Q:

My sister is in a violent relationship

Hi Jude, my sister is in a violent relationship, she won't leave. Lately it has gotten really bad, is there anything I can do? I have texts and messages of what he can do to her sometimes. I want her out of the relationship and safe. 


A:

Thank you for writing in and sharing. It’s wonderful that you care so much and I hear what you are saying that you want her out. Unfortunately you can’t force your sister to leave this relationship as she is an adult and does have the right to make her own choices, even if they’re not good ones. It is so hard to watch and can be incredibly frustrating for someone on the sidelines.

There are some things you can do though which may help your sister look at things differently and make some changes. The first thing I would like to say is that at times like this it is so very  important that you stay as close to her as possible (even though you may be upset and annoyed at her for staying). This is so that you can keep an eye on her, be there for her and show her that even though you may not agree with what she is choosing to do you love her and will always be there for her no matter what.

What can often happen at this time is family and friends get to a point where they pull away, don’t keep in touch, sometimes tell the person that they want nothing more to do with them because they haven’t left the relationship. This is the time when we need people to stay as close as possible. Why?  So that if something does happen your sister will know that you are still there for her, she can still turn to you and you are not going to give her a hard time. That no matter what, she has you.  

I would like to suggest that you have a conversation with your sister where you tell her that you love her, that you don’t like what is happening but you will always be there for her no matter what, day or night. This way she knows exactly where things stand.

I’d also like to suggest that you get hold of some literature about family violence and the effects of family violence and show her the material. Sometimes seeing things in a visual form can have a big impact. This information can be ordered from our website.

Another conversation that you may like to have with your sister is about protection orders. Police, community lawyers, Women’s Refuge and the Family Court can provide information about protection orders. You can have a protection order and still live with the perpetrator.

I would also like to suggest that together you and your sister make up a safety plan. This is a plan that you put together that in the event of things getting out of hand or if things are starting to escalate your sister has things in place to help keep her safe, keeping in mind that the number one priority is her safety. Things like having a pre-arranged place she can go to anytime (day or night) where she doesn’t have to ring and check first, having a pre-arranged word or phrase worked out with a person so that if she rings and says this particular word or phrase that person will immediately know that she needs help and will call the Police. Also things like having a spare set of car keys put somewhere, along with some money, important documents, or anything else that she feels she would need to take in a hurry. It’s also very important for your sister to know that she can always ring the Police on 111.

I’m not sure at this point if your sister is ready but if /when she is it would be great for her to seek some professional help and support such as a counsellor. From what you have said it sounds like she has been through so much and it will have affected her. There are many very good counsellors in all locations that she could access when the time is right. There are also wonderful programmes available to women who have experienced family violence. These programmes help survivors understand the dynamics of family violence and how to move forward. They are attended by women who have all been in the same situation so everyone knows what it’s like and often some very good friendships can be formed from these. Just a couple of things to keep in mind for when your sister may be ready.

Again, I know how hard this is but if you can stay as close as you can first and foremost. One thing perpetrators of violence often do is try and isolate their victims which gives them more control and no interference from anyone on the outside so keeping close will help you to know what’s going on.

I wish you all the very best and if there’s anything else I can help you with please write back in.

Jude

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