By | June 11, 2014 25 Comments

LETTER TO LOVEFRAUD: How can I help my sister?

Editor’s Note: This letter was submitted  by Lovefraud reader we’ll call “Elizabella.” Other names in this letter have been changed.

I’ve spent hours online searching for specific suggestions that apply to this particular situation, but am still mostly at a loss regarding how to handle it and am desperate for help. I’ll try to be as succinct as possible, but there is so much to this story.

I left an emotionally abusive marriage after 20 years, so I’m very familiar with how these “relationships” work and I am now convinced that my sister, Lisa, is in such a marriage, although she refuses to admit it; she has only hinted at it in the past. She has been married to him (I’ll call him Ralph) for several years now. For a time, I doubted my instincts about this. But, after telling other family members about my suspicions, they said they thought the same thing and cited a few recent incidents that made them think so. So one day, I came right out and told him I thought he was verbally and emotionally abusive and my mother and I urged him to get help for that as well as for drug addiction.

Standing by her man

Since that day, even though, just a week before that, Lisa had asked our mom if she thought she should leave Ralph, she (Lisa) has done a complete about face and will defend him and even take the blame for his actions. She will also go back and change the story of what happened in certain incidents we mentioned to fit his twisted version. One incident we all believe to have been physical abuse has been denied by both of them as being an accident, that they had just been playing around.

Ralph wields his manipulative tactics so well that he makes my ex look like Mr. Rogers. I cannot relate to Lisa’s apparent deep attachment to her abuser because in my own marriage, I always knew the way I was being treated was wrong and I wanted to leave, but he held over me the threat of taking our children and disappearing. Ralph and Lisa have no children. Lisa now exhibits all of the traits of someone with Stockholm Syndrome. I know that at one point about a year ago, she was near suicidal. Trauma bonding is also a large part of their relationship, I believe. They seem to have many more problems in general than most couples I know. Some of these problems are self-inflicted and others are things that most people go through at some time in their lives, such as the death of a relative.

Blaming her, not him

Ever since he has realized that we believe him to be abusive, he has been on a campaign to convince us that Lisa is actually the abuser and he is the victim. There are many more recent incidents where one or more family members have seen glimpses of his emotional abuse tactics, and I believe they must be just the proverbial tip of the iceberg. I shudder to think what goes on when no one is around, although right now they seem to be in a prolonged “honeymoon” phase ever since they realized we are onto him.

Lisa is now denying that there is or has ever been any form of abuse and has demanded that we apologize to Ralph, admit that we were wrong, and act as if everything were normal and that we love him. Lisa and Ralph are both threatening to cut us off from having any contact with them. I know that she feels very sorry for him because he was abused as a child. I also have strong evidence that he is using heroin, though I cannot prove it 100%.

Live the lie

I’ve read articles that say there’s nothing you can really do beyond being supportive if a woman does not acknowledge abuse. My dilemma is if I don’t go along with what she says she wants and pretend to agree that he is not abusive and act like everything is normal, I risk losing contact with her entirely. I can be civil toward him at family gatherings and such, but she will know I don’t believe the lie, because I don’t fake such things well, nor do I wish to.

It seems to me that if everyone acts as if things are normal, and he gets away with abuse, not only will this possibly enable him to escalate the abuse to another level, but it would also deepen my sister’s emotional confusion about the matter. If on the other hand, I do not back down on my stance, I would hope that she would eventually come to realize that the treatment she is living with is not right. But in the meantime, she would be losing important connections to family members who love her.

Suggestions on how to help

I’m sorry to have made this so long; I did try to state all the important parts without making this too lengthy. I have noticed that in forums about this topic, people tend to have very long posts, because there is so much to tell, so many crazy-making incidents. I could go on for pages, but basically, I want to know the best way to help my sister, so she doesn’t spend several more years in this tortuous situation. I just keep thinking, is there really nothing we can do? Because that is how it seems right now.

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Lovefraud frequently hears from people whose loved ones are snared by a sociopath. Here is an article that I wrote on the topic a couple of years ago:

Does anything work in getting a victim away from a sociopath?

The short answer is that it is very difficult to convince someone who has been brainwashed to escape. If anyone has a suggestion or advice for Elizabella, please contribute it.


Thank you for posting this, Donna, and thank you to all who have posted comments, resources, suggestions, and well wishes.


The abuser typically wants very much to cut his victim off from the emotional support of friends and family, but he probably didn’t plan on it happening this way. It seems he’s taking advantage of being exposed by you and she feels forced to choose.

Personally, I don’t think I could pretend to feel things I don’t about the husband. Maybe you can find a happy medium where you don’t talk about him with her at all and avoid him as much as possible. Maybe it’s possible he’s setting you up to lose too – no matter what you do to cater to him it won’t be enough now. Because you exposed him you are the enemy and a direct threat. Just let her know you’re here for her when she needs you. Hopefully she’ll take you up on it someday soon.


Thank you for your input. Yes, “exposing” him has had the opposite effect from what I had hoped. For now, I have settled into that “happy medium” of avoiding him (or any discussion of him or their relationship), while trying to be there for her.



Kathleen Hawk says:
March 6, 2012 at 3:18 pm
I have been in so many situations where I see people getting involved in counterproductive relationships or “deals,” and I’ve tried so many different ways to talk them out of it or get them out of it. But when someone is convinced that this is the right thing, or entirely seduced by the appearance of something she really wants, I’ve discovered that the most direct ways of attacking this just don’t work. Criticism, opinions, analysis, suggestions, advice don’t work on these dreamwalkers. So I’ve developed different ways to think about it, and different types of influence.

One way to think about this is that I am, in attempting to influence a victim, competing with the influence of the predator. The predator has everything to gain from keeping her addicted, and from suppressing the rational self-protective aspects of her personality. His brainwashing includes all sorts of defensive elements to keep anyone else from influencing her. The demand for unquestioning loyalty is certainly one of them, as is the use of sex to keep her bonding hormones high.

Another way to think about this is that we are watching someone in the most intense learning experience of her life. No matter how functional she may be in other areas, the predator has found her vulnerabilities, the places where she is willing to give up control over her life for something that she believes is more important. These beliefs are key to her dilemma, and until she has enough evidence that she needs to change those beliefs, she will not be finished with this relationship. Even if he leaves her.

I don’t think I can speed up this learning process by attacking the relationship or even her dysfunctional thinking or behavior. She is already engaged in an internal drama that is more compelling than almost anything I can say, unless I am the social services taking her children or the doctor telling her that she is going to die or the sheriff turning her out of her house or whatever convinces her that she is choosing destruction over life, if she doesn’t stop doing what she’s doing.

However, there are some things I believe can help. These are strategies I use now with people who are behaving irrationally in pursuit of a dream:

1. Acknowledge, support and and encourage them in areas where they are still in control of their decisions. Applaud their achievements. Admire the character traits like courage, creativity, persistence that enable these parts of her life. My aim is to help her remember and feel good about her strengths.

2. Respond authentically to her painful stories. As agreenbean suggested, I show the normal human responses to experiences she is describing. Not analyzing them, or turning them to advice or lessons. Just trying to be a model for how people react normally. I say things like, “That must have been so painful, disappointing, scary, exhausting. If it were me, I think I’d be in tears, angry, confused, really wishing things were different.” I might ask how she’s doing, how she’s handling it. My aim is to get her to take her feelings seriously, rather than the stories she’s telling herself about how they’re wrong, don’t matter, or that she can handle it.

3. Introduce stories of analogous relationships into the conversation, from my own life or something I know about a friend, or found on TV or in a book that particularly struck me. There are a lot of kinds of abuse. It might be a show I saw about horrible bosses or the miners’ strikes in Pennsylvania. It might be about the difficulties faced by a friend who discovered that her child had been raped. Or about discovering that a friend had been stealing from me, or that someone I went to school with was injured in an accident when her drunken husband was driving. I don’t take the next step to compare it to her life. I don’t try to do anything that will trigger her defenses, but only share something I was thinking about, or something I felt bad about. My aim is only to resurrect her ability to think critically about people who hurt or take advantage of other people, the costs involved and maybe the ways that victims resolve their situations.

4. This is probably the touchiest thing, but it can also be helpful talking about life after the relationship. Like everything else, this has to be handled from the perspective of my own feelings and thoughts, not as advice or pressure. I let her know that I’ve been thinking about how it will be for her when the relationship i over no matter how it ends. She is probably unable to think much about life without the huge stimulator/stressor of the predator, and that is to be expected. Still, I can let her know that I’ve started putting together mental lists of what she might need when it’s over. Maybe a place to stay, or some new belongings. Maybe a therapist to help with her feelings about it. Maybe a job. Maybe a lawyer. There’s no way to tell exactly what she’ll need, but you’re telling her you’ll be there for her. My aim to encourage her to start imagining the next chapter of her life.

All of this is sensitive business. It’s work and it requires self-control. I can’t share opinions or judgments about her, what she’s doing, or her predatory partner. In every way possible, I’m talking about my own thoughts, feelings and challenges.

In my experience with people involved in these relationship, it is the only way to influence them. And it doesn’t do anything but, hopefully, stimulate the right types of thinking to help them move through the learning experience faster.

It’s hard to watch what they’re doing. Really hard. But sometimes that’s part of being a true friend, being with them while they’re suffering without blaming or judging. I think it’s also a message that they’re worth that kind of friendship.

I look at my own friendships through the years, and the ones that stand out aren’t the ones with people who pressured me to take better care of myself or who loaded me with advice or unwanted offers of help. Rather, they are the one with the people who stuck by me, no matter how wrongheadedly I was behaving, and helped me feel my feelings accurately and give them names. That may sound strange, but sometimes just hearing someone say that she would feel angry if that happened to her empowered me to name my feelings as anger. And that ultimately empowered to act as an angry person should, rather than as a doormat.


Thank you for reposting this excellent essay. I have even posted after reading Kathleen Hawk and it is clear to me now that I missed much of her valuable wisdom. It’s like my ears were blind.

I am going back and reading her other messages. What she writes is so validating to me, once again!!

t.u. t.u. Slimone.


Slimone, thank you so much for re-posting this, and thanks to Kathleen Hawk for such an insightful response. “Dreamwalkers” is such an apt term. My sister has often said how angry she feels, but rarely seems to direct her anger toward the one person who is actually the cause of it. I’ll put these suggestions into practice and try to be patient. Maybe it will help eventually.



This is so helpful. I’m applying all the advise to myself. Those that have forcefully tried to “help” me have actually injured my fragile self esteem and pushed me closer to my husband since he has been so “loving”. Some of my family has been down right hateful. When I separated from my husband over a year ago, I had a plan. I still have that plan in place and have followed it. But the constant borage of criticism and attacks from others, on top of the Spath abuse has just about done me in. I’m so grateful for the encouragement that I’ve gotten here. It has saved my sanity.

My brain and soul has been so injured that I couldn’t even think clearly. I’ve hated feeling like I had to defend my abuser to get people off my back. Or to hear how stupid I am which made me feel worse about myself . Thank God, my internist is a loving Christian woman that recognized my PTSD and gave me appropriate medication. Now, I’m sleeping a lot, but my brain is beginning to heal from all the stress chemicals.

Ezabella, I’m sorry that you must watch your sister suffer. I wish you could get through to her. And possibly you have and she just in the processing phase. I really think this advise from Slimone is the best I’ve seen. I hope it helps. Tread softly….because she is really suffering.


Thank you. Yes, treading softly…her suffering is so apparent.

I’m sorry for what you’ve gone through, too. But, as someone who has been there myself, I can tell you it does get so much better. A few years after getting away from my own verbally abusive marriage, I now feel like a different person. The pain I went through has become a distant memory, and it has lost the power it used to have over me. I wish you all the best.


This is a very insightful post. You can’t explain something that someone has to experience. She looks for love and acceptance, while he uses and abuses. She feels needed and will not give up on him. In the long run women learn that those men are not thinking about relationships like we are. We are looking for love and they are only supporting their position, addiction, insecurity, narcissism, whatever. We really need to ask what it in it for them? And for us? We need to note his actions and past, NOT his words, which means nothing.


It’s so incredible that you and your mother are trying to help your sister out of her abusive relationship. Not an easy thing to do but I am glad you are reaching out for help with this process.

It sounds like her husband is using gas lighting abuse to change her perspective of who is actually doing the abuse. This is what abuser do, he projects his bad behavior onto others and makes the victims accept the blame. My ex was masterful at this kind of manipulation to a point it emotional and mentally wore me down to pure physical exhaustion. Her husband is also using a smear campaign on your sister this is their way of controlling the situation just incase the victims talks to others the abuser has already planted a story in other peoples minds. google “sociopath smear campaign”….lovefraud has a post on smear campaign in addiction to the others on the net.

I remember sitting in our first marriage counselors office desperate for help…I knew something was seriously wrong with him but could not put my finger on it…I also knew that I was not able to express my feelings unless I was asked specifically to do so. I now know that my husband had twisted up my mind so much so that I would not express what was going on behind closed doors meaning that I would never expose his abuse, lying, cheating etc ways. So I never expressed anything unless directly asked to which I was never asked directly by friends, family or even the marriage counselors. I felt like a stepford zombie robot at the time.

These abusers are so masterful from day one at getting the victims to always accept the blame for the failings of the relationship, she accepts this because she just wants peace in the home and she has been conditions to also similar to training a dog.

I also remember standing in my kitchen with friends thinking to myself that my husband is brain washing me…that I am a shell of my former self….this was a light bulb moment that stayed with me until I finally escaped several months later. Once I left and drove to another state I went to a new counselor who told me who my husband was and I asked her if my husband was brain washing me some how…she said YES!

After that session I got on the net and searched brain washing undoing and came upon Steve Hassan’s book Freedom of Mind: Helping Loved Ones Leave Controlling People, Cults, and Beliefs (his site his This gave me the understanding of why my mind was locked up unless I was asked specific questions. The reality of it is the questions themselves did not need be detailed…for instance had someone asked me “Do you think your husband is emotionally and mentally abusing you?” I might not have been able to answer that question right then and there but I would have thought about it at a later time which would have opened my mind up especially the next time he abused me in this way. These questions would have set a chain reaction to opening my mind fully down the road. I know this because my ex h’s cousins wife asked me once (she knew I was being abused) “Do you think he is going to go crazy like his uncle?’ at the time I could not answer that question but I was thinking about it and it never left my mind ever…had she kept asking me questions I would have opened my mind up quickly.

The same thing is happening to your sister she is under her husbands mind control literally he has altered not only her thinking but he has also shifted her personality. What you and your family need to do is to open up her mind again. Think of her husband as a cult leader then you will see that he has her mind locked up. Domestic abusers and cult leaders are the same type people so you will need to do the same things families do to get their loved ones to leave a cult.

I would highly suggest that you read Freedom of mind because it will give you the tools to open your sisters mind. I would also suggest that you contact him for a phone consultation to guide you into opening her mind. In addition I would also recommend that you invite your sister over to your home alone just the two of you and watch the videos on this site …Donna has done a amazing job explain very detailed in the videos what these evil people to do to suck us into their game.

Remember the abuser isolates the victims from her family and friends by saying “your family is the reason why things are not working out”, “your families does not want us together” etc this is the reason why if you tell her that he is a bad person or he is abusing her she will protect him this will cause a stronger bond with him…. so you can not say anything bad about her abuser….let me say that again you can NOT say anything bad about him.

What you can do is ask her questions….after watching the first video on Lovefraud ask her “does your husband (his name) do this to you? then wait for her to answer even if it takes 10 mins for her to answer or longer…the wheels are turning in her mind but she can not get the thoughts out this is part of the mind control that the abuser has over her. Dont push her to answer…if she leaves your home without answer any questions that is ok…you have her wheels turning in her mind. That is what you want.

If you go to print out the article on Gas lighting abuse….then ask your sister if she thinks her husband is gas lighting her….here are some of the questions that are in that article that you can print out and ask her how they relate to her relationship.

Are You a Victim of Gaslighting Emotional Abuse?
According to author and psychoanalyst Robin Stern, Ph.D., the signs of being a victim of gaslighting emotional abuse include:2

You are constantly second-guessing yourself.
You ask yourself, “Am I too sensitive?” a dozen times a day.
You often feel confused and even crazy at work.
You’re always apologizing to your mother, father, boyfriend,, boss.
You can’t understand why, with so many apparently good things in your life, you aren’t happier.
You frequently make excuses for your partner’s behavior to friends and family.
You find yourself withholding information from friends and family so you don’t have to explain or make excuses.
You know something is terribly wrong, but you can never quite express what it is, even to yourself.
You start lying to avoid the put downs and reality twists.
You have trouble making simple decisions.
You have the sense that you used to be a very different person – more confident, more fun-loving, more relaxed.
You feel hopeless and joyless.
You feel as though you can’t do anything right.
You wonder if you are a “good enough” girlfriend/ wife/employee/ friend; daughter.
You find yourself withholding information from friends and family so you don’t have to explain or make excuses.

The other thing that you need to take into consideration before you start this mind opening process is her health. Most women in abusive relationships have health issues due to the continual daily stress they are under…it is extremely common for a victim of abuse to feel like they are going to have a nervous breakdown. One of the biggest health issue and root cause of a nervous breakdown is adrenal fatigue it is also one of the biggest issues of PTSD (common with abuse victims). I would suggest that you show her the below adrenal gland sites just in a causal conversation…you can tell her ”I have been under stress and someone mentioned these sites to me will you look at them with me?”….

drwilson’s site have ***her take his quiz on the site to see how her adrenal glands are functioning see his symptoms list (maybe even print it out before hand), see his symptoms list, see her you tube videos and read her book, and you can just google adrenal fatigue symptoms also.

Our adrenal glands regulate our blood pressure, blood sugar, cortisol and adrenaline levels (this is the flight or fight response mode) and over 50 hormones including all the female hormones. With continual stress such as a toxic relationship the adrenal glands become fatigue and in return wreak havoc on our minds and body….some symptoms include anxiety, depression, panic attacks, hair loss, sugar and salt cravings, sleep issues…on and on it’s a long list. Under a normal breakup our cortisol levels go up which is now called “broken heart syndrome” but under a toxic relationship they are already extremely elevated….when a victims leaves her abuser the cortisol levels go up even more which is extremely stressful for a victims…the fact that you stated that your sister was suicidal is actually a sign that not only is she being gas lighted by her abuser but her adrenal gland are not functioning correctly.

My doctor tested me for cortisol levels (see dr wilson’s site for test info), vitamin/mineral deficiency and hormonal imbalance all issues with adrenal fatigue. My test results not in the normal range and my hormonal specialist doctor gave me dr wilson’s adrenal vitamins 3 times a day and progesterone hormonal replacement within days my anxiety was half. So before you have her over to look at these sites you can find a hormonal specialist for her ahead of time without her knowing you are guiding her…you can find a doctor by looking on drwilson’s site/by asking friends/googling “compounding pharamcy” with your city name”.

Aside from having Steven Hassan in this process and Donna ANderson for your sister to talk with I would also suggest you call your local abuse center to see if their is a list of counselors outside of the center..then call and interview them prior to this opening up your sisters mind that way your sister will have a counselor when she needs one. But honestly what I know now I would suggest you get Steven Hassan to help he is an expert on cult & domestic abuser relationships who runs a counseling center in the Boston area but you/your sister can do phone consultant with him. For me I needed help when I left…my abusive ex husband had me trained not to ask for help and also not to make any decisions with out him so what I needed was my family when I left him was to have them make my decisions for me in this process ahead of time. But with your sister let her make the decision to go… so if she takes Dr Wilsons adrenal test and it shows that her adrenal glands are fatigue yo can just say “hey I found this hormonal specialist, do you want to go I can make an appointment for you (for us)?? then go with her for her doctors appointment.

Wishing your family all the best with helping your sister leave her abuser.

Take care


Jan7, I can’t thank you enough for taking the time to share your experience and these amazingly helpful insights and resources. I will save this information and begin taking some of the steps you’ve suggested. And thank you for your well wishes. 🙂


Your welcome Elizabella. Always keep in mind that her husband is a cult leader and your sister is a cult follower once you do this you will know how to have patience with her if she decides to stay longer…it’s a process for the victims to open her mind up and also a process to get the strength up to leave the abuser both physically & mentally.

I wanted to also let you know that once she leaves her abuser she will go through all the grieve stages just like a death of a family member…for the victim it’s extremely frighting to go through all these emotional stages some times twice without any breaks between different emotions…for me the angry stage was truly the hardest because I am not an angry person by nature…..Why is it scary? because your body is releasing so much cortisol, hormonal changes (adrenal fatigue) plus dealing with the fact you were with a crazy sociopath/psychopath who brain washed and mind controlled your….it’s all a lot to handle at one time.

I now know that all my feelings like all victims of abuse were suppressed by my ex h to have total control over me and then once my mind broke free of my ex h’s mind control they all came flooding out.

This is the time your family needs to just take a very deep breath and be patient with your sister moods swings…she will go from crying, to sobbing, to angry and your family will take the brunt of it NOT because you deserve it just because you will be around her for her to vent out her emotions just remember her venting has nothing to do with you what so ever. Also she is going to be triggered easily by everything that reminds her of her ex or his control etc..exactly like a solider is triggered when he comes back from war….

this is also why it is important to get her to a hormonal specialist prior to opening her mind it will help with the mental processing phase that she will go through. During this stage print out the “grieving stage list” they are on the net…and give it to her so she understands what is happening to her emotions.

To help open her mind up to her past life before her abuser get your childhood family photo album out and have all of your family members look at the photos together or individually with her and talk about how she felt at the time of each picture and take her to old familiar places dont make it look obvious that you are trying to open her mind just have fun with it taking a stroll down memory lane…if she played sports in high school bring her back there, or what ever hobby she had do it with her
again. You and your family want to wake up her old mind set because her abuser basically has written over that mind set with a mind set.
Keep coming her to ask questions and to vent. Also check out facebook page After narcissistic abuse (there is light light & love) and One moms battle these are other great place to vent plus the path forward. Both you and your sister can open fake email accounts then open a fake facebook account that way both of you can vent and ask questions freely on those fb pg site.

Sending you & your family lots of hugs and prayers…dont give up on your sister this is the time she needs her family the most…like your sister I needed help out of my abusive relationship. I needed someone to give me the answers to my ex h crazy behavior…so bring your sister to this incredible site will give her the answers she has been looking for.

Take care

Ps I wanted to make sure that your family and your sister gets help with an Exit Plan when your sister says she is ready to leave her abuser. You can get help with this plan from your local abuse center or the National domestic violence hotline , you/she can look on the National Domestic violence hotline website for an Exit Plan(also your sister can call a counselor on this hotline 24/7) and you/she can google Exit Plan & Exit plan you tube.

Please remember the most dangerous time for a victims of domestic abuse is when she leaves her abuser so it is extremely important to have a Exit Plan in place.

It is important to for your sister to use the No contact rule when she leaves to break the emotional bond she has with her abuser google “no contact rule narcissist” and “no contract rule sociopath” to learn more. A restraining order may also be necessary for her safety.


Hi Everyone,

For anyone who read KATHLEEN HAWK’S reposted message (above) and felt supported by it I HIGHLY recommend her entire series on the healing process. The articles are listed under her author name. I found her articles to be extremely validating and insightful. I find myself referring to them now, when I am struggling to find words or meaning.


Thanks…I’ll check it out. I’m sure I’ll be coming back and reading all of these posts many times.


Everyone here has given you good advice.

I’m sure you can see, from your own experience, how defiantly you would have dug your heels in to protect the truth from sinking in when you were in your sister’s circumstance. Until she’s ready, she simply won’t be ready.

It’s important to reinforce that you love her, no matter what she wants to do, and that you are there for her whenever she needs you. Trying to convince her that she is making harmful decisions will only make her feel she needs to isolate herself from you.

Kathleen Hawks gave excellent advice in mentioning that introducing books and literature could be helpful. It enables you to make your point through the words and stories of others, without engaging in contentious debate. Two books that I believe she could relate to, and see herself in are Donna’s book, “LoveFraud,” and mine, “Carnal Abuse by Deceit.” They are both the stories of people who went through the similar pain of discovery that she needs to face. If you have difficulty affording them, while I can’t speak for Donna, I’d happily provide mine for you absolutely free, just contact me through my blog with your address. It’s

You could also drop hints about knowledge you gained through this blog and how helpful it was to you.

I was caught in a very strong Betrayal Bond. It wasn’t until I was pregnant and my ex’s psychiatrist told me he was a phychopath that I had my “ah-hah” moment. And it wasn’t so much about me, but rather about protecting my unborn child. Some people never come out of it. But with the knowledge and information that focuses on this issue, that’s currently available and circulating, there is a far greater chance that your sister will.

I congratulate you on escaping the harm that was dealt to you, and wish you good luck in supporting your sister’s recovery.

All the best-


Thank you so much, Joyce, for your advice and your kind offer. The responses to my letter have provided so much more help than I ever could have expected!


Elizabella, Your sister will someday be grateful to you for supporting her through this. In the mean time, remember that the person you are dealing with is not your sister. She is his victim. Until she is ready to make changes, you will be frustrated.

You have been given some really good advise already. Let me expand on it. Understand that the devil you know is less frighting than the devil you don’t know. She may feel like she has some control in her situation as it stands whereas if she leaves she may not perceive having any control. It’s a crazy thought system, but having lived it… I know how powerful that belief can be. She may not believe that she can survive without him. I know in my situation it was true.

Your job is to be there for her. Let her know that you are in her corner and will always be in her corner. You can tell her that you are concerned for her safety and sanity. Tell her that you want the best for her. Let her know that he will not change and no matter what she does, she cannot make him change. He has to want to truly change and that takes time and counseling. Most of the abusers I have worked with remained a-holes even if they were less violent. You can give someone tools… what they do with those tools is up to them. My abuser had 33 years of becoming who he was. That wasn’t going to change overnight. Six months of demonstrating change is hopeful – less than that is not. Manipulators are good at what they do.

I held onto a “blue card” – local police domestic violence information card – I found in a parking lot after flying out of a police vehicle. It said I had the right to be safe in my own home. I liked that idea, but I hid that card for a long time. She may have a secret comfort item like that or be in need of such a thing. A discrete card with the National Domestic Violence Hotline phone number might be helpful. If you provide one for her, just tell her you want to know that if she ever feels threatened or unsafe, you want to make sure she has that information. Frankly, every woman should have one. Do it casually, not like you are making a big deal about it. If she embraces it, encourage her to build a safe kit. Copies of important documents,(birth certificate, insurance information, deeds, loans, social security numbers, credit card numbers, banking information, employment information, vehicle information, medical information, medications, anything one would need to start over if a tornado hit),some money that he won’t miss, a change of clothing, and some toiletries. If she can set up a secret bank account and have statements go somewhere else that would be amazing. Encourage her to make this kit and keep it someplace safe… a friend’s house whatever as long as he doesn’t know it exists. It’s simply an emergency kit that everyone should have. Storms happen too!

Remember that leaving is the MOST DANGEROUS time for a victim. Not only will she have to find a safe place to go, your entire family and her friends may need to be hyper vigilant. My abuser banged on windows in the middle of the night at my parent’s house demanding they send me out to him. A shelter is safer than a family member’s home that he knows about.

She needs to know she is loved. She needs to know that she is a person of great worth and value. She needs to know that family will stand with her no matter what. She needs to know that you will be there for her whenever she needs you.

Be prepared yourself. Document everything. If you see bruises document it. Take pictures of her if you can to show the markings. If she says something that sounds odd, document it. If a story seems out of character, document it. For most domestic violence victims, they never call the police. Since most of the problems occur in the privacy of the home, there is no way to prove what happened. Document everything you can. My ex held up the marriage license at our wedding and announced that he had his ownership papers now! You know not a single person at the wedding remembered him saying it? If you hear something or see something that seems off – Document it. Someday, those notes you take by writing them down in a diary or on a calender will help establish that there was a problem. If she has pets, casually ask about how he is with the pets. Observe the pets if you can. Most people will not talk about abuse of themselves, but will show concern for treatment of animals. Document it!!!!

Encourage her to stay in contact. Don’t be critical of decisions she makes – she is probably in survival mode and possibly trying to protect you and your mother as much as she thinks she is protecting herself.

As far as dealing with him, you don’t have to be phony. You do have to be civil where necessary. He will probably try to cut you from her life. He already knows you are a threat to him. He will want to isolate her and convince her that you are a threat to both of them. Be cordial to him. Be supportive to your sister. You are not a “knight in shining armor”. That can be dangerous thinking. People get hurt by that thought process. Just be a supportive sister.

Many victims leave several times before they leave for good. Expect that the hold he has on her is powerful. She will be afraid and feel very alone. Don’t hold it against her if she goes back to him. It may be only for a short time or much longer. If she leaves him once, she will probably leave him again. Remember, there is comfort in the devil you know. Just be there for her and encourage her self esteem. For most women leaving is a process of baby steps and a couple of giant leaps. It is a dangerous and frightening time. There are legal protections, but a protective order is only a piece of paper to someone determined to get back what he wants. Been there.

Have faith and encourage faith. I have counseled with hundreds of women who have left bad situations. They all come in wounded and scared. They go through many stages of evolution all in their own time. Eventually, most bloom.

I tell groups to think about dealing with victims like planting seeds. You plant a seed in a pot of dirt, you hope for a lovely plant that blooms. You water your seed and give it light. Eventually, you celebrate when it sprouts. Your job isn’t done. You still need to provide water, sun, and nutrients. The plant has to take all of that support and work its own magic. It is a process which doesn’t happen overnight. Eventually, in time, you get a beautiful blossom.

Good Luck and God Bless!!!!!


Great post.
Also, document means write down what happened, and time/date, and if any other person was around. If they are willing to sign the report document, great. But if not, it’s okay. It’s the PATTERN of what happens that carries weight.

I got lucky. My ex was gaslighting me so in order to keep my head straight, I started writing things down in a journal. I just wanted to assure myself that what I thought happened, actually happened.

Later, with over 20 notebook journals, all dated/timed, I had “evidence” of escalating psychological abuse. My attorney was thrilled. Had anything happened to me, his self defense claim would have been suspect.

Lesson? Document Document Document. Even if you think it’s no big deal.


EXACTLY!! NotWhatHeSaidofMe that is exactly it. Document, Document, and Document some more. The more details the better. You may feel like a lunatic keeping a diary of what happens with someone else, but trust your gut. Include emails, photographs, and social media captures. Use anything that captures behaviors in their moment. I can tell you that no one has ever said they regretted writing down all those little details that established a pattern of behavior. I have heard plenty of people say that they wish, being helpless to do anything else, they had documented everything. It could become the most valuable evidence the victim has.

I learned it the hard way. Now I am doing it for a friend who has been in a dangerous relationship. We joke about my “document” which is starting to look more like a novel. No one would believe any of it if it was a novel. In court, it has caught our sociopath in so many lies and forced the truth to prevail. She can change history all she wants with her words, but my “document” is always present and difficult for her to dispute.


Yes, some other family members have done this already. I don’t think she keeps a journal herself, but I’ll encourage her to do so, and I will as well. Thank you.


Thank you, Bets. So much good advice and encouragement! I will definitely follow through. It’s a delicate situation, to be sure.


What a loving sister you are! The advise you’re getting is wonderful. My own sister (my only sibling) was (and is) the opposite of you. She picked up the baton where my ex left off and then she even colluded with him.

With a sister like you (along with the rest of your family’s loving support), I know your sister will regain herself….it just won’t be on the timeline you envision….it will take longer than that.

Hang in there! You’re such a blessing to her!


Thank you so much, Abigail.


I would say to Elizbella that she should be there for her sister no matter what. The spath is really cunning when they try to “divide and conquer”. My spath did this to his ex wife with her aunt and uncle years ago, and he tried doing it to his fiance with her mom, but her mom intervened and kept the relationship in tact. Your sister is going to need someone who understands when she does decide to leave the relationship or he leaves her. If she has no support when this happens she could end up hurting herself. Like Elizabella said in the letter, her sister has been suicidal.
Think of it this way: don’t let the spath win in separating your family ties. It is scary when you say that when things go down and the family tries to intervene they both avoid contact with the family. I know it is hard to watch her go through this and she may say things to you that incite you, but just keep looking at her in the light that she is being brainwashed and you are just waiting for her to recognize it and when she does, you will be right there to talk to her and provide any support she needs to heal.

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