Domestic Violence Discussion with
Jennifer Bowles, MSW, LCSW

Jennifer Bowles is a licensed clinical social worker currently working in California as a medical social worker at a county hospital. She obtained her Master's degree in social work from U.C.L.A. Since graduating in 1993 she has worked in a variety of settings, including private practice, with children and families, frail elderly, and chronically and terminally ill clients. Prior to becoming a social worker she was a deputy sheriff. She believes this law enforcement background provided her with an increased sensitivity to abuse issues, including domestic violence.

She has seen first hand the damage domestic violence does to the individual and family. It crosses all demographic barriers: financial, racial, ethnic, age and sexual orientation.

Our thanks to Jennifer Bowles!


33. StorkNet Member: Hi Jennifer, My situation is a little unusual, I feel, from the fact that I can't seem to find anyone else who is dealing with it. The abuse I suffer Isn't from a husband or a parent. It is from my sister. I am 20 and newly married but still living in my parents home. They invited us to stay there while we get on our feet. We both work full time but don't make much money at all and can not afford to move out. We seem to have no where else to go. Well my sister who is 18 also lives at home.

Ever since we where young we would get into fights. As I got older, about 10 I think, I started feeling bad for hurting a family member so I stopped hitting her and picking fights. My parents, though wonderful people, never disciplined her. She grew up very spoiled. She continued attacking me up till I left home and took to life on the road when I was 19. I didn't really want to leave home but I felt I couldn't deal with her any longer.

Well, during the short time I was gone, only 6 months maybe, I married my boyfriend who had gone with me. I began to miss my family, even my sister, after a while and decided to come home and take my parents offer to help us get on our feet and have a normal life. When I returned things hadn't changed with my sister. She continued to belittle me every time she got in a bad mood, which is often, and to attack me. Even though my husband was so angry about it I asked him to do nothing so that I wouldn't stress my parents out more. Now I have found out that I am pregnant and my sister has become worse. She is even more violent than before. My parents can't or won't, I'm not sure which, control her. When my mother pulled her off me the other night, she told my sister that she could cause me to miscarry. Her response was, "I don't care."

My parents are still not really doing anything accept yelling at her briefly and telling me to stay in my room all the time so that she can't start any more problems. My husband has to escort me to the bathroom at night for fear of what she might do to me while my parents are asleep. My husband is furious about the situation. Nothing is changing and now I am worried about what might happen to my child from this. I know that since my parents won't take control of the situation that I should leave but I don't have much money and I don't know what to do. We need to find housing and we don't even own a car. So much is hindering us from moving that I don't know where to begin. Is there any place I can get help? If so how do I go about it? Will people even help with a problem like this? I know there are lots of programs to help people that are abused by parents and spouses but my problem is different. I am at a loss for what to do and I don't know where to turn.

Jennifer: It sure sounds like a bad situation. Your sister sounds mentally ill, actually. Is she using drugs? The fact that your parents do nothing but tell you to stay out of her way indicates that your sister has some hold over your parents also. I agree that you and your child are in danger and though it may not be a subject most people talk about, abuse by family members other than significant others or parents is still a problem. Plan to leave. Talk to the homeless social services people and the domestic violence service workers in your area and ask them for referrals to agencies that may be able to help with rent. In our area Catholic Charities assists if they have funds, with move-in costs. Would your parents be able to assist with a gift of money or a loan?

Do you have friends you could stay with or other family members? Since you sound like your earnings are quite low you may qualify for housing assistance (contact your local Housing Authority). You likely have a mental health crisis team/hotline in your area. Call them and discuss the situation. They may provide you with good referrals or sound advice related to where you live. In the meantime, you need to contact the police (I mean calling 911) in the event she attacks you again. You are likely thinking this will upset your parents, but you may be saving them from being attacked once you leave and I'm hoping they would feel also responsible should something happen to you, your husband or your baby. It's possible your husband may get mad enough to stop her from hurting you and cause injury to your sister. This might cause him to be arrested should your parents decide to side with your sister and say it was not to protect you or was in self defense. I know I'm having to read between the lines considerably with what information I have to go by. One last thought for you would be that YOU were able to stop this behavior at the age of 10. She has not been able to control these impulses which tells me there may be something more going on such as substance abuse or mental illness. The call you make to the police or mental health could be the beginning of helping not only you but your family. It will take a lot of strength to "make waves" which is something you have not been likely allowed to do.

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Questions and Answers (Click on the linked numbers below):

 1.  Husband's temper
 2.  Divorced, did not keep documentation for protection. What should I do?
 3.  I'm getting divorced. Do I tell the judge about my husband's anger? Should my daughter be with him?
 4.  How do I find an Abuse Center in My area?
 5.  How can I help my friend see that she's in a cycle of abuse?
 6.  Thank you, Jennifer
 7.  Is verbal abuse considered domestic violence?
 8.  I've left my husband - why do I feel so sad and guilty?
 9.  I'm being abused but no one can tell.
10. How does domestic abuse affect the children of the marriage?
11. When do you get past the damage?
12. Husband abusive and terminal. I'm pregnant. Can I make it on my own?
13. Therapists and false memories
14. Who do we tell if a child in my son's class is being molested?
15. My children are afraid of their father but he has part custody, what do I do?
16. This relationship is tearing down her self-confidence piece by piece.
17. I got away from the abuse but now my daughter is suffering.
18. Why do so many women end up in abusive relationships?
19. Is yelling verbal abuse?
20. Steps toward recovery?
21. Parents drinking affects the holidays
22. My dad was verbally abusive to me and I now suffer from low self esteem.
23. I can hear the neighbors fighting. What should I do?
24. My ex says no to counseling, but I want my kids to go.
25. Is my boyfriend showing signs of being abusive?
26. How can I prevent visitation rights?
27. Question about one of Jennifer's comments
28. Finding strength and independence
29. I worry so much about my children when they are with him and his new wife.
30. My friend got out of one abusive relationship and into another.
31. Helping my brother with his temper
32. My husband is an alcoholic.
33. My sister is abusing me.
34. My mom was abusive. Will I be too?
35. Abusive husband and a new baby
36. How is past abuse from my deceased husband affecting my 4 1/2 year old?
37. My best friend chose a controlling boyfriend, just like her father. Help me explain to her.
38. My husband intimidates me into sex. Is this abuse?
39. Husband has anxiety and is becoming violent
40. Separated, pregnant and thinking of working things out with abusive husband
41. Question about verbal abuse?
42. Is my boyfriend abusive?
43. Ex-husband and unpaid child support
44. Surviving molestation
45. Our arguing has turned physical now
46. I left my verbally abusive husband
47. Woman realizes she is the abuser
48. Husband's health is making him angry
49. Abuse and chronically ill
50. Abusive relationship and going through divorce proceedings
51. Granddaughter may lose custody
52. Relationship with abusive boyfriend is like obsession
53. Very afraid of abusive, threatening husband
54. Are my boyfriend's actions abusive?
55. I worry that my children will be molested because I was
56. Why do women stay or have a hard time leaving?
57. I need help to get away. What can I do?
58. Elderly parents are abusing each other, alcohol involved.
59. Is my daughter being abused by her stepmom?
60. Do you discuss female domestic violence towards men and children?
61. Friend keeps going back to abusive boyfriend
62. Alcohol problems as teens related to growing up in a violent home?
63. I left my abuser... a message of hope
64. How to help a pregnant friend
65. Resources for domestic violence in the military?
66. Nephew in abusive relationship
67. My husband is too controlling
68. Advice from someone who stayed
69. I left and now I'm confused
70. Thank you, Jennifer
71. My husband mentally abuses me
72. I've taken steps to leave my abusive husband, but am worried about my daughter
73. Abuse in friendships?
74. Why do women oppose mandatory reporting?
75. My husband is frightening me with his anger
76. Am I becoming my father?
77. Love and abuse
78. Boyfriend threatens me
79. Husband wants me to get an abortion, is verbally abusive.
80. My mother-in-law is harrassing us
81. Children verbally abusive like their father
82. Son and daughter-in-law's arguing affecting grandson
83. Should I call my husband on each verbal abuse?
84. My fiancÚ babysits and I am worried about his temper
85. My friend's child is affected by abuse by father
86. Every time he hits me, he blames me for it, then repents, apologizes and feels bad.
87. Acquaintances from church--the woman is attacking her husband. How can I help?
88. Shelters - how do you find your funds to live on and where to go?
89. My friend appears to have no way out!
90. My husband is in prison and we're divorcing. Visitation rights?
91. If you are in immediate danger

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