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Straight Talk: Alcoholic stepdad abusive

By: Lauren Forcella
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Dear Straight Talk: I’m a 16-year-old girl and my brother is 13. Our alcoholic stepfather gets drunk every night and becomes verbally abusive toward all of us, especially my brother. He screams and yells at him, constantly putting him down and calling him “sissy” and “faggot.” He does not physically abuse him, so we can’t report him for abuse, but the verbal abuse hurts my brother horribly and he has absolutely no self-confidence. Our mother is submissive and dependant on our stepfather, so she won’t leave him. We stay in our room as much as possible when he is drunk, but we can’t totally avoid him, and he is all over my brother every night at dinner. It’s scary what this is doing to my brother. Please help. ~ Roseville Katelyn, 14, Huntington Beach: You CAN report him for abuse. Verbal abuse is a form of domestic abuse. Call the National Domestic Violence Helpline at 1-800-799-SAFE or go to their Web site, www.ndvh.org. You can also tell a counselor or trusted adult. The more support, the better. Scot, 22, San Luis Obispo: Tell your brother how much you care and support him. Explain how pathetic and small it is for someone to need to get drunk every night and pick on others, and how big he is to deal with it. Give your mom a wake-up call about how intolerable the situation has become. She may be dependent on your stepfather, but maybe she has cards she can play after all. Build a strong relationship with your brother before you finish high school and move out. Maybe start an evening study group to get him out of the house more. Jessie, 17, Ashland, OR: Verbal abuse is still abuse and needs to be reported, whether to a school counselor or the police. Your mom needs to take responsibility for this, but if she won’t/can’t do anything, bring somebody else in. Is your father in the picture? Maybe it’s time to live with him. Rachel, 18, Fair Oaks: I’ve seen verbal abuse first-hand and it can be just as harmful as physical abuse. Go to the police or child protective services. Verbal abuse can lead to physical abuse — and can cause your brother to act out violently as he gets older. Vanessa, 21, Galt: I was the middle child and only girl and my father was physically abusive to my brothers and my mom. He would pack his bags pretending to leave us on a regular basis knowing we couldn’t make it without his support. Somehow, in our teen years, we stopped fearing him and did as we pleased in order to stay safe. Eventually, we each moved out, my youngest brother at the age of 19. In June, he killed himself in his apartment. His notes blamed my parents — who remain in complete denial that they ever hit us or said anything but ‘loving phrases.’ Even as I love them, I will never forgive them. I just wish I could’ve known what all that hate could drive a person to do. Because of the alcohol, I know if your brother stuck up for himself, the abuse would turn physical. But that doesn’t mean you lay down and take it. You need to tell a counselor or call the cops. Anybody could be calling about the noise, just ask that your identity be confidential. There is no other escape from this. Please get help. Dear Roseville: When you’re not in the fishbowl, it’s easy to see clearly, that’s why almost everyone, including me, advises you to report the abuse. All the choices: counselor, police, child protective services (in your county directory), National Domestic Violence Hotline, will keep confidentiality. Your courage is needed. As you see, your brother’s life can depend on it. To ask a question or inquire about being a youth panelist, visit www.straighttalkforteens.com or write P.O. Box 963 Fair Oaks, CA 95628.