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. Pamela says

    I’m sorry i’m wrong the Medical Conciliation Panel is only if you’re suing a Doc for Malpractise.
    So no, you would not have to go through it if you were to sue your parents for mental health issues resulting from child abuse….You would only need solid evidence and a good attorney.

  2. Monte says

    Canada’s similar to the USA then. Even some the world’s most advanced democratic legal systems in the free world during this era in which we live, are not set up to protect or deal with children (of any age) born to and reared by Emotionally unfit parents and who, in the process have suffered lifelong Emotional/Psychological injuries from that prolonged exposure to such birth parents (which amounts to fucking psyche torture) are behind the times. Slow Political/Legal Change maintains the failing status quo.

    I’ve spent the last year in what I can only best describe as ‘Self Psycho Therapy.’ I’m still putting myself through this, for final self-resolution. [Such a thing is very difficult to do, and in the start, I didn’t even know I was doin’ it.] Emotionally unfit parents create dysfunctional birth families. If I can survive the process, I should document this self-preservation method I’ve come away with many conclusions that I’m sure apply to others. If someone were to now ask me today to define ‘Birth Family Implosion,’ do you know I could easily write an eye opening, easy reading Thesis on the topic? I’ve coined the term ‘Birth Family Implosion’ to distinguish and announce the real existence of Dysfunctional Birth Families that have managed to appear normal to the outside world for all intents and purposes, by cloaking it well.

    But, if you look deeper past the thin exterior, like a facade, the true dysfunction is lurking very close by. When the victim confronts ALL their closest relatives one-on one to force the truth to come out (in your own mind). You’ll never get the full truth, and consider yourself lucky if anyone ever offers a mere apology from the process, but you can get an abstract form of closure (like holding metaphorical funerals for the relationships that will need to be severed in the process). Perpetrators are being protected by one of three types 1/.Those in denial. Call them Blind loyalists. 2/. The ignorant/apathetic 3/. Those that have a ‘VESTED INTEREST to maintain the status quo’. Let call this type ‘The Paid Off’

    What is ‘Closure?’ I haven’t found it yet (but do not ever plan to bottle up my birth family pain ever again). Self Psycho-Therapy, or implementing such theoretical practices, takes day to day effort to find inner peace & in the face of ultimate lifelong psychological trauma stemming from many varied forms of Child Abuse (Emotional/Psychological, Physical, Sexual). The reality is that Canadian (& apparently American) law is WAY behind the times, and is cold and heartless in it’s own undefined ignorance. Afflictors/perpetrators rely on apathetic socially ignorant attitudes to get away with their actions.

  3. George M says

    Another year another drug.

    Recent escalating severe episodes caused me to go back to the shrinks once again to find a pill to help push the pain away. This time it was Nardil. Nardil is a member of the MAOI class of antidepressants. It helped push back the pain but it also shut down my libido 100%. MAOI’s used to be very popular before SSRI’s came out, but because they can induce high blood pressure in combination with cheese, they are usually a last-resort med.

    I needed a last resort med because SSRI’s trigger nasty weight gain for me. Being obese and stoned was not my idea of a good time.

    And I am lucky. My brother is permanently highly medicated for paranoid schizophrenia. He can’t hold down a job because even on heavy doses of anti-psychotic meds, he still periodically convinces himself he is a combination of Jesus and Philip of Macedonia.

    There is no history of schizophrenia in our family. His case was 100% induced by the child abuse we were both subjected to. With a mix of serious depression and bi-polar disorder, with a hefty dose of ADD thrown in, I consider myself well off. The reason I am so fortunate is because I am four years older and was slightly better suited to withstand the abuse that started when we were young children.

    The statute of limitations in New York State is 21 for child abuse, and as I am 46 now, this is long expired. Also 25 years ago this would have been laughed out of court anyways.

    So we can’t sue. Yet.

    What we might be able to do is band together and create a blacklist of the bastards that did this to us. If it becomes well known enough, people will examine it regularly as part of background checks. It could impact their credit scores, whether or not they get hired or tenure decisions.

    My stepfather, for example, is one nasty shit. He was one of the most cruel individuals I knew as a small boy growing up. To demonstrate what he would do to us if we stepped out of line, he would pick up furniture and smash it into splinters in front of us.

    Now here is the irony! This human colo-rectal biopsy is a CHILD PSYCHOLOGIST at a college famous for writing papers about parenting techniques. Let’s put this guy’s name on an abuser list and see who attends his lectures. What was the icing on the cake, he threw a tantrum at my biological father recently where Stepdad threatened to murder Dad, and left it on voicemail! So if he sees this and threatens to have it pulled, I can send a copy of the VM to his employers.

    And this is what really takes the cake. Of the four parents I was gifted with (2 biological, 2 step) he was actually the least harmful. When I have the stomache for it I will detail the really bad stuff.

    Thank you moderator for giving us a place to share.

    And what do you folks think? A national registry where we can list the abuser’s names?

    George M

  4. Jennifer Kesler says

    George M,

    I love the idea of a registry, but of course everyone involved would get sued for defamation. I think what’s really needed on this issue is a non-profit group that has the resources to find a good strategy. I.E., should we create a registry, knowing we’ll get sued, but make it happen in a way that it goes to the Supreme Court and gets a favorable ruling? Or should we push for legislation first?

    It’s a big, big problem that no one individual or small group thereof can correct. Some laws and some cultural values need changing.

  5. Scott says

    Interesting question i have asked many lawyer friends who didnt know the answer,,including a judge. One would think a victum of an assault no matter the perpetraitor( stranger or guardian) would be punishable,, we know a stranger can be made to pay monitary damages,, why not a parent? Anyone but your parents it seems is a no brainer,,,yes they can be made to pay and rightly so.. So why in the situation where it is blatant and doccumentable cant a parent, ,Isnt it a HUMAN right to be protected from harm no matter where the threat comes from? Why shouldnt the parent be made to pay for the therapy at least and financial support while the victim can be helped,, I realize that this type of thinking (justice) could cause major clogs in the justice channels with varying degrees of neglect and abuse buy why should a parent be able to keep thier finances (if any) while the victim suffers psycologicaly and with the inability to survive and support themselves. In other words the perpetrator goeson with thier lives and may have the financial ability while the victim suffers, The perpetrator should be responsible for the damages no matter the cost. Just because the system fears that winning asuit would cause shock waves and a flood of lawsuits doesnt make it ok to deny the right.. Its a HUMAN right as important as any to be protected equaly from and threat of harm , Even if the parents have nomoney they should be court ordered to pay restitution. Human rights are for all and all circumstances as long as they can be proven,, Surprised there hasnt been a high court ruling..This is not only for children,,
    I dont see how a parent can assault you as an adult and not be made accountable criminally and civily. made to pay pain and suffering damages…Will check with case law,,, anyone with the answer or knowing of a case,, let me know

  6. angry millenial says

    have reported my entire birth family to social services at some point.
    I encourage anyone who has encountered any sort of abuse to continue to do so. say it. say that it happened. they may not believe you, but at least you have not remained silent.

  7. Angie says

    I too went through horrendous abuse was a ward of the state lived in psych hospitals as a youth plus my bio parents abandoned me at age nine and mother and father still married and receive a whopping 3 grand of veterans disability benefits of which I don’t feel it’s right i had to endure physical abuse neglect and abandonment then the government supports them while I now relinquish my own benefits and bust my hump working as the outcome

  8. says

    My mother at age 7 wrapped her hands around my neck, shacking me, yelling how she could strangle me; using my hair, repeatadly flung my head into the hard wood floor ( which left a bump) and attacked me with a vacuum cleaner wand, then proceeded to write 4 letter word’s all over me in Ted lipstick.She traumatized me but phasing ME around THE house waving a fly swatter…she got away with it all..she neglected me and deliberately trashed my bedroom then sent me to sit in it and clean it up. When I was 20 she finally told me that she went crasy when I was born because my father screwed her over.I still suffer from post trauma syndrome disorder…these are only a few highlights.

  9. George says

    my physically, mentally, socially and intellectually abusive parents died in pieces, both became amputees one bled inside to death and the other perished from blood poisoning. There was incest , child slavery, maternal abandonment, educational deprivation, torture and hanging done by them collectively my mother the prima donna empowering my father marque desade.

  10. Vivian says

    Thank you for this article; it expresses my sentiments EXACTLY. The rights of children are long overdue and horrifically lagging behind other demographics. Somehow, society seems to think that abusive parents — by virtue of having “donated their zygotes” — should be excused. I call this the “abuser-apologist” sentiment, similar to how rape-apologists blame the victim for the actions of the criminal perpetrator. No doubt this kind of thinking is a crock of inane bullsh*t. It’s absolutely disgusting.

    To the people who claim that we should “honor our (biological) parents” no matter how abusive they are, I ask you to reflect on this hypothetical scenario: Imagine a mentally-unstable couple produces children for the sole purpose of torturing, and possibly murdering, them. This couple gets a sort of twisted satisfaction torturing living creatures and making them suffer, and their own biological children are no exception. These parents deprive their children of food to the brink of starvation, and physically and emotionally abuse them at every opportunity.
    By the erroneous logic of ‘abuser-apologists’, they would have to defend these sick parents and state that they indeed have every right to harm the children they produce — solely in virtue of them being in the category of “parents” by having donated their zygotes.

    Now, is this rational? It most certainly ISN’T. We have moral OBLIGATIONS towards other human beings, including our own biological children. Surely you cannot just “do whatever you like” to another human being just because “they’re your kid” — you have exactly the same obligations towards your kids as you do toward any other person. I do wonder why such a commonsensical ethical axiom is so difficult for society to accept.

    All of these idiotic excuses (e.g. “Just attend therapy” or “Be glad your parents even created you”) are frightening — they serve no other purpose than to excuse the criminally-abusive parents for their abominable actions. The first excuse (“Just attend therapy”), for example, merely focuses on the aftermath of the crime (child abuse) — only the actions of the victim is examined and referred to, while the criminal abusers are spared any mention (they are “invisibilized” and thus their actions are excused and accepted as ‘normal’ and inevitable). The fallacies of the second excuse (“Be glad that your parents even created you”) are addressed in the paragraph above: we have obligations towards all humans, including our “own” children (specifically, the law requires that parents provide their children with adequate food, shelter, safety from harm, and other necessities of life — and any significant failure to provide such constitutes a crime).

    The fact that society — even in this so-called “enlightened” day and age — still condones child abuse is my driving motive for wanting to establish a career as lawyer defending the actions of battered children who assault or kill their abusive parents, or who wish to retroactively sue their abusive parents for the harm (lasting physical and/or psychological scars) dealt to them. It is high time human beings under the age of “legal adulthood” get extended the same legal protections as any other demographic.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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)

  14. 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!

  15. 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.

  16. 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.


  17. 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.

  18. 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!

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