Resources for Children of Abusers
This is just a jumping-off point to help you find what you need. It's not a hundredth of what's out there for adult children of abusers. Most sites have in-depth lists of resources, so if you find a site you like, check out their resources page.
Trigger warning: All of these sites discuss physical, emotional, verbal, and sometimes sexual abuse.
Out of the FOG is THE place to learn about personality disorders. FOG stands for Fear, Obligation, and Guilt, the three things that keep people trapped in relationships with toxic people.
If you think your parent may be a narcissist, read The Harpy's Child: Characteristics of Narcissistic Mothers.
Out of the FOG Forum focuses on dealing with people with personality disorders. I'm new to it, so I don't have a firm grasp on the forum culture, but it seems to be a quiet, calm forum with a preference for analytic thinking and a firm grounding in medical and psychiatric thought.
Mothers-in-Law Anonymous is a multigenerational board where people discuss difficulties with both their in-laws and their own families. It's a good place to both get advice and see what the other side thinks. The forum culture is supportive, but the members aren't afraid to ask questions and call people out when they're in the wrong. Please be aware that a small proportion of the older members fit the same profile as members of the estranged parents' communities.
DWIL Nation is another board that started as an in-law board and turned into a forum for dealing with toxic family members of all types. It's younger and more Internet-savvy than the other two boards. It's also louder, faster, fouler-mouthed, and outright funnier. DWIL Nation is an advice board, not a support board, so when people post just to complain about their situations, the members attack them like a vast, unfed swarm of feral piranhas who really want them to get better. The board's advice is to move swiftly and decisively, look several steps ahead, and be fearless about cutting off toxic relatives, divorcing abusive spouses, and leaping into the unknown. And their ability to predict what disordered people will do next is uncanny.
I'm hesitant to recommend this board wholeheartedly because:
- Their focus on fast action, short timelines, and worst-case scenarios means they can push people to move faster than they want to. Some of their advice can also escalate the situation. Annnnd they tend to read too much into casual comments. The first two issues are offset by other members who jump in to point out the dangers and rein other members in. The last issue, not so much. So get a feel for the board before you take any advice.
- The fast-moving, dramatic threads tend to be trolls. It can be hard to spot the signs until you're familiar with the board, and even then some of the experienced members have failed to spot trolls so blatant that they did everything but say they lived under a bridge and ate billy goats. If you're reading the forum to learn from the other members' examples, avoid the big, flashy threads with lots of outlandish happenings.
But as you can see, I'm not hesitant enough to leave them off the list altogether. Read with caution.
RaisedByNarcissists is the center of a network of Reddit forums about dealing with narcissistic parents. (See the sidebar for the rest of the forums.) Excellent insight, excellent resources. Please be aware that this is one of the few adult children's forums that members of estranged parents' forums know how to find. Be very circumspect with your personal information and take extra care to mask details, since estranged parents have found their children's postings here before.
Toxic Parents, by Susan Forward, is one of the best introductions to identifying, handling, and recovering from toxic parents.
Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life, by Henry Cloud and John Townsend, is a guide to what boundaries are, why they're necessary, and how to set and enforce them in a loving way. The book is written from a Christian perspective, but readers say it's useful even to people from outside that perspective.
Why Does He Do That?: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men is by Lundy Bancroft, who runs a treatment program for male domestic abusers. He says right up front that very few abusers ever change, and then explains abusers' belief system so well that at the end you think: He's right. He's not going to change. This book is essential for people with abusive fathers, as well as women who find themselves drawn to abusive partners. I wish it was assigned reading in high school.
The book focuses on male-on-female abuse, and its shortcoming is that Bancroft's take on female-on-male and same-sex abuse is... weird. He doesn't have much insight into female abusers' tactics and flounders when both partners are the same sex. I advise that you ignore what he has to say about female abusers and same-sex couples, and focus on his spot-on descriptions of male-on-female abusers.
Toxic Parents and Boundaries are among the most commonly recommended books, and Why Does He Do That? is my personal favorite. There are dozens of other books in the "must-read" category alone. For a list of more of the best books, take a look at the recommendations in the DWIL Nation forum's sticky.
The analyses on this page are my own opinions and should not be construed as medical advice or statements of absolute fact.