While this is not anyone in my family, I witnessed a father at a party treating his adolescent daughter like crap. The daughter's kind of introverted and didn't socialize too much, but the father would frequently approach her, say something offensive, and when she would retaliate, he'd punch her in her arm and sort of wrestle with her, but she didn't enjoy it and wasn't having fun, often screaming for her mother to get him to stop, but the mother wouldn't do anything either. He would stop after she screamed for her mother though, but the fact of the matter is that if he's annoying and agonizing her this much in PUBLIC, he could be treating her even worse in private.

He seems to see her as a "teenage punk" and treats her rough because I guess he is either a jerk or also doesn't like the way that she treats him, but maybe she treats him distantly because he is treating her like crap? I don't know, but one time she stayed sleeping longer than usual, and she was in a bad/annoyed mood, and I saw him grab her and start clapping really loudly in her face, and when she throw an arm in his direction, he twisted her arm behind her back and put her in a headlock and everyone was laughing but her face suggested that she didn't find it funny at all.

Basically, he yanks her by her arm, punches her (not as hard as he can, but still does it with some force to anger her), and is always roughhousing her, even though she doesn't like any of it and resents it/him despite lots of people laughing like it's "father-daughter-time" or such, but I feel that she's being negatively impacted by this by being the target of his behavior towards her.

He often doesn't do it out of visible anger like one would think, but laughs/finds it amusing to do. I do not tell anyone because he's my relative's boyfriend's sister's husband, and I don't want to start my trouble with everyone, including family members of my own by saying anything negative.

Any input? I'm asking if anyone considers this as abusive or not.

  • 4
    "I do not tell anyone because he's my relative's boyfriend's sister's husband, and I don't want to start my trouble with everyone, including family members of my own by saying anything negative. Any input?" If you are unwilling to say (or do?) anything about it, can you clarify what you're asking exactly? Are you looking for an explanation of why some people are such poor parents? What you can do anonymously? About what do you desire input? Mar 22, 2015 at 17:38
  • 3
    I'm asking if anyone considers this as abusive or not.
    – Yarbro
    Mar 22, 2015 at 18:10
  • 2
    #1: yes, it's abusive. #2: if your relative's boyfriend's sister's husband is your dad, and you are the teenage girl, seek help. Please. Mar 23, 2015 at 14:00
  • 2
    @IanMacDonald I don't think you know enough about the situation having heard only one side from a third party source to so tersely call it abuse.
    – LCIII
    Mar 25, 2015 at 17:31
  • 3
    @LCIII, I don't know about you, but when I read "punches her", that's enough for me to call it abuse. Mar 25, 2015 at 17:39

5 Answers 5


Abuse normally covers significant risk of harm and can be either physical, sexual, emotional abuse, or neglect.

This behaviour is, from your description, unpleasant and unacceptable, but I'm not sure if it meets a threshold for abuse.

Is she being harmed by it?

It'd be great if everywhere had a "report early report often" approach to child protection. You'd just leave a report with child protection social workers. They would then see if the school or police or hospitals or sexual health clinics were also sending in reports. Sadly we don't have that system. There are mixes of "guess the threshold to trigger a referral" with "mandatory reporting: you'll lose your job if you guess wrong".

It is hard to know what to do when you see someone being bullied. You could try saying something like "aw come on, give the kid a break" when you see it. Or you could pull the guy to one side and say that you don't think the girl enjoys it and ask what he thinks.

You could also just ask her. Ask her if it's okay or if it's too much, and if it is too much ask her what she wants to do about it. You never know, she might have some good ideas but need some help to do it.

  • 4
    +1 "You could also just ask her"
    – LCIII
    Mar 25, 2015 at 17:35
  • 1
    It is sensible to talk to her about it, but there is the distinct possibility that she would be too scared or too emotionally manipulated (into feeling ashamed or feeling that it's her job to keep the secret) to admit to being abused. (One doesn't have to look very far for examples - just recently here on parenting.SE we've had the example of an adult who was unable to admit to his life-partner that he'd been abused as a child). That's particularly the case as it sounds like OP doesn't know her particularly well.
    – A E
    Mar 26, 2015 at 9:40
  • 2
    There's also the possibility that she wouldn't know if she was being abused because the abusive behaviour would be normal to her (example: Rochdale grooming case). So if she says "no, everything's fine", that doesn't mean it's ok to assume that everything really is fine.
    – A E
    Mar 26, 2015 at 9:41
  • 2
    Still, telling her you thought his behavior was out of line and asking whether she was okay might give her an exteral viewpoint that she is being treated badly, and getting enough such feedback might in time have an effect, so while it might not be immediate help, it certainly wouldn't hurt, would it? Jun 22, 2017 at 6:25

Yarbro, us random internet people with no personal knowledge of the situation, we're not the best people to make that judgement, I'm afraid.

You're actually there on the scene and - from what you've written in your post - you clearly think that the situation is borderline-abusive / possibly-abusive. And you're worried - rightly IMO - that if that's what goes on in public, then what goes on in private?

So the good news - sort of - is that you don't really have to make that determination. The right thing to do - on the basis of your own assessment that you think there might be abuse taking place, even though you're not sure - is to refer it to an appropriate professional for them, rather than you, to make the judgement about whether abuse is actually occurring.

You should definitely not wait until you're certain until making that report. Certainty does not usually arise in these cases until much later.

Here's what one child protection organisation, the UK's NSPCC, says:

The action to take if abuse is suspected

If you ever notice any behaviour that makes you suspect a child is being abused, discuss it with a trained child protection professional.

This is especially important given the impact that not being believed could have on a child who's probably found it really difficult to tell you what's been happening. By not reporting your concerns it could also mean that the abuse will continue.

An assessment by professionals used to dealing with cases of suspected abuse will be the best way forward, even if the child has not directly revealed that something is wrong or if there's any other uncertainty on your part.

The NSPCC helpline is open 24 hours a day on 0808 800 5000 and our trained counsellors will be able to take your call and offer advice and support.

What to do if you suspect abuse; Your guide to keeping children safe, National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, 2015

"I don't want to start my trouble with everyone, including family members of my own"

If your concern is that you don't want the rest of the family to be angry with you, then make an anonymous report and don't tell anyone that it was you.

If you're concerned that false accusations might be painful for the adult involved, then, well, you're right that they might, but ultimately if the adult is doing nothing wrong then the authorities won't take any action against them.

You need to balance up the possibility of reporting it if it turns out to be nothing (consequence: temporary embarrassment for the adult) versus the consequences of not reporting it if it turns out that it is abuse (more abuse for the child, with lifelong consequences, and many more years until she can get help for abuse already suffered).

Remember that the child is also a part of your extended family. Personally I feel that any adult owes a duty of protection to any child - but if what you're thinking is that you owe a duty to the adults in the family to not raise false suspicions, you should balance that up with the duty of protection that you owe to the child.

Yarbro: If 'the daughter' is actually you, then call the child protection authorities in your area. Do it anonymously if you like - you can pretend to be an adult witness just like in your question above. Tell us where you are and we'll tell you the number to call.

  • 2
    Overall a valuable answer (+1), but realistically there are more serious potential consequences to reporting than just "temporary embarrassment for the adult", and it should not be done lightly. Taking action against an abuser can result in retaliation either against the victim or the reporter, if they are known. While it is everyone's duty to report suspected abuse, it's misleading to suggest there are no real consequences to doing so. Jan 3, 2018 at 17:11
  • 1
    Keep in mind that even if abuse is happening, the daughter might not admit it if her father is confronted. Abuse by someone close, especially someone you depend on (like a caregiver), can result in betrayal blindness as an adaptive response. Jan 3, 2018 at 17:19

Often, people are quite good at understanding the difference between playful behaviour and someone feeling genuinely threatened or hurt. If you can see from her body-language that she is not enjoying herself, if you can hear from her voice that's she's actually distressed, then this is absolutely abuse.

Abuse is not about how much someone hurts you, or how much someone could hurt you, or how they act or behave. It's about how someone refuses to respect boundaries, acts against someone's will and does not respond to clear signals that their behaviour is not welcome.

However, acting on seeing abuse is not easy. A lot of people don't like to start trouble in such a situation, because they are scared or because they fear they'll only make things worse. This is unfortunate, because not acting will also make things worse for those involved. In the end; abuse will not stop unless something interferes with it.

Personally, I think you owe it to the teenage girl to at the least warn someone about what is happening, but also to yourself. You are clearly troubled by this situation, and if you do not act on it at all, you'll only remain stuck with the feeling that you should have acted on this.

It's much better to live with the minor embarassement of bringing this to someone's attention and then realising it was just a game between them than it is to live with the doubt that you could have done something and didn't. Especially if you one day find out it really was abuse, because that news usually comes in a very ugly package.


The difference is consent. If you don't think the girl is consenting, she likely isn't.

It can be emotionally abusive even if there are no bruises.


I think you should maybe ask the girl how she feels about it. Depending on her answer, you can see what to do with CPS. If you are the girl then maybe find an adult you trust to tell about everything. If you truly feel that this is abuse rather than roughhousing then feel free to do what you need to do to report abuse. Make sure you ask the girl first, she might not enjoy it but she might also not see it as abuse. Unless you are the girl. In that case do what you think is best.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .