It breaks my heart to know that my daughter is being abused
MY DAUGHTER is 19 years old and in her first year at university.
She met her boyfriend at the end of last year and since then she has changed beyond recognition.
She is such a beautiful girl and has always been a happy person, so full of life. She was a leader and had many good friends.
Since this man entered her life she has changed completely. She has no friends and if she is not with him, she is alone. She is no longer happy and doesn't really look after herself the way she used to.
Last week I noticed that she had bruises on her arm and marks on her throat and cheeks.
When I asked her about it she said she had fallen when she was hurrying to a class.
I don't believe her because the marks distinctly look like fingers.
She is so sulky and unhappy that it is breaking my heart.
I tried to ask her about her boyfriend, but she would not open up to me. All she says is that she loves him and doesn't want to discuss her relationship with me.
What should I do? - Concerned Mother, Benoni
This is a painful and challenging situation you find yourself in. Watching your daughter suffer at the hands of an abusive man, and not being able to help her, must be unbearable.
She is not the same person because, as is typical in an abusive relationship, he has probably stripped her of all her self-worth and self-confidence.
The thought of leaving him might be so difficult for her that she will withdraw from the support system of friends and family.
She will probably defend him, say she loves him and direct her anger and resentment at you.
An abuser controls his victim by isolating her and, as you pointed out, the result is that your daughter no longer has any friends.
You need to keep on trying to talk to her to help her understand the seriousness of the situation she is in. Tell her that you are concerned for her wellbeing and safety.
If she tries to make excuses for him or blame herself, do not entertain it at all. Remind her of the person she once was and point out how she has changed.
Show her you are willing to listen to her without judging her. Make her feel comfortable about confiding in you without giving her advice.
Try to educate yourself about abuse and give her information on the consequences of emotional and physical abuse.
If she doesn't want to talk to you, ask her if she would talk to a trained counsellor.
Tell her how much you love her and that no matter what she decides, you will always support her.