DEAR HARRIETTE: My 30-year-old son is in an abusive marriage. His wife hits him, locks him out of the house, calls him humiliating names and has alienated him from his friends and family. This has caused him to lose 50 pounds, and he has developed dangerous stress-related symptoms. He’s a shell of the person he once was. He acts confused and disoriented, rather than our smart, capable and popular son. It’s heartbreaking. He has tried to leave her, but she gets hysterical, threatens suicide and begs him to return. He gives in.
They have three small children who witness this abuse. He’s worried about the kids, but is so broken down he doesn’t feel capable of caring for them on his own. We’ve told him we will care for them, but he tells us it’s too much of a burden. My daughter-in-law refused to attend counseling after one session. My son continues to go on his own. It’s hard for us to be good in-laws when we’re aware of what’s going on. She often blows up at us if we try to talk about it. -- How to Help My Son, Raleigh, North Carolina
DEAR HOW TO HELP MY SON: Convince your son to report his wife to the police the next time she abuses him. In order for him to have a chance of breaking free from her and getting custody of the children, he will have to prove her abuse. He MUST report her. When she hurts him physically, he should take photos to document his injuries. The way out for him, unfortunately, will be through the legal system. He should also work to ensure that he has his money in order. He has you to help, which is great. You also should be prepared to testify on his behalf and against her, based on facts.