Helping abuse victim? Possible trigger.

iVillage Member
Registered: 01-04-2009
Helping abuse victim? Possible trigger.
Sun, 01-04-2009 - 6:48pm

Firstly, my apologies if this is not entirely accurate for the board topic, but I am at a loss of where else to place this. Also, forgive me if this is rather rambled and/or confusing to understand.

Recently my sister (just a quick clarification - we're sisters by close connection, not blood/relations/household) came to the conclusion the progress she thought she has had in leading a normal life hasn't been all that progressive at all, and she is very unsure of where to start or how to go about sorting out many years of built-up problems stemming from child abuse. I will try and give a clear summary of her history to how this all came about -

She comes from a family history of mental illness in her family and her parents in particular were quite young when they had kids and had a lot of issues of their own - she doesn't even know the exact date nor location she was even born (it could be the US or it could be Canada for all she knows).
Her father in particular has a long running history of mental disorders and drug addiction, and is notorious for his lack of remorse and indifference to authority figures (ie. police). Going to jail has never been a frightening concept to him - the moment he would get out he went back to his usual routine.

My sister was brought up under serious psychological abuse along with physical and sexual abuse. She was taught that she was to be basically like a doll, what she thought didn't matter and if things weren't perfect she would be severely punished (which lead her to learn even the most basic things in secret on her own, because not knowing how to do something as simple as tying shoelaces as a young child brought physical punishment).

There were quite a few times during her childhood she told people (teachers, grandparents, other adults) about what was going on, but she was told she was lying and/or exaggerating things because she didn't like how something was, and when her parents would find out it made the situation far worse.

Because of this, she has dealt with many issues when it comes to relationships (she has been in a near-six year long monogamous relationship but it hasn't been without issues because of how difficult she can find it to relate to people emotionally, what is normal behavior and what was taught), being emotionally connected, but most of all accepting help from people.

Due to how she was treated when she tried to seek help, her trained instinctual response now is to immediately say no (as it caused even worse trouble in the past), and she also feels annoyed/bitter when people offer her help and want to help her now, because people treated her so badly when she truly needed it/asking for help caused worse situations.

Her mother died a couple of years ago under suspicious circumstances, but her father is alive and still creates a serious problem for her (just recently he has been calling her and her boyfriend's house, yelling extremely violent and sexually vulgar threats directed at her). She won't get a restraining order against him as it's been known to do nothing in the past but make things worse (because he doesn't care about authority as previously mentioned) and there is very little the police can/will do otherwise. She constantly feels stressed and trapped when this happens and it's very hard for her to not get locked into that triggered response.

She fears for her life and is incredibly scared her father will do something, as he has a notorious history of doing things; but she is wanting to undo the trained responses that were so heavily instilled in her over the years in relation to others helping her, feeling that she needs to be ready to run at any given moment (and that she can't have anything permanent in fear it will be taken from her - as everything in the past has), to feel a sense of security and just be able to control her responses to block the triggered ones.

I have known others to be in a situation almost the exact same in the past, but I am no longer in contact with them to ask for their advice in what would help her. She has no idea where to start or what would help her, so it's to me to find her methods and resources she can use.

Professional help is out of the question. As she has no idea of her birth and her father refused to give her any information years ago when her mother died, she is without any proper identification to do things most people can (things which require 100 points ID etc.), and she doesn't have the money to pay for things in full like counsellors (and she generally cannot stand them anyway).

Please don't think that this is some far-fetched situation like many others have in the past - it is very much real as much as I wish it wasn't, and I'm at a desperate end to help her because I don't think I can bear to see her lose the progress she has made over the years and all the hard work. She is an extremely intelligent and strong young woman, but this is something she finds herself at a loss to because it's all so foreign to her.

If anyone could give any resources or methods used in aide of this kind of scenario, it would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you all in advance!

iVillage Member
Registered: 10-13-2000
Fri, 01-09-2009 - 5:26pm

Hi. I'm Jenny and I've done the work you're doing and I've been the victim of unbelieving family, teachers, and therapists. I'll give you some of the advice I've used.

YOU are her best bet right now. DON'T leave her. That doesn't mean you have to save her but be there for her whenever she needs someone. When she falls on her face, be the shoulder she can cry on with the warm wet towel to clean off her face. She needs to learn to trust SOMEONE. A friend did the same for me and I wouldn't be here today without her. We are still best friend. If she can learn to trust you, she can heal. A tiny but crucial first step that may lead to bigger steps.

What you can do besides being a freind? If she was born in a hospital, you should be able to track down a birth certificate. Even if she doesn't know where, she might have an idea of a general area(ie. northwest US or Canada). Start by using your computer to contact counties in one state or province after another. Give a brief outline of why you are asking. County clerks will help. If she wasn't born in a hospital, try to get her to get her father's Social Security number. Sounds like the state parole system may have that of the last state he was in jail. His records should show if he has a daughter and where she was born or lead to in a correct direction.

And I agree...have her come here. We all have those trust issues and she might find that just lurking here and reading will help. Tell her she doesn't have to post until and if she wants to. It's building trust again.

People as damaged as your "sister" must take things one tiny step at a time. Learning to trust you and perhaps this board will help. And finding out where she was born is a big help. I was born in the US, grew up in Canada, came back to the US but when applying for SSDI, turns out my father had gotten Canadian citizenship weeks before I turned 18 and if I wanted anything, I had to go back to Canada.....except my mother had died and my father had moved with his new wife and literally left no forwarding address. Found him in South Carolina. It is a problem!.

Blessings on you for helping.

gentle hugs.............JennyB

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-18-2008
Mon, 01-05-2009 - 2:40pm

Welcome to our board.



Avatar for opal45
iVillage Member
Registered: 04-15-2003
Mon, 01-05-2009 - 7:38am

Hello and welcome to the board. I'm so sorry to hear what a horrid life your sister had to suffer through. Yet I'm relieved to see she has such a generously loving friend as you.

IMO what you described isn't something that can be unlearned with the help of self-help books or prayed through or hypnotized or whatever else you might be hoping to hear from us. Untangling and healing the depth of pain she's endured requires professional attention, preferably with someone who has specific training in childhood abuse issues. I'm not sure why you feel it's out of the question b/c successful

**gentle hugs**

iVillage Member
Registered: 11-07-2008
Sun, 01-04-2009 - 7:57pm

Forgive my ignorance here,