What to do when your family beats you

Pennelope asks:

I belong to a family of 4 – my father, mother, elder brother and me. I study in another city for my college, but due to COVID-19, we were sent back to our homes. I have basically been a lazy girl who wouldn’t help her mom with her chores, due to which she used to be very mean to me. This time I decided it was my mistake and I didn’t want to be that person anymore. Therefore from day 1 onwards I helped her in everything from breakfast to dinner. It was going well, she wasn’t mean to me anymore, and we started getting close. But then, when my brother came to town, my mother started being mean again. She would taunt me, complain to my brother that don’t help her, and she would curse me, saying after my marriage my in-laws would commit suicide. So eventually I started talking back and refuting her. My father, who was there the whole time I was helping her, wouldn’t say a word. Eventually my brother concluded that I have a sore spot for my mom, and therefore I say things unnecessarily about her. When I tried to make him understand, he beat me A LOT, and eventually my father and mother both joined him in beating me. I started living fearfully, ignoring even the brutal-est thing they say to me but I have stopped caring for them. I don’t have any soft spot for them. Being my family, they did something so indecent and uncivilized. I could not have imagined that they would beat me. I know they are my family but it’s like I can never forget what happened and would never be able to forgive them for it.

Oh Pennelope!

I’m so sorry to get this letter.  It breaks my heart.

But the only way for me to respond to it is to split it into two parts.

First, about your mother saying you’re the way you used to be.  That is very normal – in fact I’d say I see it more often than not in families.  Someone was a poor student as a child, and now they’re a doctor, but their family still treats them as the “dumb lazy” one.  Or someone was a great student as a child, and has never done anything with it, just sits around watching TV all day, and their family still considers them the smart, successful one.

It’s annoying to everyone, and at times, as you’ve found, really hurtful.  My best suggestion in those cases is to confront your family members with the truth, “Look, I know I was this way in 1997, but I’ve changed and you’re not seeing it.  I’m successful and you should be feeling proud of me, not putting me down!”

But you are NOT in a normal situation.

Pennelope, I don’t know where you live or what your situation is financially or with extended family or anything, but I am not okay with ANYONE getting beaten by their family.  Even if you “deserved” it, though I’m not sure what that would even be.  Let me be clear on this – Handsome has never beaten me, and I’ve broken every rule he ever made, pooped on the rug, and even snapped at him a couple of times – beating is just simply NEVER okay!

So the questions I have for you are legal:  Does your family have the right under the law there to do such things?  Are you able to move out of that house and go to another relative’s or friend’s place? 

The things you say about whether or not you could ever forgive them – I don’t even care about that now.  That’s a choice to make later in life.  But right now, I JUST WANT YOU SAFE. 

And particularly, I want you safe from your brother.  Parents might feel they have the right to hit their children, and even though you’re older now, as I said above, they still might see you in that same way as before.  But what in the world is your brother doing hitting you?  Would he hit another woman your age?  Does he realize you could tell any woman he’s interested in about his doing this and that they would almost certainly leave him at once – and I’d be cheering them on?!  What kind of man is he, to beat his sister?

So again, my giant question to you – not an answer so much – is Is There A Way For You To Get Out Of There?  Whether through the law, or through someone helpful, or whatever.

Everything else is secondary. 

All my love,


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