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Getting out of an abusive relationship

Updated on September 22, 2013
Abusive relationships come in many forms. Abusive parents are difficult to leave as an adult.
Abusive relationships come in many forms. Abusive parents are difficult to leave as an adult.

Although many abusive relationships are between lovers or spouses, there are other types as well. In my case, it was with my parent. Leaving a parent or parents is not an easy task. When you are 18, you can run away from home. When you are in your 40’s and you are the only person caring for your aging parent, it is not so easily accomplished.

Although many people in society are concerned with abuse of the elderly, the opposite is also occurring. It is not by chance that there are increasing numbers of reports about elderly populations running over people with their cars. When you go shopping in a grocery story you may have experienced the aggression of the elderly population as they use their shopping carts like weapons to push their way through the store.

Leaving an abusive relationship with an elderly parent is not an easy task. Modern society often operates under the assumption that the elderly do not abuse others. There seems to be a tacit agreement among the elderly to deny that they ever abuse others. In one study conducted in a nursing home, they found that in over 70% of the cases, the residents saw nothing wrong with their peers’ behaviors. This denial is often reinforced by religious teachings and societal guilt about the elderly. This denial often operates like a trap to keep the victims of abuse locked into the relationship.

The denial is made worse by the traumatic bonds formed that often keep the victim in the relationship. These bonds not only keep the victim in the relationship, they also silence the victims from speaking out. The reality is that there are some elderly people that are mean, there are some elderly perverts, there are some elderly criminals. Just because they are parents or grandparents does not mean that what they are doing is suddenly acceptable.

The first thing I had to do was to tell myself the truth about what was happening. I had to tell myself the truth about how my mother’s behavior was not acceptable. It was not because “she’s just an old lady”. She was abusive.

After recognizing the truth, the next step was giving myself permission to set boundaries. I also had to give myself permission to have a voice in the matter. When I quit letting my mother and society to dictate to me what was acceptable, I began claiming my freedom.

The boundaries at first were simple things. As I gained more success, I set more boundaries. With each boundary that was set, there came tests. She tested my boundaries. Each time I held firm, it felt like I gained a little more freedom and regained my own voice.

After setting some boundaries, and gaining emotional freedom, I then worked on attaining physical freedom. In order to do this, I separated myself from the abusive relationship in terms of legal obligations, and financial obligations. Many times these areas are used to keep people in bondage to the abuser, who has often exploited the victim using money or the law.

Once the legal and financial ties were severed, I took my escape plan the next step. I physically left the relationship. In doing so, I had to find a way to be “invisible” to not only her, but her friends and associates. Abusers often look at their victims as if they are personal property and hunt them down. Many shelters have privacy policies in order to keep their location and identity quiet. When a woman is trying to escape her mother, it is a little more difficult. Since the shelters often cater to women, another woman has an easier time gaining access to information. I had to find another way to become invisible.

Although it seems ‘radical’ to go invisible or ‘go underground’ in escaping abusive relationships, many times this is the only way to truly escape the abuser. The abuser does not accept your freedom. They often do not tolerate you being separate from them. Each day I was away from my abuser, I grew stronger. My voice returned, and my family was now safe as the cycle of abuse had been broken.

Elderly Violence

Elderly People can be violent too (funny)


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    • Sue St. Clair profile imageAUTHOR

      Sue St. Clair 

      7 years ago from I would rather be in Paris

      Estranged Daughter,

      Good for you!. It is hard to cut off contact. When it comes down to either saving yourself or saving them, you need to protect yourself. If you don't stand up for and protect yourself, it is darn sure that she won't

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Awesome article! I cut off contact with my mom a few months ago and am still working through it. Sometimes I feel guilty because she's getting older, but like you said, she's still manipulative and abusive, and I don't deserve to be treated like that by anyone. Being "family" does not exempt people from the consequences of mistreating each other. Thank you for the great advice here.


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