Abused kids can’t really sue their parents

I recently searched online for the question of how an adult abuse survivor might go about suing his or her abusive parent. The results I got astounded me, but they shouldn’t have. I know my country wants parents abusing its kids. It makes this clear so many ways. This is just one more.

First, the cultural. Most of the search results lead to other people asking my question. The responses they get range from “You’d be much better off just getting therapy” (yes, because clearly all adult abused kids are well-to-do and can afford the extensive therapy required to get over the abuse) to “now you sit right down, you ungrateful shit, and list all the GOOD things your parent did for you, since obviously, having donated part of your zygote, this person loved you and you are an asshole” to things like this trip to the little shop of horrors, in which someone asks Yahoo: “Can i sue my parents because they hit me?”

Consider first what you did to contribute to the situation.

There is never a reason to strike another person, but, you could have very well pushed them to their limit.

Underlying all of this is the myth that every child who complains of having experienced poor parenting is obviously a spoiled shit who in fact had everything too easy and isn’t grateful for the massive self-sacrifices her zygote donor obviously made. Also underlying it is the assumption that such a suit would be revenge rather than justice. To which the abuse survivors explain that, no, they want to see the parent held accountable in some fashion. Publicly.

Another reason I can think of for suing would be to send a message to other abusive parents: you might get away with this while I’m under your control, but after that? Oh, yes, there could indeed be consequences.

The doublethink required here is extraordinary. I mean, you just know these people answering these question are all the same people who read about horrid abuse cases in the paper and think “hanging’s not good enough for those parents.” But when someone puts a face on it, when someone says “I was abused”, they go into denial. Why? Why do they automatically, unthinkingly assume the parent is the one being wronged?

It’s a bit like assuming every alleged rape is really just a case of some vicious bitch lying. Why not? We’re big on victim blaming.

Then I found some forum posters who claimed that in most states, you have until the age of 20 or 21 to sue an abusive parent. As far as I can tell, that’s generally true in the case of physical, non-sexual abuse, so if you were beaten as a child, you have until you’re a junior in college or your third year working at Burger King to hire that pricey attorney! Otherwise, the US is A-OK with what happened to you. Interestingly, sexual abuse often has a much longer statute – in some states, it’s up to the lifetime of the victim. Apparently emotionally abused kids can just go fuck themselves, since it’s very hard to document emotional abuse the way you can document wounds a doctor has seen. I realize there are other issues, like the problem of evidence, but for the law to blatantly suggest that sexual abuse is somehow worse than physical and emotional abuse is sending a very wrong message: all abuse is equally wrong in a moral sense.

Eventually, I found this forum, in which yet another person was asking the same question, but the respondents appear to be fellow abuse survivors. The questioner is 23 and can’t really function in life – agoraphobic (from the sound of it), unable to hold down a job, etc. All of this could easily be attributed to the abuse the person describes enduring. Here is my favorite response:

I have been doing a lot of research on the same topic for the past few day’s it seems to me that it is quite feasible although I would speculate that a lot of lawyers would not want to dirty their hands with such a case, there are as the other person who commented said; who see the sanctity of family as untouchable. As the threes of us, along with many others know; there is no sanctity in abuse.

Here, in a nutshell, is America’s concept of family values: we need babies, because babies become consumers who buy crap. We mustn’t allow anything to discourage people from making babies. It doesn’t matter if the babies are born addicted to something and grow up in a slum with no education, or they’re born to wealth and made to pay for it with sexual favors from an early age. It’s all good, because as long as they are eating and wearing clothes, businesses can make money off of these kids. That’s what America values.

And heaven forbid anyone check in with the adult children of the people making and supporting these laws.


  1. Cammy says

    I think parents should be responsible for the therapy, medications etc. their children need from being abused by them. That’s just part of reparations. Make them pay for it, not just forced to be publicly outed as abusers – when adults, it does the children little good, anyway.

    Another thing is the foster care system is seriously f-cked up. My mom managed to blackmail me as a child to lie and tell the social workers that she wasn’t drinking, or else I’d be taken away and would never see her again – and probably to be abused by a foster family, even worse off than before.

    Simply put, children don’t “belong” to their parents. They are not property, and they should have a say if they no longer want to be with their family or want to get help for them if they are abusive but still want to stay with them. If parents are unable or unwilling to take care of their children, there are plenty of prospective adoptive parents who are happy to care for them. Blood worship is bunk.

  2. Neil says

    Those whom survive the abuse, our nightmare remembering can be a prison or the driving force not to give up or give in just face reality we control our mindset why let the abusers effect your thoughts years later, free yourself by your own control have a happy life or wasted it reliving your past.
    I was a victim, survivor now free.
    Not easy giving up the only thing I owned the pain to much to carry made me miserly unstable throwing away the pain made life much more worth living allowed myself to know the real me instead of scared of me living free.

  3. Kiera says

    So are you all saying that there’s no way i can sue my mother for mentally abusing me?
    Even if i can record every thing?
    (By the way i’m a minor)

    • Jennifer Kesler says

      We’re saying it’s so difficult that for a lot of people, it ends up being impossible. But since you’re a minor and you’re recording everything now, try to research the laws in your state and see what else you need to do. Good luck!

  4. says

    My biological kept me a secret from everyone in his life. When I was in and out of psychiatric hospitals and too young for disability a social worker called him (assuming he had a relationship with me). They would not put me in a group home or get me disability because it was assumed that my father was responsible for me (not according to him.) I never knew about this. All I knew was I was homeless. After supporting myself on 5$ an hour and living in welfare motels for 10 years I was eligible for no grant money for school. I had lived on my own for 10 years so was supposed to have saved for college.

    My father was well off and lived down the street from Eddie Murphy. The system works this way. I never knew exactly what had gone down with all this ’til recently. I was too busy dealing with mental illness and survival. My father and his new wife didn’t want their adopted son to know about me and my sister. She went on to live in a dangerous place on welfare 2 kids and an abusive ex. My father never had an interest in meeting any grandchildren.

    I tried to do some internet research and think my father died 20 years ago. I was never told.

    Yes, people do think that bad relations with parents must be the fault of the adult child. I moved upstate to family values USA 30 years ago and know not to speak of it now – even with a therapist. I guess people’s worlds would come tumbling down if they tried to hear it (let alone understand – even “professionals” if you can afford one)

    A registry sounds good to me. There is something on facebook now for outing your deadbeat dad. I don’t know how to use facebook.

    As a result of all this I went straight into many situations where I became the scapegoat – those are always needed!

    I’ve always fought off self-destructive behavior, depression, learning disabilities. I believe those are the alternative to murder.

  5. Tony says

    To all of you out there….has anyone been abused by a narcissist mother as a scapegoat child ? and if so, as an adult now, has that pain in your heart lingered through the years into adulthood and feels as if your heart is permanently bleeding inside ? and all you wish, is for that pain to go away.

    Unfortunately. based on everything I have read so far, it seems to be ever lasting…..but you know what….I found boxing, specially boxing ( could be the sport of your liking ) to be the best channel of releasing bad energy and restore it with good energy….in other words you get high on your own endorfins…..and the best part of it is…that is 100% LEGAL.

    Take all your rage on the punching back and use that the down mood swings to practice and practice and practice….until you won´t believe how far you can go….I think not even Mike Tyson would stand a chance. FYI….Boxing has always being my passion & hobbie, and I have gone so far as to compete with various professionals and ex-champs wherever gym I go training. Not to brag, but more to reafirm that I have done it for so long as a therapy (still do @ 49), that you become extremely good at the craft.

    And that folks….is what have kept me SANE. Otherwise, I would had long been on the other side of the law. Combine that with ALOT of Faith on the LORD, wealth of information on the topic, understanding of the topic, CLOSURE of the topic, and you´ll start to FLY like an Eagle, high in the SKY and into the eternal peace of a beautiful SUNSET…..This recipe will buy you some extra and better quality years of your life…..at least it has done it for me.

    However, your journey to a better life starts when you break the chain, look at your new life as if it was STAIR WAY TO HEAVEN,,,visualize and start heading towards your NORTH STAR, become part of this WORLD by HELPING make it a BETTER place and where your mission is simply to HELP humanity….Do all this even if it requires for you to turn around and literally spit on your past sufferings.

    I´m not super religious, but one thing I am convinced, if we choose to do GOOD and be GOOD and SAVE our remainder of our lives, I guarantee you, we all see each other floating on our VIP clouds.

    THERE is NO rehearsing on this LIFE, so if they tried taking part of our lives, at least we can claim what´s left for OURSELVES.


    • Jennifer Kesler says

      You forgot about the women with narcissist mothers, didn’t you? Of course women are less likely to be overflowing with rage – they tend to become extremely depressed and internalize the sense that they are always wrong and always to blame. Don’t think boxing’s likely to help them, and quite sure The Lord is not much use since His very first scapegoat was Eve and nothing in the Bible suggests His attitude toward women ever improved.

      Glad you found something that worked for you, but it worked for you because you’re a man and Christianity and sports were both designed for men, by men.

  6. Chloe says

    I have my JD and am a practicing Mediator. I am also the adult survivor of child abuse. I will never forget the first time I saw the movie Sybill. I remember understanding how terrified that little girl was of her mother. I wonder sometimes how I was able to survive the constant emotional abuse, the physical beating and isolation ( I was an only child) my mother hated me because she wanted a son but because she had severe complications during her pregnancy she couldn’t have any other children. Basically she hated me because I was a girl and she felt I denied her the son she should have had.
    Living in a home with an abusive mother and passive father was akin to living in Hell. As a young teen I suffered from anxiety and depression. At 18 I had a heart attack and required open heart surgery. To this date I suffer from high blood pressure and ongoing cardiac issues.
    The abuse I endured in the past included but we’re not limited to psychological, emotional, physical and sexual abuse. While I believe as adults we must find ways to overcome the trauma of our abusers and therapy is a great start, legal recourse is an option. Intentional Infliction of emotional distress , assault, defamation of character, sexual abuse all may be options. Negligent infliction of emotional distress etc. It’s about time abusive parents ate held accountable. People should not be discouraged from seeking legal recourse. I for one have decided to seek legal recourse against my abusers. Perhaps if more adult survivor’s took action it may deter abusive parents. Either way abusive parents should be held liable both criminally and civilly. Don’t be afraid to stand up and take action it’s your legal right!

  7. Garron says

    In some states their laws still state that you can charge a perpetrator of criminal child abuse indefinite. Though, some states have a statute of limitations on that crime. There are catch 22’s throughout civil laws because of the statute of limitations which, was originally intended for timeliness of court proceedings and not laid upon victims. This , I think, is where a group could get together and push legislature to amend the laws in regards to child abuse. Also, the evidence of child abuse is often “lost”, purposely hidden or destroyed after certain “time limitations” of archive. Another point to push. That social services, police, hospitals, schools, dentists, etc… maintain records for the life of the victim instead of say, five -ten years.

    By the time an abused child reaches adulthood and finds their way through the dis-association created from the horrors of abuse it may be 20, 30, 50 or even 60 years down the road. Finding evidence after such lengthy periods is next to impossible not to mention that some records have been found to be falsified for other reasons. An example is school districts changing grades and throwing out teachers notes for annual budget gains or external grants.

    Then there are the actual actors whom you know they knew yet, they turn a blind eye. Maybe a family member or someone from an institution ie.. church, school etc..Getting one of them to admit they “perceived” you were abused is next to impossible. Especially if one or both the parents have attained communication skills and maintained there acquaintance with the actor.

    All things said, unless you have physical bodily damage that you can prove was committed by your abuser, today’s legal community doesn’t have a leg to stand on. Hence, the attitude of lawyers not wanting to take your case. Not that you can afford a lawyer. As far as mental abuse, again there must be a witness that is willing to testify on your behalf.

    I have been to the schools, doctors, dentists, lawyers, police stations, fire stations etc.. trying to gather evidence. In 90% of the locations the records are missing. I was able to attain school records but they do not match in time frame or the grades I remember getting. One record I found but did not realize it till two months later, I went back to get a copy and the book had already “magically” disappeared. As did some newspaper clippings.

    The stage is set against the victim in America, unless the case will become a “High Value” case it is highly unlikely allowed to attain the evidentiary materials needed to make the case. From what I have gathered about the changes in laws, since the fifties they have shaved and squashed the victims entitlements down to nill. The underlying cause to this is the cultural shift to the “Prison Society” where Americans are so feared to snitch or provide evidence under the possibility retaliation that the criminals get away with their crimes and victims suffer needlessly without ever attaining justice. Of course this is the hopelessness U.S. prisons are hoping for because many of the people who are victims of child abuse end up in prisons because they become so frustrated with the system they end up acting out against it and landing in jail.

    So…. That’s my theory on how perpetrators can abuse you into submission through a life time of fear pushing you into a dis-associative state so that when you bear fruition with your situation and nobody helps, your hopelessness leads you into acting out landing you in jail which makes money off of you every hours your are in their custody. The “Prison Society”

    It’s too bad they won’t release the Menendez brothers interrogation interviews. It is quite possible they were neck deep in mental abuse and decided it was better to lie and live life large as long as they could get away with it. Or, perhaps they were coerced to make a stand that “money” was their motive to kill both parents. They got life in prison and are still there.

    There are few cases that actually get through court on child abuse. Most are mediated unless there is hard evidence, and for a child to be smart enough to attain such evidence relies on public knowledge because a parent surely won’t teach them. With cameras on phones and computers it is clear that these abuses are happening what with the evidence on youtube. Children of the past did not have these luxuries though and are destined to bear the pains of being the victim. Even if it wasn’t their fault, the victims of child abuse mostly only want the revelation of the crime and the abusers confirmation of it. But, then the abuser would have to live the rest of their lives living in their shame, not to mention having to look over their shoulder everywhere they go.

    By reading this you can tell I have put a lot of time and effort in discovery and analysis of this totally screwed up system that is deteriorating Americas society. The Nazi idealists brought this with them at the end of world war two possibly as a subversive means to bring America where it is today, Screwed Up! Check the facts, the prison institution took off in the fifties, social engineering programs began in the fifties, laws were dumbed down and filled with double negatives throughout the late forties and fifties. The combination of all these social changes for the benefit of Nazi capitalists is so sickening people refuse to recognize its existence.

    So, abusers who are stupid “may” get caught, abusers who are smart enough to cover their tracks and fill their victims with fear will easily “get away with it” But in the end our society as a whole suffers because the victims are less likely, in the long run, to report crimes because theirs was not found out or acknowledged. It’s called “enablement” It had been reported that most abused children do not commit the same abuse they were subjected to. But some do and that puts another stigma on those victims who wish to speak out. Self identifying oneself as an abused child automatically places one on the “informal social watch-list” As if living with the abuse and dealing with the mental aggravations of hopelessness and everybody turning a blind eye is not enough. Now you have gang stalkers watching your every move occasionally testing your diligence. What fun it is.

    Ok, said enough and got some things off my chest. Thank You Moderator if this gets posted. A word to all who care. It was not your fault. Just remember that all the people who were not abused have absolutely no clue as to what you experienced and therefore you should not blame them for their ineptitude. You do have that experience, which, in a dark sense, makes you more knowledgeable of the facts. Educate yourselves on the psychological dynamics of your abuse so you’re technical discussions don’t let the haters hate.

    God Bless

    • Jennifer Kesler says

      Thank you for this extremely informative and well-analyzed post. I had never thought to connect this to the “prison industrial system”, but it makes a lot of sense (in addition to all your other points).

  8. Garron says

    Hey Jennifer, I am glad you have maintained this site. It brings information and ideas to those in need.

    Your post on Dec 30? Was that directed at Tony? Is Tony a man or woman? I know a few ladies who have taken up boxing and enjoy it as much as Tony (she/he) seems to. Just getting out to exercise helps shuck off the depression.

    As for the bible comment, I understand you primarily want this site to be about underprivileged women, and I agree it is a serious issue. Belittling another’s faith seems a bit much. I look at the bible as a work of fiction with some really great stories, especially about Jesus. The social gender separation back in those days must have been as difficult as it is today. The contention on gender issues will always be an issue so long as there are two sides. It is inevitable. My belief in equal rights for all humans won’t cool the argument. I also believe that each individual has there own choice as to where they wish to stand within society. Many women I’ve spoke with would rather spend more time at home with the children and household than at work. But mostly these are women who are working and have kids in daycare with husbands working so they can both afford the house payments etc.. SO, are these women under privileged because they have to work?

    Just asking. Oh, the god I believe in is called “energy” we are all made from it, we all contain it, it is everything in and around us. Without it there would be nothing. But the teachings of Christ are the best guide towards peaceful and harmonious living I have yet to find. This is what I focus on.

    To give, not take, is a rule most often ignored.

    • Jennifer Kesler says

      First, the site is not primarily about underprivileged women, it’s just being moderated by one who’s been well-trained by life to recognize when a member of a privileged group is ostensibly speaking to everyone, but really just talking to his “own kind.” And you are incorrect that gender issues are inevitable because there are two genders. Gender issues have been socially engineered, and the Bible is a big, big part of that. The Catholic church is a huge part of it. Rape culture, which is also socially engineered by rapists, is a huge part of it. Your assessment of women’s roles in the second paragraph shows a distinct lack of knowledge about feminism. You’re reducing it to soundbytes you’ve come across (working women vs. stay at home moms) because you don’t realize it’s a huge, varied field that you haven’t studied.

      Onto specifics, Tony was talking about narcissism, and as someone who knows quite a lot about NPD (look it up if you’re unfamiliar), Tony’s description of having a narcissistic mother was purely a son’s experience. Women (because of socially engineered gender roles) do not tend to lash out with all that anger. We don’t get so upset that we hold up liquor stores. We internalize it as depression instead. Yes, I’ve known multiple sons and daughters of narcissist mothers (and fathers). The boys get angry, and tend to become self-destructive or lash out at women through rape or violence. The girls get depressed and tend to think little of themselves or become extremely manipulative and mentally abusive because it’s the model of “woman getting what she wants” that they grew up with.

      Boxing would be the last thing most daughters of NPD mothers would need. And the Bible was very obviously written by men who thought only of men: perhaps the best example is that rape was a property crime committed against the man who owned the women who’d been raped, not a crime against the woman. The crime of rape could be solved by making the perp pay to marry his victim, which would have been pretty awful for the victim, but who cares? Women were like livestock to men, not fellow human beings.

      Further, many Bible followers refuse to yield to psychology. Preachers are still advising women to stick with their abusers, or telling them flat out the abuse is their fault for not praying to Jesus hard enough to change the abuser. Preachers are still teaching that anyone can reform completely, but psychology knows that’s not true; for example, if you don’t develop empathy during your formative years, you can’t develop it later.

      I could go on for hours, but I think I’ve proven my point.

  9. Christine says

    I came across this site unexpectedly. I don’t plan on getting justice, justice will be served through God or the next life. And if anything, it has already been justified because my Dad was abused too, that’s why he abused me, so he went through what he put me through and didn’t realize that he was putting me through it because his pre-frontal cortex has been damaged by physiological abuse during the brains development.
    I don’t blame my Dad for what he has done emotionally and physiologically to me because he is that way because someone abused him and his brain didn’t develop correctly. I bet in my family it goes way far back and there’s a bunch of abusers that have been abused. When I realized that he is abusive because he was abused while developing is when I began to forgive him. And the forgiveness is for myself- it is freeing to forgive someone instead of holding on to the anger. Buddha said : ‘Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.’ So in this case holding on to what a parent has done can make you continually upset, but if you try to forgive through understanding then you’ll find that the forgiveness gave you freedom. Forgiveness does not mean you have to be in contact with the one you forgave. Forgiveness means that you stop being angry with someone and you stop resenting them for what they did. If you don’t forgive – that’s not going to hurt the other person- its going to hurt yourself because your the one being resentful and angry producing negative energy for yourself to experience. If you are angry- feel the anger and observe its relationship with you- do you engage in angry thoughts that come up – one thought can spark more thoughts and continuing to think about those thoughts is engaging in them. It’s better to accept that you are angry and feel it, also to observe your relationship with your thoughts by asking questions like “when an angry thought comes do I keep obsessing over it?” I don’t know how to fully explain this but basically don’t suppress anger but don’t engage in it either. I’m reading Full Catastrophe Living by Jon Kabat-Zinn and I recommend it to everyone especially those who have been abused. It’s not about abuse, it’s a meditation book that teaches how not to regret the past and not to worry about the future and teaches you techniques to staying in the present moment. And it also explains how our thoughts can get so unhealthy that is affects how we function physically. So it talks about how important being in the present moment is and once you practice these techniques you will find a whole new awareness.

    • Jennifer Kesler says

      While it does make it easier to understand when you know your abuser’s history as a victim himself, it should be noted that they are NOT compelled to abuse. They choose it, and they can equally choose not to. This is why courts don’t allow personality disorders as “insanity pleas”. Adult abuse victims are responsible – morally, legally and ethically – for choosing to continue to abuse.

      Your advice about forgiveness is fine if it works for you, but for most victims it’s the wrong advice, psychologically. What is instead needed is for them to get away from the abuser, work through the anger in a safe space (like a trusted therapist) and learn to control the anger rather than be controlled by it. Once this process is complete, you start to view the abuser clinically, like a rabid dog or a poisonous spider. You no longer feel it all so “personally”, and you have a better understanding of how to fend off the mental or emotional abuse should you ever encounter the abuser again.

  10. Christine says

    My response is never showing. I’ve posted it like 4 times and it said duplicate but it’s not there yet that little sentence I just wrote worked.

  11. Christine says

    Okay well it’s only letting me post one sentence so until it lets me actually respond I just want to say that forgiveness does not mean keep the abuser in your life, and you are correct, I was just talking about how important forgiveness is for one’s health- it is healthy to forgive others and unhealthy to hold onto the anger, what I wrote does not mean stay with the abuser – and thank you for describing how unhealthy it is to keep the abuser in your life.

  12. Christine says

    i give up . I dont know why it wont let me post what my response is – my full response- ill just say you are correct and i dont want ppl to forgive and stay with abusers. They need to leave the abuser and leave the anger through forgiveness. After we heal a physical wound we don’t re-injure it so we should keep the abuser in our life – that’s just re- injuring emotional wounds if we have healed, if we haven’t then its like putting more pain on the already existing wound. I like the way you emphasized why we need to stay away and how you described how toxic abusers are. Thank U

  13. Christine says

    * so WHY should we keep the abuser in our life … that sentence was missing the word “WHY” – keeping am abuser in your life is like continually emotionally wounding yourself.

  14. Christine says

    *Keeping an abuser in your life IS continually emotionally wounding yourself – not “like” continually emotionally wounding yourself- it IS

  15. George says

    I totally agree with Christine’s original comment. I would have used the word ‘understand’ in place of ‘forgive’, but the sentiment is dead on either way. You don’t allow the abuser back in your life. Full stop. Period. However, the more insight you have on their motivation, the easier it is to process all your rage and helplessness. At least for me. One of my abusers (father) had been similarly abused by his mother and he was simply repeating the pattern he had learned. I agree with Jennifer that he had a choice to do or not do so, but it is easier for me to make the right choices in my own life with my own children the more I scrutinize the pattern. Recently the jerk has been trying to shove his way back into my life, and I am highly distressed by this, but it is just a little easier to simply fail to respond to his aggression because I know where the evil old man is coming from.

    • Jennifer Kesler says

      I agree with all that, George. I’ve just heard “forgive” so often used to mean you should keep family in your life no matter how they treat you, and I talk to a lot of survivors who feel very guilty about cutting off contact because they’re surrounded by people who refuse to believe that some people just enjoy hurting others, and won’t stop hurting others, and it’s not a mistake, it’s deliberate. Also, abusers are great at convincing everyone they’re sorry when they’re not.

      Good luck dealing with your current situation. I’ve seen them, upon realizing their kids can just ignore them now, launch a big nasty family lawsuit just to force you to be in the same room with them. I’ve been talking to survivors, and it looks like abusers who are cut out of their kids lives tend to do this at some point in the kid’s adulthood.

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