little Caesars) will throw out perfectly good pizzas in a pizza box.  Places that sell sandwiches will throw out what they can’t sell (or send it to a charity).  Show up 1-2 hours after closing time and look in the dumpster if it’s unlocked.  For more information, you can try places such as Reddit and r/dumpsterdiving if you have questions. See the thread on “Dumpster Diving – A Great Way to Get Free Food”.  Or instead of dumpster diving, you can try asking the employees.  Do not eat dirty food.
  • Food stamps (now called SNAP):  US citizens and homeless minors can apply for food stamps.

Shelter

Someone I know is being abused

 

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