Help me preserve my sanity long enough to escape my parents' household.
August 13, 2012 2:14 PM   Subscribe

I'm a recent unemployed graduate who's stuck in an abusive household. Please help me develop a wellness strategy.

This is a long explanation, and I'm so sorry, but I wanted to clearly map out what I'm dealing with.

I had to move back into my parents' house in the NY metropolitan area after a mandatory expense drained me of all my savings. I didn't think that I would be at home for very long, which is why I tried to focus on small projects and interviews. It's now August and although I am in the final interviewing phase for an ideal employer, there is a very strong chance I won't get the position. I send out about 20+ applications a week, each with a customized cover letter, but I've received almost all rejections. With HUGE bills looming overhead, this has stressed me out and I'm now having trouble sleeping.

I also happen to be in a very troubled household. Like all throughout my childhood, being at home means sublimating all negative emotions (showing anger even on the facial level will leave me with physical marks), being repeatedly gaslit, etc. My personal information, such as my depression and my assault, is frequently used against me and disclosed to other family members. My parents are also abusive towards each other in similar ways.

To give an example of what I'm talking about: yesterday, I was shaken awake and kicked out of the basement at 6 AM. My mother hates using the AC, but I have trouble sleeping in humid air and sought relief downstairs. She freaked out and, after seeing my Zune charging in a nearby outlet, destroyed the thing by slamming it onto the ground. While I've mastered my poker face, I was accused of being disrespectful and faced bodily harm. When I started to cry (I know, childish reaction, but I was frustrated), she shook me again, saying that even my father would not be able to save me if I said anything further.

I am trying as hard as I can to stop myself from feeling small, or reverting back to the childhood version of myself. But my eating disorder, insomnia, and anxiety attacks are back in full swing. My parents think that I'm bullshitting, and so aren't willing to take me to a doctor or therapist. I cannot afford it myself, nor can I drive myself to a clinic because I don't have a car or license (long story).

It's not so bad that I'm unable to leave the house (although I'm not allowed to have a key): my amazing friends frequently help me get out of the house during the day, and sometimes I sleep over if things are particularly bad at home. Nevertheless, it's becoming increasingly difficult to keep myself together. My questions:

1) What are some good ways to keep myself from cracking, even though I have zero access to medical care?

2) Are there any tips and tricks for quickly ending my unemployment? I've graduated from a top-tier university, have solid work references, was extensively involved with student organizations in college, and speak fluent Spanish. None of these things particularly work in my favor, as there are millions of other graduates who have similar if not better resumes. Although I've been aiming for jobs that make use of my most marketable skills, I'm desperate for work. Retail and fast food chains won't touch me, and one restaurant flat-out refused to interview me because "they knew I'd leave." I am not within walking distance of industrial work.

3) Are there any safe work-from-home websites I can use, that don't involve some sort of monetary investment in terms of fees or equipment? If I can get ANY sort of income trickling in, it will hasten my ability to get out.

Thank you so much.
posted by Ashen to Human Relations (67 answers total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
Dumb down your resume and get a job within walking distance of your house or a transport line. Register at a temp agency.

Get out of the house regularly. Get two jobs one office gig (I mean, mail room, customer service, anything) the other a fun gig, bartending, cocktail waitressing, if you've got the body for it, stripping. (Looking back I SO wish I had looked into stripping when I was in college. Then again, maybe not.)

Are you still on your parent's medical insurance? If you are, you have access, you just have to negotiate it yourself.

If you're not, go down and register for benefits with the state. Get on food stamps and welfare if you have to.

Even if you're the night barrista at Starbucks, you'll get the self-esteem that you get from working, you'll be in a calm environment, and you'll make friends with whom you might share a cheap rental until your dream job comes through.

You are in a shitty situation, but you are not hopeless.

If push comes to shove, enroll in some bullshit educational program and get a shit-load of financial aid (I'm the last one to advocate this, but it's an emergency.)

Once you're out, do whatever you have to do to STAY out. This is no way to live.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 2:25 PM on August 13, 2012 [10 favorites]

Have you considered contacting a women's shelter because this is straight-up abuse, and from what you say, it's already taking a physical and mental toll on you. Get out of there!
posted by smirkette at 2:26 PM on August 13, 2012 [53 favorites]

Group Talent

I highly recommend just leaving as soon as possible. Sell your crap. Apply for foodstamps. Whatever you need to do. But leave and do not go back.
posted by Michele in California at 2:29 PM on August 13, 2012 [10 favorites]

More than anything, you need to get out of this house permanently.

You say that you are not within walking distance of industrial work and I don't know where you are exactly, but:

I think, your best options as of right now (without a job and all) include staying at a friend's place until you find a job, getting in contact with domestic violence shelters, or searching for jobs that include room and board like a job as a live-in caregiver.

Although retail and fast food chains won't hire you, consider applying for other jobs like inbound customer service rep jobs if there are any in your area. They tend to pay a bit more than minimum wage and are also more likely to hire people with degrees compared to fast food places.
posted by livinglearning at 2:31 PM on August 13, 2012 [4 favorites]

When I started to cry (I know, childish reaction, but I was frustrated)

This is not a childish reaction when you are being physically and mentally abused.

Do whatever you can to get out ASAP. Tap all your friends and acquaintances for couchsurfing. Put together a bunch of part-time jobs as best as possible. Yes yes sign up for a temp agency, ASAP. Call your local women's shelter (yes, even if you're not a woman) and ask for help/resources/referrals. They will not call the police or make you call the police.

Regarding fast food places: feel free to lie about your educational/job experience.

And don't forget grocery stores - I got a good gig at Whole Foods, which in addition to having decent pay, cut my food expenses to the bone because of, well, eating on the job and discounts for groceries.
posted by rtha at 2:38 PM on August 13, 2012 [13 favorites]

Talk to one of those awesome friends about moving in for a few weeks/months, and also look into applying for food stamps. You may not qualify for unemployment, but you should def qual for emergency EBT.

Once you have food taken care of, and a safe place to sleep, I think it will be easier to find a job.

Also, I was in the same boat a few months ago. I got a job at a local indie coffee shop by not talking up my massive academic accomplishments, and instead focusing on the skills/values those experiences lent me, by helping me become a fast learner, a team player, etc. I also said I was willing to work openings, closings, weekends, etc. Sometimes open availability really helps.

Also check out substitute teaching, tutoring (Kaplan ime is always hiring), resume/cover letter editing (meet ppl at your local coffee shop/Wendy's/etc), and temping.
posted by spunweb at 2:41 PM on August 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Register as a substitute teacher today and with temp agencies and tell every friend you need a job, any job, today. Then pack your stuff and crash with your friends or relatives till you can get a cheap room in a shared situation. Never talk to your parents again! Nothing is worth taking that abuse.
posted by fshgrl at 2:41 PM on August 13, 2012

1. Ask a friend to drive you to a doctor. Really, they won't mind.
2. call a shelter and ask for resources on dealing with domestic violence.
3. Start asking if you can stay with one of your friends for a period of a week or two, then shift around between friends, because if you stay with your parents and fall apart you will find it even harder to get a job and move out.
posted by jacalata at 2:41 PM on August 13, 2012 [3 favorites]

(or even better, if you can stay with one friend for a month or a few months, for more stability)
posted by jacalata at 2:42 PM on August 13, 2012

I took so much off my resume in order to get retail jobs. Foreign languages (except for Spanish), all your clubs and achievements--take them off. Leave just your bachelor's degree. You can even leave off your major. No GPA. At the interview, talk about how you love helping people and are really into fashion (I'm imagining a clothing store), but in a way to make it seem like your highest aspiration is to be store manager. Or go to Starbucks (eg), leave a bit more on the resume and tell them that you're studying for the GRE and intend to go back to school part-time; pick a local school. As long as you seem semi-bright and pass the ethics/will-you-steal quiz, you should be able to get a job at a chain/mall-type store.

If you get enough hours, you can make enough to move into your own place, even if you have to be one of eight roommates and eat cup-o-noodle three meals a day.

I think you need to realize that this is an emergency and so you need to do anything, take any opportunity, to get out of this situation. If you've never been in therapy then you probably don't truly, deep-down understand how unacceptable this is. People become prostitutes to escape homes like yours. I'm sure you can find something less drastic. Definitely aim below your goal of a job that has anything to do with your level or field of education. Just get out.
posted by thebazilist at 2:48 PM on August 13, 2012 [31 favorites]

Do you know the insurance company your parents use? If yes, call the company when you have a moment of privacy and confirm that you are on the policy. Then go get some medical care on your own.
posted by BlahLaLa at 2:52 PM on August 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

I know this is not what you're asking, but see if you can live with your friends on a steadier basis than the occasional night of an emergency. If you have, say, four very close friends in the area, call each one and see if you can stay with him or her one week out of the next month. That'll buy you a month of sane time without putting a serious burden on any one friend, and just being out of your parents' house will help you clear your head out a bit during that month. Bear in mind that it's entirely possible that your friends have been just dying to offer you something like this in view of your circumstances, and just don't know how to ask.

About employment: Try SAT tutoring. You're unlikely to be able to live on this alone -- it pays well by the hour, but you won't be able to get full-time hours -- but it's the one job where being a recent grad of a prestigious college is pretty much the only criterion, and it'll let you build up a bit of a financial cushion while still giving you time for the job search. When (not if!) you do get a decent job, you will want to be able to move out immediately, not have to hang around at home for another month while you save enough money to pay a security deposit. Also, having to be the Mature Person around teenagers who see you as a minor authority figure will probably be good for helping you keep it together.

Also just wanted to note that you are not at all wrong or unusual for reacting the way you are. I'm another unemployed recent grad looking for a job, and though I'm lucky enough not to be in the horrible domestic circumstances you are, I do understand that (a) being in that limbo state of rolelessness, and feeling constantly rejected, is horribly stressful in itself and (b) it can be hard to maintain the mature, growing, responsible self you've been cultivating in college when you live with your parents. Parents touch something atavistic in you that makes it hard not to respond in your old patterns. They just do. Bear in mind that you will get some kind of job (it might be a shitty job, but OK) eventually, just through the numbers game, and when you do move out, the health and maturation you experienced when you lived away from your parents will most likely come flooding back.
posted by ostro at 2:57 PM on August 13, 2012 [4 favorites]

Do you have friends you could crash with? If you explain your situation to a group of them, and arrange to couch-surf in each household for no more than a week at a time, I think that there is bound to be at least one person who could squeeze you in. You don't sound like a presumptuous person at all. You could get a PO box or deal only in electronic communications until you get sorted out.

If you can't do that I have to urge you to get to a shelter because your family is putting you in danger and destroying your electronics. I assume this will soon include destroying the tools of your trade, if it hasn't already.

It really is an emergency. I don't like how glibly advice like "move out!" is dished out to unemployed young folks when the whole world is working against them. But I really think your situation is unliveable, and I do not say that lightly. To put this in perspective: if I lived in North America I would seriously be considering offering you a crash myself, and I half-assume that all strangers and acquaintances and half my close friends are psychopaths in disguise, and I hate people in my living space under the best of conditions. And even then, even I.
posted by tel3path at 3:04 PM on August 13, 2012 [5 favorites]

On preview, ostro has a similar idea. That's because it's a good one.
posted by tel3path at 3:05 PM on August 13, 2012

If you're not comfortable disclosing your location in the thread, can you memail it to me?
posted by prefpara at 3:10 PM on August 13, 2012

Being at home, in this case, is not actually an option. Getting out even in advance of getting a job is something you should do with all possible haste. Your situation is compelling, and I can't imagine a friend or group of friends not helping you out, even if it's just a couch to surf for a while. I have done more for friends with less dire circumstances. I hope yours will do no less.

Also, if your parents actually strike you, you could consider making a police report. I don't know what passes for civility in NY, but where I live in California, we call this "domestic violence." It is not acceptable. There are also shelters that might be willing to help you out.

Additionally, I'm with tel3path on this one: the property destruction is more than just abuse--it limits your options by destroying your assets. Were I you, I'd sell every piece of property I didn't need for survival or to find/hold a job, and use the cash to help finance getting out or getting help.
posted by Hylas at 3:14 PM on August 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

Babysitters make BANK. Seriously. I'm so lucky one of my friends watches my son for a discounted rate, because $15 per hour + is out of my price range.

If you can score a regular gig babysitting, do so. Walk down to the local park with a children's play ground and hand out flyers or business cards. It's how nannies often get new business. Put up flyers at the grocery store, coffee shop, etc. Don't be shy!

Work on getting your license asap. Practice with a friend and take the test. You'll pass, no worries. Get your license.

Look into a live-in nanny position. Having a license will help, unless you get a gig in NYC.


You know what? Money, a driver's license, and a real job come second.

There is no reason you should spend one more single second in that house, and the only thing holding you from leaving is your belief system.

Call your friends. Pack up. Get out of there. Right Now.

I've been there. You'll get through this and get some money coming in, but it won't happen until you escape from this trap. Move out today and the rest will fall into place.

Trust me. I know this to be true.
posted by jbenben at 3:28 PM on August 13, 2012 [12 favorites]


posted by jbenben at 3:29 PM on August 13, 2012 [5 favorites]

Couchsurf. Dumb down your resume. Entry level jobs.

But above all, once you leave, please don't go to your parents again.
posted by heyjude at 3:29 PM on August 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

Your mother said your father wouldn't be able to save you? IS YOUR MOTHER THREATENING TO KILL YOU? CALL THE POLICE.

Being at home, in this case, is not actually an option. Getting out even in advance of getting a job is something you should do with all possible haste. Quoted for truth. Think of yourself as someone with no parents at all and act accordingly. Think of yourself as being in a burning building or one with lethal levels of poison gas and act accordingly. You must, MUST get out NOW. Call those awesome friends of yours and say that you are now homeless, that your parents are harming you, and you need a place to stay. This is an emergency. Being at home is NOT an option. You do NOT have to take abuse.

Here are some domestic violence and homeless shelter links:

New York State Coalition Against Domestic Violence

Safe Horizon Their number is 1-800-621-4673

Emergency and Domestic Violence Shelters

Homeless Shelter Directory for New York

Get out now. And please update. Stay safe. We're pulling for you.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 3:31 PM on August 13, 2012 [23 favorites]

Please take care of yourself. If your physical safety is in danger, get away, call 911, contact a domestic violence hotline or shelter (you very well might want to do this anyway just to get free professional advice and information about the resources in your local community), etc...

In terms of job hunting, one other resource you might want to try is the career center at your former university. As I understand it, many of them will gladly provide services to alumni, at least for a year or so, in addition to current students. After all, your college wants you to get a good job so you can hire their future graduates and make donations. You may well be able to talk to a career counselor by phone, get resume and cover letter help, and use their other services. Applying to jobs through the career center's job listings can sometimes be a lot more advantageous than blindly submitting resumes, as your application might go directly to a recruiter instead of a general slush pile. Anyway, just another resource you should see if you can use.

Again, please please take care of yourself and be safe. You should not have to endure physical abuse in exchange for a roof over your head. Best of luck to you.
posted by zachlipton at 3:33 PM on August 13, 2012

For a roof over your head, consider going to a domestic violence shelter. Here's one that operates at several locations in New York: Safe Horizon. Try calling their hotline 1.800.621.HOPE (4673) and if you're not in their catchment area, they can probably refer you to a facility closer to your location. On preview: I see Rosie M. Banks just posted a longer list of possible resources.

For transportation, could you scrape together enough cash for a used bicycle from Craigslist (AND a helmet, lights, and a solid lock)? Assuming you know how to ride a bike, this could open up your geographical range for job-hunting. It will not be fun in the rain and you may have to figure out an alternative when the winter weather moves in, but hopefully by then you'll have a job and enough cash flow for a car or occasional taxi rides.
posted by Orinda at 3:35 PM on August 13, 2012

Get out of that house and never go back. That is abuse, and no one deserves that. If it were in my power I would have those people arrested. I repeat, no one should have to go through those things. Find a friend to stay with, or if that isn't possible, find a shelter. Once you are out, send a letter to your family informing them that you are no longer going to be a part of that abusive family.

Seriously. Get out of there. Right now this minute if possible. If not, than find a time today or tomorrow when you will be able to collect your things and get out. Please please please.
posted by markblasco at 3:39 PM on August 13, 2012

Response by poster: Hi, thank you for your responses so far! To clarify:

1) I'm absolutely terrified of being found out, but the closest city to me is New Brunswick, NJ. NYC is less than an hour away.

2) I cannot turn to my relatives. I have tried, to no avail: everyone thinks that the best solution is to just obey my parents, stop resisting or talking back, and just learn to be grateful that they're even letting me stay there. I don't have scars to prove the physical outbursts since I'm not usually scratched or bruised. 90% of the fights between my parents and I are mental struggles for control, or me defending myself against ridiculous accusations, or trying to prove that I wasn't trying to challenge my mother's authority.

3) My friends and I have already had the talk about couchsurfing. Everyone in my hometown circle lives at home right now, and none of their parents want to get involved by taking me in for a week or more. Which I totally get, but there's nothing any of us can do.

4) No insurance, my parents are recent retirees on Medicaid (I think?). Even when I *was* on their insurance plan, I was not allowed to use it for anything except when I was hospitalized last year. Also, I don't qualify for unemployment in this state because I worked and studied in another state.

5) It's not Domestic Violence Shelter bad, since we can hold normal conversations and everything's fine for 3-5 days at a time. In fact, my parents have helped me financially in several ways (even though this gets held over my head a LOT). It's just that the cycle between "nice enough that they'll help me" and "bad enough that I just stay at my friend's house for two days" is becoming shorter and shorter.

Like...I care about my parents and feel obligated to be loyal to them, I just can't live with them. Things were so much better when I was in college, because I was independent and my mother "couldn't see me failing on a daily basis" (her words).
posted by Ashen at 3:46 PM on August 13, 2012

I suggest widening your search for people to crash with. Maybe your friends can't help, but do they perhaps have an older sibling or aunt/uncle who have the space? Ask your friends to ask their friends. (I am hosting my brother-in-law's brother-in-law at my house right now because he's quite broke for example.)

Temping can be a good stop gap for someone who is "over-educated." Make sure you register with multiple agencies and be diligent about calling in for assignments!

Good luck.
posted by vespabelle at 3:57 PM on August 13, 2012

If your parent(s) are breaking and destroying your stuff, then it is, in fact, Domestic Violence Shelter bad. That is what shelters are there for. There is no-one who is going to tell you "well, Person X needs it more." You are entitled to help.

You are also not beholden to your parents. You can love someone without feeling obligated to be loyal to them. They are not being loyal to you - they are abusing you. You are a human being and deserve respect. "Family" does not mean "free pass to be abusive."

I am going to post some New Brunswick/New Jersey specific links. Please remember that you are entitled to help and protection. If you call the police domestic violence team, they are there to help you. They are not going to judge you.

New Brunswick Domestic Violence Response Team (Police Department)

Women Aware Hotline: 732-249-4504

New Jersey Domestic Violence Resources By County

New Brunswick Homeless Shelters and Services

I repeat - You are a human being and deserve to be treated with respect. This is domestic violence and can and should be treated seriously. It is shelter-worthy. You do not owe abusers family loyalty. Please take care of yourself.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 3:58 PM on August 13, 2012 [37 favorites]

5) It's not Domestic Violence Shelter bad, since we can hold normal conversations and everything's fine for 3-5 days at a time.

This is what I told myself as an abused teen/young adult, and I wish I had known sooner what I know now. Abused doesn't have to be daily beatings to be abuse. I still feel "guilty" saying I was abused a a child because I know it wasn't "as bad" as some people had it, but that doesn't make it better. In fact, it makes it worse in many ways, including your ability to acknowledge that's what's happening and move on. Get out now, get yourself to a shelter. Daily beatings are not a minimum requirement!
posted by [insert clever name here] at 3:59 PM on August 13, 2012 [19 favorites]

Oh hon. Your parents sound so much like my own. Point 2) in your list was exactly the place I was in until cutting off contact with them (entire family except a couple of second cousins, is how it turned out in the end). You are not alone.

Your mother destroyed your electronics, threatened you, and your parents "aren't willing to take me to a doctor or therapist." They are endangering you. This is DV-shelter-worthy abuse. Please call a domestic violence shelter and tell them what you told us. On preview, seconding Rosie M. Banks and [insert clever name here].
posted by fraula at 4:01 PM on August 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm going to approach this from another angle since most of the other angles are well-covered. It is important for you to know that your bills are not even slightly important compared to everything else you have going on right now, and can probably be safely ignored.

Seriously. You probably have two kinds of debt:

1. Student loans.
2. Unsecured loans like medical debt, credit cards, etc.

Student loans can be deferred for up to 3 years due to unemployment. So do that.

Unsecured debt feels a lot worse than it is. Creditors will be calling you constantly and hounding you to pay and making you feel like a horrible person because you can't. The reason they do this is very simple. They have no other way to make you pay! All they can do is harass you, and there are legal limits on how much they can do that. (You can even sue them in small claims and collect money from them when they violate the law!)

Yes, your credit rating will be toast, but this is also not the end of the world. It means that you will pay more for some things. You will need a bigger deposit for renting an apartment, for example, and you will be stuck with a prepaid cell phone.

At some point, your unsecured creditors may decide to take you to court, if you owe enough to be worth the bother. In which case they will probably easily get a judgment against you. This is no big deal either. Once they have that, they still need to collect. If you don't have any money, there's noting to collect.

Worst case, you declare bankruptcy. The moment you declare bankruptcy, your creditors stop contacting you. If you have no income and no assets, you can probably declare Chapter 7 and all your unsecured debts will basically go away. Yes, this will show up on your credit report. But once you get a job, it'll matter much less than you suppose. You can't declare bankruptcy again for 7-10 years (depends on the type). A person with income, no debt (since it was discharged in the bankruptcy), good payment history for a year or two since the bankruptcy on a store card or secured credit card, and who can't declare bankruptcy... is actually a pretty good credit risk. You are young and you have plenty of time to achieve your goals even with a bankruptcy.

So your financial woes are not the end of the world. On the other hand, physical danger from people you're living with and are depending on? That could be the end of your world. Get out of there. Move somewhere, anywhere, else, don't tell them where you're going, and do not contact them again. Get a restraining order if necessary.
posted by kindall at 4:06 PM on August 13, 2012 [7 favorites]

I will add that the odds are really high that the extreme stress you are living with is a big part of why you cannot get a job. You probably won't believe that until you leave.
posted by Michele in California at 4:09 PM on August 13, 2012 [8 favorites]

Everyone says it's not bad enough to go to a women's shelter. Everyone. I said it, and I was wrong. If I could roll back the clock, it's one of the very few things I'd do differently, is go to a women's shelter.

The reason folks are referring you to domestic violence shelters is because those organizations have resources they can hook you up with. Therapy, meds, clothes, temporary housing, maybe even a job. They understand what abusive situations are like, and they will help you get out of this one.

I could hold normal conversations with my parents just fine, too. Sometimes things would seem "okay" for months before Something Terrible would happen. But living on tenterhooks like you are now is not tenable. It is damaging your mental health, and may eventually prove damaging to your physical health as well.

You need to leave.

If you stay in your parents' house, they'll keep hurting you. So leave, and do it as soon as you can.

Good luck. Feel free to MeFiMail me. I'm in NYC and have plenty of free time and would be delighted to help out.
posted by brina at 4:13 PM on August 13, 2012 [32 favorites]

One more link: Resources from the Metafilter Wiki (very long). It also includes sources for low-cost medical care, low-cost meds, etc.

And, if you are LGBTQ there are resources for you:

Rainbow Domestic Violence

The Trevor Project

PDF: LGBTQ Youth Resource Guide

And if you are a person of color there is the Women of Color Network
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 4:18 PM on August 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yeah, here's the thing:

To give an example of what I'm talking about: yesterday, I was shaken awake and kicked out of the basement at 6 AM. My mother hates using the AC, but I have trouble sleeping in humid air and sought relief downstairs. She freaked out and, after seeing my Zune charging in a nearby outlet, destroyed the thing by slamming it onto the ground. While I've mastered my poker face, I was accused of being disrespectful and faced bodily harm. When I started to cry (I know, childish reaction, but I was frustrated), she shook me again, saying that even my father would not be able to save me if I said anything further.

Is not any flavour of acceptable.

You're not obligated to be around people who disrespect you - even if they're your parents.
posted by heyjude at 4:19 PM on August 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

I agree with what most people here are saying - You are being abused. GET OUT NOW! Definitely call on those resources from the other Mefites.

I was being abused by my husband during the 8 years we were together, and I used to think it wasn't that bad (I even said it wasn't bad enough to warrant going to a shelter - and he used to rape me all of the time).

I left him 3 years ago, fleeing with only $11 to my name, and a couple bags of clothing.
And ya know what?
It was totally worth all of the struggle, and all of the loss. I realized that my safety was worth more than all of the possessions I ever had - all of the photographs I'll never see again, all of the artwork I ever created. None of it would have meant a thing to me if he had killed me.

Learning to preserve your sanity while you're being abused is the opposite of sanity. The abuse you're enduring is tantamount to psychic murder - the person you are meant to be will never live and thrive in that environment.

I know that it must be scary to be faced with doing all of this Really Big Stuff at once - but once you've started the process, know that it will eventually be completed, and the hard stuff will be over. I think you owe it to yourself to live the best life you can possibly live - and that starts with knowing that you are worth the journey!
Feel free to MeMail me anytime you want a sympathetic ear. Big hugs to you!
posted by erasorhed at 4:26 PM on August 13, 2012 [11 favorites]

You absolutely do not deserve to be treated this way. Yes, it is "that bad," trust me. If crazy, abusive people were crazy and abusive all the time, they would be easy to spot and would never get away with their abuse. They know how to be pleasant enough to keep people around and fool the outside world, but a few days of normal conversation do not make up for property destruction and death threats.

If you feel that you cannot go to a shelter, consider getting a house sitting gig through Craigslist, friends, former professors, etc. (When applying, do not--I repeat, do NOT--give them your home phone number. Ask a friend to take a message for you if you don't have a cell phone or conduct your correspondence via email if you have to.) At least with a house sitting job you could get away from your parents for awhile. Your parents also do not need to know your whereabouts if you do decide to house sit.

All the very best to you. You deserve so much better than this.
posted by corey flood at 4:27 PM on August 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

What phone number are you putting on your resumes? Do you have a private cell line? Is there any chance your parents would be deleting messages for you or refusing to pass them on? From your description of them, it wouldn't come as a surprise to me.
posted by Dynex at 4:49 PM on August 13, 2012 [9 favorites]


If you have to stay in a homeless shelter for a little bit, that's better than nothing. If you have to lie and say that you have no fixed address, say it. In fact, it shouldn't neccessarily be a lie because you shouldn't be living in that place. Hopefully other new yorkers can direct you to such things as resource centres, shelters, and other kinds of assistance in your area.

IF YOU CAN'T FIND A SHELTER, COUCHSURF., or find a housesitting gig.

If you can't couchsurf,


Get welfare until you find a job. If you can't find a friend to stay with in your city, get on a fucking greyhound to another city where you have friends and stay there. If you can't afford a greyhound ticket, beg, borrow, or steal to get one, or rideshare, or hitchhike, or ask a trusted and beloved friend to send you the money.

If you don't have anywhere to store your stuff then LET THE STUFF GO. None of it is as important as you not living in this environment. Please get out, get out, get the fuck out and don't go back. Please. I'm begging you.


I'm sorry if the others have already said all of this, but I didn't take time to read everyone else's reactions; I too urgently wanted to tell you to GET THE FUCK OUT OF THERE.
posted by windykites at 5:12 PM on August 13, 2012 [4 favorites]

It's not Domestic Violence Shelter bad, since we can hold normal conversations and everything's fine for 3-5 days at a time.

Not to be alarmist, but a young woman who worked for me felt exactly the same way until her mother actually tried to kill her. A friend who knew her was worried when she didn't return a call and phoned the police - their arrival was the only thing that stopped her mother.

This isn't about being loyal or about being a 'good' child. It's about making sure that your safe.

I agree, having watched my friend's situation escalate from something more tame than yours to attempted murder - you biggest priority should be to get out. Now. and if a shelter is the way to do that, so be it.
posted by scrute at 5:13 PM on August 13, 2012 [7 favorites]

I'm memailing you.
posted by baby beluga at 5:18 PM on August 13, 2012

Just did a readthrough and caught this:

It's not Domestic Violence Shelter bad


Just because they're nice sometimes doesn't negate the times when they are treating you badly. They don't get points for treating you nicely and loose points for treating you badly and have a balance sheet at the end where you weigh out and see if the abuse points outweigh the nice points or something. EVERY time they act out, they loose ALL the points and don't get them back.

You're talking classic abused person talk. Just because they're not breaking your ribs doesn't mean that you don;t need help... and you said yourself that the bad behaviour is escalating. How do you think that people wind up in situations with broken ribs? Because they stay when things are at this level, and it gets progressively worse.

Oh, and don't try to convince yourself that you owe them anything for helping you financially. That's what parents are supposed to do. And don't let them hold it over your head as a tool of abuse. It was their choice to have a kid and their choice to give you the money.

And don't think that you're disrespecting them for choosing to leave. I promise, you're not. But please don't try to convince yourself that it's not bad enough to do whatever is neccessary to get out. It is bad enough.
posted by windykites at 5:24 PM on August 13, 2012 [11 favorites]

I've never had issues finding a serving job. You don't even need a resume. Just go to the restaurants and fill out their application they will hand you. I think you will be working within a couple of weeks. Do this right away. You need anything to get on your feet and serving can help you do that.

Stay with friends is right. If you can't, go to a women's shelter. I am so sorry you are going through this but you are going THROUGH it. Remember that, this is temporary and you will get out. Stay positive and make plans to leave asap.
posted by MyMind at 5:32 PM on August 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Stress and depression like to hang out together, and both interfere with your ability to make decisions and judge, well, almost everything accurately. Please consider that everyone here - is actually a better judge of your current situation than you are, especially those of us who have been you. This is why it's a chorus of get out, now, however you can. Your life is in danger.
posted by rtha at 5:33 PM on August 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Piling on to say, yes, this is domestic violence shelter bad. This is not in any way normal or okay. Your parents are toxic. I know that's hard to hear about people you love, but every day you stay with them is a day you are not going to feel happy, calm, or in control. Please please please know that absolutely no one, especially you, deserves to be in a situation like this. This is SO not okay that the things you describe here are cop-call worthy. You say you feel loyal to your parents, but they clearly do not feel the same loyalty for your well being.

GET OUT TODAY. Not tomorrow. TODAY. You deserve a better life ASAP. And please keep the thread posted with your progress? I suspect you have a number of folks worried and pulling for you!
posted by smirkette at 5:33 PM on August 13, 2012 [3 favorites]

Another vote for domestic violence shelter bad. Call the shelter and talk to them. They have resources.

And next time they destroy something of yours or if they ever threaten or strike you call the cops.

See, one problem is you are so used to this crap it is hard for you to parse just how bad this is. The rest of us don't have that problem.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:41 PM on August 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

I will be reiterating what has been said, but your first step is to get out. I was in an emotionally abusive marriage for many years and felt just as hopeless at the end. Trust me, it is better to be out of that house. You are being abused and it is leading to your sense of hopelessness
Jobwise- I know that there are many au pair positions available in the NY area, many that don't require a license. Check out AuPair World
You can get a place to live and a job at the same time.

You deserve more than this,okay? Hugs.
posted by Isadorady at 5:46 PM on August 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Update: I'm not at home right now - I'm using public wifi, and can't stay for much longer. I will be able to buy time by hanging out with a friend tonight, so I can try to reach out to people from there. However, my head is spinning really fast and I'm going to try and calm down before doing anything.

I really, really like the idea of housesitting: it would allow me a calm, quiet place to rest while looking for work. I also like the idea of altering my resume to be more "McDonald's Friendly," especially because there are at least four fast food places within walking distance of me.

Getting out will be difficult because while my mother tells me weekly that she wants me out, my father does not. He wants me to stay until I'm better, but isn't able to hold my mother back when she feels like fighting with me and frequently sides with her. But I will call the DV hotline - maybe they can help me with my conflicted emotions, and with ways to get out as smoothly as possible.

This is hard, and a lot more scary and overwhelming than I thought. I will update tomorrow, but please know that I won't be anywhere near either of them tonight.

Thank you again.
posted by Ashen at 5:54 PM on August 13, 2012 [27 favorites]

Stay safe.

If you get a Google Voice number, Google can transcribe any voice mail messages you get, and email them to you.
posted by spinifex23 at 5:58 PM on August 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

Thank you for updating. I am SO VERY glad that you are staying somewhere else tonight. And that you are going to call a DV hotline. They are staffed by trained people who will be able to listen and help.

Keep us updated. We are all pulling for you.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 6:00 PM on August 13, 2012 [3 favorites]

1) Google Voice number. Do not tell them what it is. Put it on your resume and do not let them see it. Keep your communications yours.
2) Whatever your escape plan is, do not reveal it to anyone who might talk to them. This may even mean hiding it from friends if they might tell their parents who might talk to your parents.
3) try to stash breakables (any computer you might have, anything you find precious to you) in a place where they can't get to it.
4) if you can slip things out in stages when you go, do so; otherwise, one and done. Triage your life and your belongings, take the needed and go. Do not go back. Anything on their accounts needs to be left behind, even if it's your cellphone. (you can get a cheap-ass prepay that'll do what you need to do for a little bit).
5. Once you have the job, once you get the roof over your head and maybe a better phone, buy a new Zune (or whatever music player you want) and claim it as your first victory.
posted by mephron at 6:43 PM on August 13, 2012 [5 favorites]

Be extremely careful until you and anything you are taking with you is safely gone from there. Abusers tend to be controlling and vindictive. The transition as you go can be dangerous.

Be safe.
posted by Michele in California at 6:45 PM on August 13, 2012 [4 favorites]

Ashen, you can do this! I believe in you.

So many good advice points here and I agree with most all of them. Google Voice is an excellent idea. I use it and love it.

In regards to your father, yes, he'd like you to "stay until you are better", but what's obviously most important there is "getting better". He wants you to be better. And staying in that house is not the way to get better.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 6:57 PM on August 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

When I was in high school, a friend of mine had a pipe burst in his apartment, which totally flooded the place. His mother secured a place for herself to stay, and made no arrangements for him. None of us could really take him in long term, so we just passed him around. He would stay for a week at one place, a week at another, etc. Maybe that's an option?

Finally, I lived right near new Brunswick not long ago. I know the area, and I know some good people there. I'm not sure what, if any, help I can offer, but if you want to memail me, we might be able to figure out some way I can help.
posted by Ragged Richard at 7:22 PM on August 13, 2012 [3 favorites]

Excellent! You're on the right track. I'll keep you in my prayers. You deserve a better deal. I promise, in less than a year you will feel so great about the steps you took today.

posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:24 PM on August 13, 2012

Nthing get out. I worked in a bookstore after college and an experience that helped was that I worked in the university bookstore a few times during the rush at the beginning of the semester. If you live anywhere near a college town, you might be able to get a similar job. Also, if you have a hard time lining up friends to help you, you can try
posted by kat518 at 7:36 PM on August 13, 2012

"4) No insurance, my parents are recent retirees on Medicaid (I think?). Even when I *was* on their insurance plan, I was not allowed to use it for anything except when I was hospitalized last year. Also, I don't qualify for unemployment in this state because I worked and studied in another state. "

Re: Unemployment.

It depends on the state, but in many states your unemployment can be sent to you. You may also still be within the filing window. (Further, though it's a bit dodgier, you can have a friend back there act as your address and get it sent to you there. The maintenance of unemployment can often be handled over the phone or online.)

I'd also say that with regard to your parents, I'd get my stuff in a safe place first (can you store that with a friend) and then feel free to respond with force. I know it can be hard to strike back at a parent, but set boundaries, then feel free to react without guilt when they try shit. It really sucks that you're essentially in a state of war with your parents, but if they're as abusive as you say and you really can't get out (you should probably get out, even going to a shelter), you don't owe them anything. I love my mother a good amount, but if I felt like she was truly threatening me with bodily harm like that, I would punch her in the face. You have much less reason to love your mother. At a certain point, even the decision to not take any more shit can be tremendously empowering — feel free to be angry and if they hit you, hit back immediately (I might even buy a can of pepper spray, if that's legal where you are).
posted by klangklangston at 8:22 PM on August 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

My heart goes out to you!!

I second the suggestions for going outside your immediate friends' circle. When I've been in crisis situations a lot of the most beneficial help has come from people who I only knew at acquaintance level - sometimes even more so than my best friends (mostly because my best friends are largely overseas). Are you on some kind of social media? Put a blast out? You don't have to explain the details, just tell everyone on LinkedIn that you're looking for work, or on Facebook that you'd like some assistance, etc.

Facebook might even be another good resource for another reason - there are groups set up for housing, healthcare, support, etc. It's especially used by subcultural groups (I've seen housing groups for LGBT people and radicals) but feel free to pop in and ask for help.

Are there any free/street press where you live? They could also be leads for jobs or housing or support.
posted by divabat at 10:11 PM on August 13, 2012

In a previous thread, I explained a job-getting approach that has worked for me: "Make three resumes: retail / customer service, restaurant / food service, and office / professional. Print out a good handful of each one. Go to a nearby district with a lot of storefronts... go in every building and give them the most appropriate resume. They'll say that the manager isn't there. Ask when s/he is and come back then."

If I can get ANY sort of income trickling in, it will hasten my ability to get out.
- Contact your professors about research or editing work from afar.
- Make up a flier about your tutoring business, then take it to your old teachers (and others). If you get out there now, you can get your name in there in time for the fall open houses and then the parent-teacher conferences. Tout your academic credentials, aim for the well-to-do districts, and try to charge a lot per hour. Like $50 or $75 "a lot" in nice neighborhoods (you can always bargain down from $75 to $50).
- LaborReady ("work today - get paid today") has a New Brunswick branch. You have to show up at the crack of dawn dressed to do things like sweep sawdust or hold the Road Work Ahead sign. Wear boots, jeans, and a hat.
- Collect cans and bottles and take them to the recycling center.

Also, think seasonal -- it's August, so maybe there are back-to-school jobs at clothing retailers or college campuses? Maybe U-Pick apple orchards or pumpkin patches nearby? As October turns to November, all the retail places and Fed Ex will be hiring. In late October and early November, the ski resorts start hiring.

You could also apply to go teach english in any other country.

I can't help but thinking that you'll be better off not only out of the house but anywhere that you don't need a car. You're not even near a city?? No wonder jobs are scarce. I don't know much about NYC, but I wonder if you wouldn't be better off there or somewhere like San Francisco. What are your skills in? Maybe we can all direct you to relevant job openings. Good luck.
posted by salvia at 10:14 PM on August 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

I am REALLY glad you are out. I will add my voice to everyone else who is saying that what your parents are doing to you is abuse and it's important for your safety that you not go back home except (possibly) to get your belongings. And only go back to get your stuff if it is safe for you to do so.

I strongly suggest you enlist the help of one of the local shelters linked above to provide you with an escort when you go to get your belongings. This person will reduce your physical risk and also provide support to help you deal with any threats/manipulation your parents may try in order to get you to stay. Ultimately, if you feel it's too risky to go back at all, I agree with everyone else saying that your safety is more important than your things.

Don't give your parents your new location, or the number of any new cell you get.

Your dad may try to convince you to come back to live with them, but you already know it isn't safe. If your dad really wants what's best for you, he will understand that you can't be in the same house as your mom who is threatening and hurting you.

Good luck--we are all rooting for you.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 12:00 AM on August 14, 2012

Going to a shelter is the best idea all the way around. They'll be able to link you to resources that you can't find easily by yourself, and that's what you need right now. Your story is familiar to them. They're experts, and they'll get you to a place of peace and calm right now and confidence and a job a little later. Your friends want to help, but they can't be aware of all the connections you need at this moment. Hold onto them closely, but search out the experts ASAP - and don't spend another day or night in that environment.

Oh, my dear - please do this, even though it's so damn hard. Let others help you now. And let us know what's happening. Everyone here cares.
posted by aryma at 12:59 AM on August 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

I've been in exactly your position, except it was a partner I moved in with after graduation, and it started with breaking my stuff and then escalated to physical abuse. When he threatened to pour boiling water over my head, I contacted my biggest friends to help me collect my things.

I don't know if this is a good suggestion - it sounds like you need some stability - but could you find a squat to stay in? They aren't as scary and drug-infested as they often sound - many of them are run as a community made up of people who couldn't stay home or can't pay the rent right now. My only knowledge of the squatting scene here comes from a book I read a while ago by Katharine Hibbert, but there might be a network in your nearest city that can help you find somewhere to stay while you get things together. Looking back, I should have done this instead of staying where I was because I thought I couldn't afford to leave.
posted by mippy at 7:32 AM on August 14, 2012

The university I went had some sort of eh, office type thing that would offer financial assistance/food/clothes/housing? else to students in need. Even if you are alumni and your university is in a different state, from what I can tell, if your university has such an office/organization/whatever, you could always give that sort of thing a try.
posted by electriic at 11:59 AM on August 14, 2012

Response by poster: Hey everyone,

After thinking long and hard about my condition and my non-existent finances, I'm just not in a place to move out today. I'm going to implement a slower strategy that involves dumbing down my resume enough to land me fast food/retail work during the day, and freelance writing (courtesy of textbroker, for one) when I'm not on-shift.

I secured a safe place to keep all of my breakables when I'm away, including my laptop. While I couldn't locate any house-sitting gigs in New Brunswick, I know of some cheap places rent-wise that I'd be able to move into once I've secured a fast food job. I have a few friends who have worked at the places I'm looking at, and will be able to use them as references. This means that I could very easily be employed as early as Thursday, or maybe the start of next week. I do qualify for state assistance and, considering the pay rate, would also be able to qualify for some adjusted-rate housing near the fast-food restaurants.

In the meantime, I will be spending daylight hours with similarly-unemployed friends. My parents go to sleep around 10pm every night, and my mother is usually too tired to argue with me by the time I get home. I will be looking into shelters, based on the recommendation of someone I spoke to via MeFiMail to do a "day trip" to one. I'm just not at all ready to take flight; I am, however, fully prepared to only return there to sleep at night and take resources, like food. I didn't think at all about calling a DV hotline and the other resources posted before, and will be leaning on them for support until I've fully moved out by the end of the month.

But I am so, so grateful for your concern, and for the kind messages! I will update this thread again (if that's acceptable to do in AskMetafilter).

Again, thank you, thank you, thank you.
posted by Ashen at 3:13 PM on August 14, 2012 [5 favorites]

We are glad to help, and are pulling for you. Please keep us updated.

I'm so very proud of you for taking those steps to get yourself out of the toxic situation. Do be sure to keep yourself safe. Domestic violence safety plan template. Storing your laptop and other valuables off-premises is a terrific idea. If I were you, I'd keep my ID and social security card (which are like gold when you are looking for work) on my person or at least where you can grab them at all times, along with $20 or so.

And always remember: You deserve respect.

Take care, keep us posted, and you are in my thoughts.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 3:27 PM on August 14, 2012 [6 favorites]

Thanks for keeping us updated, Ashen.

It's definitely acceptable to update us on the green. I can't speak for everyone, but I can say that many of us were/are worried about you.

I think we're around the same age and I know how terrifying leaving can be, especially to go to a DV shelter. But, don't feel the need to rush everything all at once.

Make sure that you find a place that's safe for you emotionally and physically.

The actions that you are taking now will lead to a better future.

I was in a similar position although nobody would dare acknowledge that, but I slowly became financially independent and used post-secondary education as a means to leave at an early age. It's a process, but I wish you nothing but the best. Take care of yourself (as Rosie said) and you are also in my thoughts.

posted by livinglearning at 8:30 PM on August 14, 2012

While this post is written as advice for someone who wants to help a loved one get out of an abusive situation, the list of steps to take and things to line up sounds like it would be very helpful to you as you move towards getting yourself out of the situation.

Very best wishes. Please, please do take whatever steps are necessary to keep yourself safe until you can get out. You deserve to feel secure in your own home. You deserve to not feel endangered by the people nearest to you.
posted by Lexica at 7:04 PM on August 15, 2012

Response by poster: Hey everyone,

Thank you so much for your answers. After a final scuffle with my mum, I was officially kicked out of the house yesterday. This afternoon, two of my best friends helped me successfully and safely move out and away from my parents. We're figuring out what my next step is: Sandy impacted some of the shelters I would have moved to, so I'm staying with my friends (I'll go between residences). Another friend in my network is looking into *potentially* helping me set up in Philadelphia, unless I quickly get a full-time job in NYC.

I'm still pretty shell-shocked, and the full impact of what just happened hasn't really hit me yet, but I wanted to let you all know that I'm okay. Before we got ready I looked at these answers again. I felt a lot more confident going in.

So...again, thank you. This means a lot to me.
posted by Ashen at 9:28 AM on November 2, 2012 [9 favorites]

I'm so glad you are out. Take care of yourself and PLEASE keep us updated. (((HUGS))) to you.
posted by michellenoel at 9:34 AM on November 12, 2012

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