Dear Alice,

I am having a problem with somebody else's relationship. It's my sister. I love her dearly and I know that she is being beaten by her boyfriend. She is tied to him by the fact that she has a child of six months by him. She doesn't want to come to her family for help. I think that this is largely because she is ashamed of herself and his behavior toward her. I simply cannot "mind my own business" because I am genuinely worried for her safety and the safety of my niece.

Part of me wants her to sort the problem out for herself, but she is so immature and is used to having men do things for her. This has been going on for some time now. What can I do to stop him?

Concerned Sibling

Dear Concerned Sibling,

Talk with your sister. Let her know that you know what's going on — that her boyfriend is beating her. She may have an incredible sense of relief to know that someone else knows about it and is willing to approach her. Many battered women ask for help first from their friends and families, and they sometimes receive answers like "It's your duty to stay with him," or "You have to do it for the child." If, however, your response is that she's not a terrible person, and that she has the power to change the situation, it might give her courage to find help.

It's possible that she is in denial about the beatings and will react defensively toward your attempt(s) to acknowledge and help. That's okay and normal. It's still important to let her know that you know what's going on and that she can depend on you for help and support.

You might also want to get in touch with a domestic violence hotline. They can help you with your conflicting feelings about your sister's situation, as well as give you referrals and information about the nature of domestic violence:

When you speak with your sister, it's unrealistic to expect that she will immediately change her entire life. As outside observers, that's what many people think will happen. However, there are many more factors at play in a domestic violence situation than meet the eye. Support her and tell her that you care and think she's important. Also, let her know that when she's ready, help is available.


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