Abused sister in denial help


I’m looking for information on how to talk to my sister (who is 22) about the abusive relationship that she refuses to leave. About a month ago, her boyfriend hurt her enough to cause her to go to the hospital the next day. She had no broken bones, but was bruised pretty bad. We “forced” her to file charges which she did, but has now dropped them. They are back together. This isn’t the first incident between them, but it was the first time she went to the hospital.

She is in serious denial, and she isn’t listening to ANYONE in our family. It’s a long story, but we (my parents, grandparents, sisters, aunts, cousins) have done so much to try to convince her to dump him and get counseling for herself. I’m the oldest and she is the second oldest. We used to be each other’s best friend, but I think that this guy has slowly pulled her away from me. We used to talk about anything and everything. I don’t know how to talk to her without possibly making the situation worse so I’m trying to find literature on how to talk to someone who is in denial about abuse. Christian/Catholic oriented would be preferable. Thank you for help.

God Bless,



She isn’t in denial. No one who has been in a hospital bed because of abuse can deny it.

She is in tremendous pain. She is living in fear. She is feeling weak. But when she is alone and thinking about her life and what she thought she had and knowing the fear of when he comes in the door if his footsteps sound “that way” it’s going to be another one of those nights… she’s not in denial. She just doesn’t want to admit to YOU it’s that bad.

Sadly, some states allow the person to withdraw charges. Others will prosecute anyway.

She may have withdrawn them under threat. He may have told her no one would believe her and when he got out he’d come back and kill her if she sent him to jail. Or he may have cried and bought her flowers and told her he’d cut off his arm rather than ever do it again, and she believes him because her self image completely depends on not being a fool once again.

You might just ask her this question: Dear sister, what if we were reversed, and I was in the hospital bed. What advice would you give me? What would you tell me to help me with my pain?

She may tell you nothing. She may tell you “I’d say leave yesterday.” Or she may give you a glimpse into how her mind works as she justifies everything she is going through.

But just call her every few days to say you love her and are thinking of her and you are there. That’s all.

So she will know deep down he hasn’t driven everyone away. That if she needs you, you will take her call. That you care.

She is not ready to run out of the burning building. Not yet. Like a horse, you have to put a blanket over its eyes or it will dart back into the burning barn.

No, it doesn’t make sense. But he’s alone with her all the time telling her things, playing with her head and her self esteem and telling her how only he loves her. She is young and doesn’t understand that this is not how love treats someone.

Is there any way you as family members could file a civil suit against him on her behalf?

The fact he’s already been through the system about this once… he has little room for error. There is a record. He said/she said no longer applies. It’s been documented in a hospital emergency room. Your sister may feel she has the upper hand now and can threaten him back if he steps out of line.

But this will not improve. Call SafePlace or a domestic violence hotline. They’ll give you advice.

Pray for her. Pray that she sees the truth about him and has the grace to act on it.

And pray that God will remove his ability to harm her and you all from her life. Because if they break up, I’ll bet mom and sisters will also be a target for his rage. He will blame everyone who “meddled.” And he may have made those kind of threats to her already. She may be with him to protect you. You don’t know what’s really going on. Been there, done that. :frowning:

Just please keep the lines of communication open and let her know when he’s not around that you love her and you’re always there. All she has to do is call.

Do you know any of her friends? Can you talk to them?

The good thing about them so young is often that kind of jerk gets bored quickly and he may dump her when he finds someone shiny and new whose family doesn’t think he’s lower than worm doodoo.

Just know right now she probably spends a lot of time feeling very depressed, living for the few moments when his sunshine comes out and makes her feel like he used to. Which will get further and further apart and more rare. He’s not horrible to her 100 percent of the time, or she’d leave or try to leave.

He’ll hurt her again. She has to decide when she won’t take any more. Nothing you say can make her do that. You can’t tell her he’s a jerk. She has to realize that and admit it to herself. And she has to admit that love doesn’t conquer all. And he’s seriously messed up. And I’m sure he hates his mother and your mother and every other female he knows.

At least he’s on the police/hospital radar. That’s more than most abusers.


When this happened, one of the things we did was move her away from him. She was living in an apartment 5 minutes from him, but now she lives with my mom about 3 hours away (although his parents live 30 minutes from my mom). We really wanted her to live with my aunt (long story), but she chose to live with my mom instead. My mom promised that she wouldn’t let her get back with him and if she did, my mom would make her move out into an apartment and have to be on her own financially. Most of this was trying to scare her into “doing the right thing.” So now that she is back with him, what are we supposed to do? We don’t want to support this relationship, but we are so afraid that by making her move out from my mom’s house that she may end up moving in with him.

I say she is in denial because she denies that it was as bad as it was. She even denies that some of the things that happened that night, actually happened. Maybe she doesn’t deny it to herself, but she is denying it to everyone else.

I will try talking to one of her friends, and also get in touch with those hotlines that you mentioned. Thank you!

Praying is about the only thing I know how to do right now. I’m in the process of trying to organize a month long daily prayer between my 4 sisters and I dedicated for her.


I view abuse the same way I view drug addiction. When I was a addicted to something, my family took over and told me the addiction was over. The most awkward and uncomfortable night of my life.

She is in a same situation. Sit her down and tell her that unless she makes drastic life changes, all of you are cutting off contact with her.

It’s a heartbreaking thing to do. But do you want her to be in the hospital from this jerk?


I was an abused woman for 16 years.

It isnt just physical abuse your sister is going through. Its mental abuse as well, which is worse.

Her self esteem is horrible and she is being brainwashed. My husband made sure I was isolated from people who cared about me. It must be so hard to watch someone you love being treated like this. I am sure there is much more you dont know. I hid 90% of what happened to me. I was terrified of what he would do to me.

The only thing I would suggest is build her self esteem up as much as you can. Confidence in herself will help her leave. He has taken most of her confidence already… I am sure.
Anytime I was told I was dumb for staying ect… I would just shrink away.

For me there was a final straw.

I have your sister in my prayers. God bless you and your family.


I’m really not sure what the best course of action for your family should be when she is still unwilling to leave. It really, really does need to be her decision, and the truth is that her perspective is way, way off and her abuser has powers over her that you will not begin to understand. A lot of it has do with hope and with not wanting to give up that hope of what she thought she had with him.

Honestly though, this is not a situation where you can swoop in and save her. She needs to do the work to save herself. Yes, give her the tools, but it won’t work if you or anyone else makes the decisions.

Do you think she would be open to counseling? That is probably the single best thing that could be offered to her.


*I’m not sure if this has been asked and answered before…but, why does the abuser have to be the one to press charges? If I see someone being brutally attacked in the parking lot at work…I would call the police. The attacker would be arrested. And regardless if the person wants to press charges or not…doesn’t the attacker still get prosecuted, because a crime was commited? Same with stealing, etc?

I ask because I don’t understand why this can’t be the same here. Domestic violence victims are so torn between loving their abuser, wanting things to work, wanting the person to change, and being scared…they can’t make an objective decision, and thus the abuse continues. I’m just asking the question…is this the case, that only a domestic abuse victim can press charges?*


This is a good question…can the district attorney bring charges aganist someone even if the victim does not press charges? I am thinking of the instance of a break in or even a murder where it is the state that charges the person and victims can be bring civil suits in addition. Why can’t domestic violence be like that too?


Rascalking, with all due respect, your advice could be fatal.

This is NOT the same as a drug addiction. This is more like a hostage situation. She has kind of a Stockholm Syndrome thing going on.


That just feeds into the garbage and lies he may be telling her about how her family doesn’t care and how they favor other sisters over her or don’t care, and he’s the only one who cares.

Do not kick her out, do not cut her off if she sees him. How will you know if she has more bruises, or missing teeth or black eyes if you never see her?

And if she comes home all bruised, take her to the emergency room and get her treated. The nurses there are trained to see this and ask questions and document it. The more documentation by professionals the better.

He could be hitting her in places you don’t know. Like the kidneys or something. This could get bad. He could be doing damage to her vertebrae by shaking her hard. (Been there, done that) and he could be doing other things to her.

Do not tell her she is stupid. Do not tell her she deserves better. (That gets translated in her head, “You don’t even know what’s good for you because you have no common sense.”) Everything she hears now is through a filter of how horrible she is and what a b---- she is and she’s dumb, ugly or whatever he tells her. (Before he reverses and tells her how beautiful she is and how much he loves her. Which is “crazymaking” and which is how you brainwash someone… by inconsistent and contradictory treatment. Keeps them off balance and living for the Good Guy, whenever he shows his face.)

Somehow these bas---- have learned on their own the perfect way to break down a human personality and make them fearful and subservient.

What you need to keep repeating to her in a kind loving way is that she is a child of God. She is the apple of God’s eye. God does not want her ever to live in fear or sadness, nor do you. You love her and you are there for her. She needs to be around people who treat her with respect and love so the contrast with him is that much more stark.

Does his family know he’s a monster? Or is his mother in denial that her precious baboo would ever do such a thing? Or is she sure your daughter is jezebel who is turning her beloved baby boy into a monster?

Do not play into his hands and fulfill his predictions that you all don’t care by helping him isolate her more. STAY IN HER LIFE! Call her. Text her. Email her. Let her know you care. Don’t give up!

SHE NEEDS TO STAY WITH YOUR MOM. He needs to know people are watching her and him. It might make him behave a little better.

Or he may decide it’s too difficult with mom around and he might break up with her. DO NOT KICK HER OUT. Then you’ll lose her completely. This is not the way to teach her a lesson about him. It just pushes her into his arms and his fists.

And she may not remember everything that happened that night. Trauma can do that to you. Showing her a written medical record taken by a professional at that time, or a police report quoting her may be something that will wake her up.


Yeah, I personally think that the charges should STICK when someone calls the police and initally presses charges…you shouldn’t be able to have the charges dropped, because the guy says he’s sorry, or you are fearful of him. The law is designed to protect ALL citizens…I know that many strides have been made with domestic violence issues, but sometimes, it feels like abused women are still all alone in the world, having to go underground or something to escape their abusers. It’s like, these men should be LOCKED UP. Period. They are a danger to society…if they hit a complete stranger at a mall or a bar, or at work…they’d be in jail. The minute ‘spouse’ is attached to the victim, things change? I actually think the whole ‘domestic violence’ label should go away…It’s violence. Until such strides are made…I just think abusers will continue to get away with pushing the envelope. :frowning:


JAG, My prayers are with you, your sister, and your family. Praying your sister leaves this man for good. Unless abusers seek out help on their own (and that can be rare strangely) they don’t change…the abuse just escalates. Praying hard for your sister to get out of this destructive and dangerous relationship!


Thank you for this insight! My sisters and I are starting a quasi prayer vigil for her. We are going to pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet (or free form prayer,not everyone is Catholic) every weekday (preferably all 7, but 5 to get it started) for the next month. I’m hoping that changing our way of treating her, and the power of prayer will get her out of this unhealthy stage of life.

She is seeing a counselor, but I have no idea what is going on in those sessions. It is very possible that my sister isn’t even telling her about this particular situation with her boyfriend. I come from a family with history of abuse. My dad beat my mom, and verbally abused my sisters and I so lack of self-esteem is definitely an issue. She may just be focusing on our past, and not the future. I’ll have to ask about that.

I’ve been blessed to find a godly man who would never treat me that way. I only wish my other sisters could as well. Thank you so much for the prayers and advice.

For those who have gone through this, what made you leave and how did your family affect your choice if at all? It is so hard to sit here and feel so helpless when I see my sister make such an obvious bad choice. I’ve given this burden to Jesus, but I still want to know how to properly and affectively talk and interact with her. Thank you again so much for the advice.


I don’t know about in all states, but in Texas the abuser can still be prosecuted even if the victim files a non prosecution affidavit and I’ve seen them do it numerous times. It usually makes their job much harder, though, because the victim will often downplay or change the story and it makes it hard for a jury to know what happened since they didn’t get the benefit of everything that happened before the trial.

Ultimately it has to be her decision. She has to realize that this is not good for her and want to get out – much like a drug addict. Until they hit rock bottom no amount of rehab is goign to do any good.


Eventually, I knew I had to wait for him to leave because if I left I was afraid he’d do something.

By the time it was over, I hated him. It took about 6 years for me to really hate him and everything he did.

Then I had to wait for it to be “his big idea” to leave.

Since you brought it up… I was going to ask but…

What in her upbringing left her with a flimsy self esteem so that he could capitalize on it and exploit it for his own purposes. You have answered that. She is repeating a family history of abuse, because to her that seems “normal.” When he first did that to her, it did not seem out of place. She is familiar with it.

What you CANNOT do is tell her how wonderful your guy is and how much better her life will be if only she makes a smart choice like you did. Hate to tell you, from inside a nightmare that sounds very smug and it alienates her from you. It is good you have a good man. But do NOT talk about that. It only adds to her sense her abuser is pounding into her that she is alone except for him.

Any sense from you that you are “judging her choices” just adds to the problem. She fell in love with someone who wasn’t what he seemed. Once in, she was over her head. For many reasons she has bonded with this person and can’t see him clearly. If I were you I would just call the therapist and say that you have information that she might find useful in future sessions and confidentially tell her about the abuse so that the therapist can better help her. The therapist would be discreet, but if she really wants to help your sister and doesn’t know this information, she might appreciate you shedding a little light on the subject.

It does not help to inform her that her guy is a horrible person. She hears that as “You are stupid to choose him and I’m smarter than you because my guy is better and is nice to me.” She is young enough that her choices now stem directly from how she was treated as a teenager in the home. All her insecurities and all the jealousies and competitions and neglect and abuse and screwed up home life prepared her for this choice and made her a target for the kind of guy that beats up women.

Even women from good solid families are duped. But from what you say, she didn’t run at the first sign of danger because this person is like dear old dad. And many girls with abusive fathers end up with someone like him. She’s not focusing on the past. None of this is consciously done. Talking about it will just come out as you lecturing her and seeming better and it will play into the insecurities that already exist.

What helped me were the friends and families who believed me without judging me. Whose agenda was my happiness… not their hatred for my xh. Feeling like the rope in an emotional tug of war between people is not helpful.

I would suggest that you all let her know that a prerequisite for her continuing a relationship with him should be HIM getting counselling. That way you look like you’re supporting her relationship with him, but with conditions on him working on it. Of course he won’t go. (He doesn’t need to. He’s perfect, he’s sure.) But his refusal to go will be an indication to her that he doesn’t care as much. Give him the rope to hang himself with.

Calling this “an unhealthy stage of her life” is not helpful to her. As far as she sees it, this is not a “stage of her life” this IS her life. She has no perspective at age 22. He may be a bad choice, but he’s HER choice.

What you all need to do is NOT talk about him. Involve her in as much girl and crowd activities and have her be around people where nothing is said, but she sees how normal couples interact in healthy ways. (Without smug looks like “Look what I have!”) She needs to have more positive interactions with her family away from him. Any time you all spend with her is less time with him. Make the time with her more enjoyable than the time she spends with him. She will figure it out. She will want to be with the people who value her.

You have to remember… he’s telling her how much he loves her and needs her and doing whatever it takes to keep her tied to him in between abuse episodes. It feels normal and familiar to her. Because she grew up with people who claimed to love her treating her that way.

Her therapist needs to see the bigger picture.


Good day JAG, many of the posters gave you great advise, I hope your sister sees the love you and your family have for her and doesn’t go back to him anymore! I will keep you all in my prayers, GOD bless! Good luck and don’t stop praying for her!!!


For me… my self esteem had started going up… I got a job and was doing really well at it. I had made some new friends… out side of his friends.

Then one morning as my 10 year old son sat on the sofa waiting for the bus. My husband came after me screaming about he couldnt find his watch… he shoved me against the wall and was choking me. I looked at my son and he just sat there as if it was a normal day at home. That was it. My son didnt have any reaction to his dad choking his mom. I knew he would grow up and do it to his wife if I didnt leave and show him it isnt acceptable.

I didnt have hardly any support from my family in the begining. Of course I hid 90% of it. But still… they thought it was an embarrassment to have a daughter who was married for so long get a divorce.
ugh. I do have a brother that once I left he couldnt have been any more supportive.
I thank God for him everyday.

My husbands father was a terrible abuser as well. His mother has been so beaten down… she cant think for herself. She is so scared of life… she wont even drive. I didnt want to become that.
My husbands father is a Christian minister… :eek: He would go preach to love thy nieghbor then go home and beat his wife and kids.

It is so nice not to live in fear anymore.


I have to totally agree with this. My sister did this to me before I left and afterwards… it was horrible. I didnt tell her anything about what was going on in my home because of it.

There are so many emotions when you are abused… and shame is a big one.

It wont end after your sister finally leaves either… that is the most dangerous time for her. Abusers dont just let it go. He will have to destroy her in some way. My husband did anything he could to ruin me… with my family… my friends…my job… every part of my life. He would have killed me if he could have. Thank God for my brother.
She will need you more than you can imagine. She is lucky to have you.
God is definately working in you to help her.
My brother had no religion or faith until after this happened to me… and after life for me calmed down… he became Catholic and I did shortly afterwards.
God is amazing… he works in lives in ways nobody can imagine. He used love to save me… the love for my son and the love of a brother.


I spoke to her today. I asked her how things were going. If the therapist was helping and giving good advice. I asked if she told her about “the incident”. She said yes to all of the above. So, I pressed a little harder and asked what kind of advice the therapist was giving. She is being told not to talk to her family about the situation. She can talk to us about anything except for THAT. I should have posted this sooner. It’s hard to understand what to do from the outside. Now I understand it so much better, but what if it’s too late? I have no idea what she told her therapist exactly, but whatever it was, her family isn’t healthy for her to talk to about it.

So, let me sort of explain the background situation. There are 5 of us girls, and I’m the oldest. My parents were into drugs and alcohol while we were growing up. My dad was an abuser both verbally and physically to my mom. Just verbally to us. When I was 12, my mom decided to divorce my dad and leave. (She says that I’m the one that made her.) Regardless, she was so addicted to drugs and alcohol that she wasn’t fit to take us so my dad got custody. My mom is more sober than she was, but still drinks and does recreational…My dad still tries to control all of us even me. He’s constantly trying to drive a wedge between my husband and I. With this background, my sister has been in several situations in her life that would definitely add to the whole low-self esteem issues. I don’t want to get too specific, but it involved abuse by men…she was not raped but…anyway…

So, my dad kept us from our extended family. He has parents and 4 sisters who love us, but didn’t get to see us very often. When 3 of my sisters graduated from high school, they ended up living together in College. My aunts decided to help them out by paying for the apartment, tuition and books, and a monthly stipened for groceries. This was because neither of my parents could or would help financially. So, with all of that being said this is how we reacted…

I got the phonecall that she was in the hospital because she got hurt again. <The first time, he promised to stop drinking (which was the excuse for why he did it) and even though I wasn’t sure how sincere it was, my sister begged me not to make a big deal out of it.> I don’t live in the same state as my family so I have to do all of this long distance. I call my aunt and tell her what happened. I call my dad and tell him. Basically the whole calvary is called. My dad goes to her. Two of my aunts who have been helping financially go to her. They tell her she has to break up with him. She has to file charges. She has to change her number. She has to move (specifically in with my aunt because neither of my parents are healthy examples to live with). They took her out of school because they said she wouldn’t be able to concentrate. They told her that she needs to go to counseling. And…to try to get her to do the “right” thing, they told her that if she wants to continue getting financial support then she needs to do all of the above, otherwise, the financial support will be gone.

So, she filed charges, then dropped them. She moved out of the college town, but in with my mom. She changed her number, but gave him the new one. She’s seeing a therapist who is telling her that her family are the unhealthy ones.

We may not have completely said the right things. I know that a few of my sisters berated her for staying with him. I know that I lost my temper over it, and probably said something inappropriate. But the whole time, we keep telling her that we love her and we just want her to be safe. On top of all of that…this whole situation unearthed a lot of repressed anger issues towards my parents for me and my sisters. That didn’t help because we definitely made it known publicly to the whole family a lot of “secrets.” Anyway, what am I supposed to do? Should I still call the therapist? She will probably think I’m some crazy control freak or something for wanting to call and tell her my side of the story.


Don’t call the therapist. That is her space. Believe me, the therapist already will have a good idea of what is going on, because families with a history of domestic violence have a tendency to follow very predicatble patterns. The therapist will know some of the pieces of the puzzle, but because she has a good knowledge of the pattern, she will actually have a very good perspective on the big picture.

Your sister being in the situation that she is in right now is not an isolated incident that sprung up out of nowhere. The root of the problem for her involves her relationship with her family. It all goes back to that.

In order for her to become strong, to learn to break out of the pattern of abuse, to heal, she is going to need the support and guidance from her counselor…and she is going to need a lot of space from family members who want to rush in and fix everything for her. Even with good intentions, this can have a negative consequence, because in a way it is another form of control. She needs more than anything some peace and a chance to get strong, learn to reset her personal boundaries, and to make the choices needed to move forward in the right direction. It’s a tall order.

I’ve been going through this myself after leaving a long term abusive marriage. My parents rushed in and took control, trying to help, but I do still have deep issues with them that I am still trying to work out. They really aren’t safe people for me right now because they do not respect my boundaries and when trying to help, essentially knock me down flat again by all of their pressure, intensity, and shaming behavior.

If your sister is going to therapy, that is a good thing. Just try to be her sister and not her savior and you will help her out more than you could ever realize.


I think this is just testing my faith. I truly cannot do anything. Especially if the therapist is even telling her not to talk to me (because I’m being lumped in with the family) about it. So, it is up to God and God alone. I’m more resolute to pray daily for her now more than ever.

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