Friday, March 24, 2023
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Not sure what to say to my sister. Husband punched hole in wall

My sister and her husband have been married for about 13 years. I don’t spend much time with them,he’s usually working or with friends when I’m with her and their 2 kids. Today she sent me this:

So Jim just punched a hole in Olivia’s(5 year old daughter) wall because he can’t tolerate her screaming or crying . She’s stopped now but I might just leave and go to mom and dads If she didn’t fall asleep . I know he was just really frustrated but I wish he didn’t do that . He wants me to bring her to a counselor or something because she keeps having these meltdowns . I just wish he didn’t do that now she’s prob going to remember that the rest of her life .

I told her that I’m always here to talk and she’s always welcome at my house. She my older sister by 10 years. But I’m not sure what else to do. As far as I know this is the first time he’s done anything like this. We’re not that close but it’s not something I’d be ok with in my own relationship. Any advice?

Edit: I did call her immediately and she said he went out. I’m not sure if I should tell her how messed up I think it is without her asking for my input. I don’t want her to not come to me if this continues. I know if people feel isolated there less likely to leave.

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  1. To be honest, I think you handled it perfectly.
    She now knows she has a safe place to go if/when she decides to leave, and that she has someone supportive that she can confide in.

    Sometimes sharing our shock/anger/sadness at the incident can make them hesitant to open up if it happens again. They don’t want to worry their family or be judged harshly for staying.

    What I will say, Is that a child being present, or in the house, during an episode of domestic violence, is legally considered child abuse (in many places atleast). Whether punching a wall is ‘domestic violence’, I’m not entirely sure. But it *is* often a precursor to violence in the home.

    I hope your sister and niece stay safe.

  2. Try this: “Are you venting or do you want to hear my perspective?”

    And if she’s doing an ostrich impression try: “I’m concerned, can we please talk about this?”

  3. Her husband punched a hole in the wall and because his daughter had a meltdown? Seriously? What would anyone call punching a hole in the wall? It sounds like he had the meltdown. If anyone needs therapy it’s her husband for anger management.

  4. What is also likely is that her husband is also the cause of her daughter’s crying fits. This situation reeks of an emotionally traumatized child. He certainly doesn’t seem like the comforting sort.

    She will reach out if she needs to. You let her know that.

  5. I’m just in awe of the wall-punching grown man who thinks his daughter needs therapy because of *her* meltdowns. Good God.

    Men need to do better and the world needs to do better by boys and men. Behavior like this is one reason boys and men need to be supported and encouraged when they express all kinds of emotions in healthy ways. Otherwise, they learn to convert everything into anger.

    It sounds like you responded to what she said perfectly. You’re a good sister and she’s lucky to have you.

  6. This is domestic violence. The father is using physical power and intimidation to try to control people in the home. This isn’t about the child’s problems, it’s about him being an abuser. He *is* the problem in the home.

    Remind your sister that love doesn’t look like this. Loving parents and spouses don’t punch holes in walls. Tell her she can leave any time and you will help her stay safe.

    If you know there is continued abuse happening and your sister isn’t willing to protect her child, you should call child protective services.

  7. I’m seeing multiple indications your sister already knows this is a serious situation: *I might just leave*…*I wish he didn’t do that* (twice)…*she’s prob going to remember that the rest of her life*.

    The number one thing is to make sure your sister knows she can count on you for support and help. Don’t say anything that will make her feel like she’s being judged or criticized. Ask her what this experience has been like for her and for her daughter to keep her reflecting on the situation and not slipping into denial.

    Since counseling has been brought up by the husband I’d start by agreeing with that idea. Help get any kind of outside professional counseling or therapy going while that door is open. Any decent therapist will realize this is not all on the 5-year-old and will get both parents involved as well.

    When your sister is ready to hear your views on the subject, don’t jump straight to your preferred solution (if any). At this stage you don’t know how treatable this situation is. Talk about what you would value and how those values would guide your choices, and keep checking in on what she is thinking. Your sister has to reach and believe in her own decision for it to be really effective.

    Obviously if you come to believe the daughter is in physical danger you may have to intervene much more directly. Letting them stay at your place or your parents might be the best option, but check your local government websites for additional resources that are available: hotlines, shelters, legal assistance, etc.

  8. I would absolutely keep letting your sister know that you’re there for her and keep your line of communication open.

    What her husband did is abuse. It’s called proxy violence and it can definitely escalate to actual violence. Terrifying when you think of a grown man wanting to attack a five year old girl. Defitnely the best outcome is your sister leaving and retaining sole custody of your niece.

    But OP, you’re also proably right that coming at your sister with how fucked up her situation looks from the outside might have the opposite intended effect.

    Instead, I would encourage her to follow Dad’s ‘advice’ and take your niece to a child therapist or both mom and daughter go to family therapy together, because the therapist is a mandated reporter and that’s going to be a good thing to have if sister eventually goes for custody.

    Also encourage her to write down the incident or you start writing them down and keep a calendar with any future incidents. That will be super helpful to show a pattern in Dad’s behavior if your sister is deep in coping mode and might give her some of the impetus she needs to make moves to get her and her kid out of there.

  9. Aa a mother I absolutely do not condone the behavior of the father, that being said: kids can drive you completely nuts. Parents these days are having a tough time to keep everything balanced. Although there are much better ways to cope than punching a hole in wall. They should seek professional help to see where they need to balans things out. Also, the husband should talk to his kid and say sorry.
    Ask your sister if you can help her out and keep close contact in case the husbands behavior keeps getting worse and she needs a safe haven.

  10. 2 problems, first the husband’s anger issues. That reaction is never okay, whatever the background is. You did right telling your sister that you are a safe space, and they can come to you.
    Secondly why haven’t they taken their child to get some help if she is having meltdowns all the time? There will be something wrong, it will be serious, it could be life threatening.

    Both of these need to be addressed, and urgently.

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