rejected stepdaughter – and daughter

Dear Suzie, I dont know what to do. My daughter wants to leave home because of my husband, her step father. She was living with her father up until 3 years ago when he decided he (and her stepmother) didnt want her anymore, I was delighted I got her back -it’s a long complicated story, my ex was very bitter and used the kids to get back at me – It was very difficult as she had accused my son and father of sexually abusing her when she was very young, the police didnt proceed as there was no evidence to support it. The police advised her that she would be better off living with me. I supported my son at the time but I knew, from the police, that their father was manipulating the whole thing. I have never spoken to her about it, my son will not speak or see her – he is at university and has not contacted me lately, I know he is having a hard time as his father rejected him at 16. On top of all this my husband has issues of his own, he needs to grow up and start acting like an adult – we have a 4 yr old daughter who will grow up and become a teenager and like to stay in her room, he thinks my daughter is anti social. He blew up at my daughter for not wiping down the shower properly to his standard (we all walk on egg shells) this was the last straw, he gets very agressive and is quite big, often threatens stuff such as wrecking equipment if we dont clean/use/put it back properly.

You have my sympathy – it sounds like a sad, hurtful situation. It seems there are two big and distinct issues here that need sorting out.

One is your husbands behaviour and feelings about being in a stepfamily – indeed, about being in a family. This is your second go but it sounds as if it’s his first. And it sounds as if, like may people, he has brought quite a lot of baggage over from his own family of origin that is getting in the way.

Aggression, high expectations, lack of unconditional love offered to this own child let alone yours – it sounds as if this might be the sort of thing he experienced in his own childhood making to hard for him to be loving and flexible to his own children. If he wants to have a good relationship with his daughter, he needs to address his own demons and his behaviour with the daughter already a teenager now. It’s not so much that he needs to grow up – he needs to face up to his own feelings as a child and what they say to him and about him.

He needs support in addressing them, and to see that it not about blame or responsibility for who is doing what in your household; it’s about helping everyone to be happy and supported and to do the best thing. If I were you I’d make an appointment for some counselling support, and invite him to accompany you; but if he won’t, go along anyway. My bet is that he will, or will join you when he sees it’s helping you.

But for the other issue; to be frank, it doesn’t matter whether your son and father actually had sex with your daughter, or whether some contact they felt was trivial took place, or whether the affair was about bullying or rejection or what. Abusers often force one young child to abuse another so the abuse can be by proxy and they can claim, or persuade themselves, they were innocent. The child who does the action is as much a victim and feels as violated as the child acted upon.

Whatever happened, the fact of the matter is your daughter felt at risk and vulnerable. She felt something happened. And what was the reaction? To call her a liar, to send her to live with the man she had said abused her. A man who subsequently rejected the boy in question, and who has now rejected her.

If there is a degree of anger, guilt, loss sloshing around I wouldn’t be in the least surprised. She was let down most frightfully by you, her brother, (as he was by ihs father, too) her father, and now is being let down by her stepfather. No wonder she wants to leave home. I’d suggest it is time to talk with her about what happened – to listen and believe and accept her feelings of rage, helplessness, betrayal. Hurtful and tough for a mother to take on board but isn’t it about time? And while you’re about it, it would be worth while getting in touch with him and offering to listen to him, too. He perhaps needs as much help as she does.

She needs support and help –I’d suggest offering to find her someone to talk to, either through the GP or via the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy who can suggest a counsellor in your area. You can ring them on 0870 443 5219 or write to BACP, BACP House, 35-37 Albert Street, Rugby, Warwickshire CV21 2SG or go to The Institute of Family Therapy can also help with family problems. Write to them at 24-32 Stephenson Way, London NW1 2HX, call 020 7391 9150 or go to Good luck!

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