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Intimate Partner Abuse Screen

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Partner/ Spousal Abuse Toward Your Daughter: How to Help Your Daughter Recognize the Abusive Relationship

By Dr. Jeanne King, Ph.D.


domestic abuse expert



A parent’s worst nightmare is the anguish over knowing your child is in pain and/or in danger. How can parents help their adult children abused by intimate domestic partners? Read on to learn what to do and what not to do?

Article Body

Often it is the person closest to the abused individual that becomes vocal about the existence of an abusive relationship. This may be mother, father, sister, brother or best friend. What becomes most difficult for these bystanders is helping their loved one acknowledge the abuse as they see it.

How do you help your daughter,* sister or friend awaken to their abusive relationship? Over the years in working with families, I’m aware that their very efforts to accomplish this mission often backfire and, at best, do nothing. 

The following five things are most frequently done and are the top five things to actually avoid:

1) Don’t tell her that she MUST leave the abusive partner, as this can ignite a parent-child power struggle (unless her life is in imminent, immediate danger). Rather guide her to tell herself that leaving is a must when there is domestic violence in one's relationship. Trust that she is in the best position to know if and when to leave the relationship.

2) Don’t tell her that you know she has the “right” answers. The abused person is conditioned to believe they have no answers and if they stumbled upon one, it’s probably not correct anyway. Instead, help her find her own answers. Help her hear her own inner voice.

3) Don’t assume she won’t know how you really feel about what she is doing by her being in an abusive relationship. She can’t read your thoughts, but she can read the emotional counterpart of your thinking. She’s an expert at that. It’s one of her survival mechanisms at home. Further, she will seek to regulate your thoughts—another survival mechanism she has perfected.

4) Don’t focus exclusively on the punch she received or some equivalent or greater physical assault. While this is extremely important, it is not the point of focus from which her most compelling and action-inspiring reflection occurs. Rather focus on the subtle signs of abuse that she faces daily or weekly.

5) Don’t confront her partner while he has access to your daughter. Any heroic efforts on your part may indeed inflame matters in your absence. Confrontations like this more often that not result in an escalation in intimate partner violence.

If you need help assisting your daughter or sister in awakening to the circumstances of domestic abuse perceivee or suspected, seek professional guidance. Do this before attempting any of the methods described above. This will ensure your moving things in the direction you believe to be in the interest of your loved one.

For more information about helping a loved on in an abusive relationship, visit Dr. Jeanne King, Ph.D. helps individuals, families and healthcare professionals recognize, end and heal domestic abuse. 

This series of eInsights is presented to you by Partners in Prevention, a nonprofit organization. If you find this eInsight article useful, we invite you to contribute to the maintenance and growth of the Survivor Success Tips & eInsights. To make a tax-deductible donation, please visit

©Copyright 2008 Dr. Jeanne King, Ph.D.

*The gender reference in this article only reflects publicized trends. Domestic abuse crosses gender. Studies show that nearly 40% of domestic violence victims each year are men.

Dr. Jeanne King is a licensed psychologist and domestic abuse consultant. Feel free to contact us if you need help with physical and/or emotional pain, stress-related illnesses, or relationship abuse issues at home or in court. Contact Us to reach Dr. King.