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How Many Times Can a Parent Hit You Before It’s Considered Abuse?

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I’m 16 years old. I don’t remember a lot from my childhood except for panic attacks and anger. My father sometimes hurt me when I did something wrong or talked back. I’ve learned my place now and it’s a lot less frequent. My last time was a few months ago when I was disassociating and didn’t want to go to school. He pulled my hair and slammed my head against a wall. He always says sorry and I always forgive him because I don’t know what else to do. He made fun of me a lot as a kid, compared me to my cousins, and called me retarded or weird when I’d have panic attacks. The only way I have any power is if I cut or don’t eat. He didn’t allow me to wear short sleeves or jeans until I was 14. I have BPD and have been in family therapy before. He hurts my sister if she talks back too much (which she does a lot). He tried to throw a chair at her today. I just sat and stared at the tv. I hide in the closet to cry because I don’t want him to see me. I don’t know what’s wrong with him. He’s good sometimes but he’s also really bad. How can my family pretend that everything is ok? He’s the only one allowed to swear, allowed to get angry and throw things or hurt people. By the time he’s done talking I feel like I’m in the wrong. Maybe I am. My mom’s ok. She used to cry a lot and I didn’t like it. She’s really overprotective and gets into fights with my sister. They’re always screaming at each other. It gets so loud. But then sometimes everyone is really happy and it’s all good. I don’t know how to hate them. I don’t know what to do. Am I the crazy one here? I still flinch when he gets too close to me. I’m trained to always look him in the eye while he talks or else he gets angry. He comments on my body a lot and makes me feel weird. Is that normal? I’m recovering from an eating disorder so maybe that’s just it. Some people described my parents as abusive. Are they? (From Canada)

How Many Times Can a Parent Hit You Before It’s Considered Abuse?

Answered by on -

A.

I admire your courage and resilience. Nothing you have said about what your father is doing or what your mother is not doing (to protect you) is normal. To answer your question — you ARE NOT the crazy one here. You are 16 and no child should have their hair pulled and head slammed against the wall. No child should be verbally abused by their parent. If the only way you feel powerful is to cut yourself or not eat, and have to remain uninvolved while he throws a chair at your sister, and hide in a closet so you won’t be seen — something is not okay with him and your mom.

If you have been to family therapy I would call the individual who did the therapy because that person would have wondered: Why hasn’t your mother protected you? Why does your father say anything about your body? How is it that he is allowed to continue to terrorize you and he not be challenged by someone? Let this person know what is happening to you now. They can help you.

There is also good treatment for teens with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) that you can find here.

You may also want to contact any one of these services that are near you.

You have done the right thing by writing to us here. I highly recommend you contact the family therapist you had seen or one of the facilities on the list. They will help you deal with what is going on and become safe.

Wishing you patience and peace,
Dr. Dan
Proof Positive Blog @ PsychCentral

How Many Times Can a Parent Hit You Before It’s Considered Abuse?

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Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA, MAPP

Dan Tomasulo Ph.D., TEP, MFA, MAPP teaches Positive Psychology in the graduate program of Counseling and Clinical Psychology at Columbia University, Teachers College and works with Martin Seligman, the Father of Positive Psychology in the Masters of Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) program at the University of Pennsylvania. He is Director of the New York Certification in Positive Psychology for the Open Center in New York City and on faculty at New Jersey City University. Sharecare has honored him as one of the top 10 online influencers on the topic of depression. For more information go to: http://www.dare2behappy.com/. He also writes for Psych Central's Ask the Therapist column and the Proof Positive blog.

APA Reference
Tomasulo, D. (2020). How Many Times Can a Parent Hit You Before It’s Considered Abuse?. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 21, 2020, from https://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2020/06/12/how-many-times-can-a-parent-hit-you-before-its-considered-abuse/
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 10 Jun 2020 (Originally: 12 Jun 2020)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 10 Jun 2020
Published on Psych Central.com. All rights reserved.