And so the saga continues! My father is tracking me behind my back via cell phone. Is my father's behavior inappropriate, or am I paranoid?
February 18, 2008 7:41 PM   Subscribe

And so the saga continues! My father is tracking me behind my back via cell phone. Is my father's behavior inappropriate, or am I paranoid?

Note: my initial post about my abusive father (thank you everyone for allowing me to realize that this is abuse) is here. It explains much of his paranoia and the way he treats me, which is relevant to this new issue, but ultimately too complex to bring up here.

A few nights ago I noticed a strange icon on my cell phone's screen, one that I had never seen before, and after doing some research online and speaking to my sister, I found my answer.

My father now subscribes to a tracking device (offered through Sprint) that allows him to pinpoint my exact location, down to the street address. It even provides a map. I, personally, am unable to disable the tracker. And so long as my phone is on, I am able to be tracked.

What makes the situation even stickier is this: according to the program's policy, the individual being tracked is notified (via text message) each time the tracker submits a tracking request. Additionally, at the start of the service, the user being tracked must agree to the policy by responding to an introductory text message. Text messaging altogether was disabled on my phone months ago, and so I received neither the introductory text nor the individual texts telling me I've been tracked. I would think I would be notified anyway for ethical reasons, but this is not the case. I guess you could say the policy has been violated. I tried to speak to the customer service reps, but there's a password on my account, so I can't receive any information from them, apparently no matter how general my questions are, without supplying the password which was set up by my father.

Regardless, I've been able to monitor my father's tracking habits through his email account, which I have the password to (unbeknownst to him). This is how I know he's tracked me approximately 40 times in the last 48 hours.

My father has no idea I know this. Despite living under the same roof, we haven't exchanged a word in the past month. This is absolutely normal for us. He asked my sister if I've said anything, and even offered her a large sum of money not to tell me. She told him I'm have no idea what is going on. It's worth mentioning that my sister is not being tracked, despite the fact that she is 15, and I am the 20 year old with the master's degree.

My cell phone service is part of a family plan that my father pays for. This is mostly out of convenience. I've had this line for a number of years, and I don't subscribe to any special features so the cost is minimal, and my father can afford it, making it an non-issue until now. He also prefers it this way because he can monitor who I am interacting with on the phone...

I understand that as long as he is footing the bill for my cell phone service, he can subscribe to whatever features he wants. But I don't believe that his behavior is necessarily correct or respectful. Despite living in his home, as an adult I don't believe it is right for him to track my whereabouts without my permission, and to his current understanding, without informing me of the tracking system altogether. Am I correct in thinking this? And futhermore, should I bother mentioning to him that I know what he's doing?

Honestly, I feel very creeped out and violated. He has no reason not to trust me, and yet he still acts this way. I told my boss and coworkers, all of whom I am very close with, and they agreed that his behavior is disturbing, but I guess I need more validation because at some level, I feel like what he is doing is okay. Is it? I have no idea what is appropriate anymore. I can't tell if my disgust is unreasonable. This is not the first time I've had my privacy violated by him, and this certainly hasn't been his worst offense in that regard.

My solution is to get an entirely new cell phone plan-- different service provider, different phone, different number, different everything. I then plan to keep my initial phone silent and hidden in the house at all times, so when he goes to track me, all it shows is that I'm home. Not only is this a slap in the face, but I'm trying to slowly separate myself from this abuse cycle, and by being less dependent on him in this one regard (having my own phone), which I suppose is a step in the right direction.

Thank you for reading. I will appreciate any insight. At this point, I am so confused, I don't know what to think.
posted by sansgras to Grab Bag (85 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Restraining order.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:42 PM on February 18, 2008

What he is doing is totally inappropriate. Getting your own cell phone and moving towards independence is the right move.
posted by jessamyn at 7:46 PM on February 18, 2008

bless your heart I don't have any suggestions for you other than just keep the phone powered off and maybe open an account at another provider. I hope his abuse wouldn't escalate to physical if he were to find out about the new phone.
You can come live with me in the southeast. I had read your earlier post and your whole situation just breaks my heart.
posted by meeshell at 7:48 PM on February 18, 2008

Just to be the nay-sayer, let me point out that--

But I don't believe that his behavior is necessarily correct or respectful.

Somehow, I don't think that checking his email account without him knowing or giving permission is not necessarily correct or respectful either.

(note-- I have not read your previous thread-- am going to do so now)
posted by gregvr at 7:50 PM on February 18, 2008

You know, the biggest flag in this huge, reg flag post? This sentence, right here:
This is not the first time I've had my privacy violated by him, and this certainly hasn't been his worst offense in that regard.

Not the worst? Jesus! You have no idea, no idea the kind of shit that would go down if my parents did that to me. That would be it. Over. I would drop the phone and not speak to them for months. Your lack of utter, frothing outrage terrifies me.

My advice is going to be the same as the advice of everyone in the previous post. This is not normal. This is not right. You have every right to be creeped out. And you need to get out of the house. You need to do it as soon as possible. You cannot negotiate with your father about this, because if he's secretly installing tracking devices--and this is behavior that is specific to you, not your sister--it is yet another indication of his unhealthy level of obsession with you. If you were to notify him of your plans to move out I fear it would not go well for you.

You seem like a smart, observant person. I think you may believe yourself less capable of independence than you are. This has to stop, you have to take control of your life from your crazy, abusive dad. Please, for the love of God, go to a domestic abuse center and explain your situation. If for nothing else to attend group meetings and therapy for domestic abuse victims. Just because you've never been hit does not mean you haven't been abused.
posted by schroedinger at 7:50 PM on February 18, 2008 [4 favorites]

I know that there may be traditions that 'encourage' you to live at home, but you have a Masters degree and a job.

If being tracked is bothering you (and it should), perhaps this is the final sign that you should move out and get your own apartment, either in the same city - if there are reasons to remain close to the other members of your family, or wherever you can find the best possible job that leads to the most promising career.

If there are circumstances where you'd want to remain close to family, perhaps the job in another city would pay enough for you to support your family member's move to be with you and the new job?

Having heard of a few recent cases of 'traditional' fathers/brothers 'accidentally' killing their daughter/sister, I think making friends, and perhaps a social worker or the police, aware of the situation may be prudent.
posted by porpoise at 7:51 PM on February 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

Gotta get your own phone, and your own place. You won't be granted a restraining order while you are living there. And you may not need one once you move out.

Maybe you can crash at a friend's right away till you get a more permanent roommate or whatever. Just make sure that if you do crash somewhere, you both agree on a specific deadline. This will help you keep your friend.

Good luck!

Oh, one quick note: I'm the father of a 17 year old girl, and I can't imagine treating her that way. I guess only if I felt her decisions had put herself in danger, but beyond that... no way.
posted by The Deej at 7:52 PM on February 18, 2008

Okay, now that I've read your previous thread, I can only agree--

Not only do you need your own cell phone, you also need to leave. Like move maybe 5000 miles away. Maybe come back after a couple of years, but you should not be living with your father.
posted by gregvr at 7:53 PM on February 18, 2008

Two things I am not sure of:

1. Why are you asking us this question? You know the answer -- clearly his behavior has been and continues to be beyond the pale -- and you even have a plan about what to do about it.

2. Why do you continue to live at home? You need to get out of that house. It is really not that hard to do -- perhaps you already have a friend that could use a roommate? I gather from your previous question that you have some of your own issues to deal with, but I think you need some independence to even begin to deal with them.

See a therapist and an apartment broker posthaste, please.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:54 PM on February 18, 2008

Regarding the email comment--

I totally agree, actually. That's why I feel hypocritical for mentioning the issue of respect. Granted, that particular email account of his is restricted to use for registration purposes and not as a more personal communication tool (which he has a separate email account for), and the only messages in his inbox were the 40 or so saying "You've tracked Sansgras at location XYZ," and furthermore, I only know the password because he gave it to me at one point... but I still realize that none of these considerations justify my snooping. I was angry and I did it. Was it right? Probably not. Do I regret invading his privacy? Honestly, no.
posted by sansgras at 7:55 PM on February 18, 2008

Nope. Get your own place, and your own cell phone.
posted by b1tr0t at 7:45 PM on February 18 [+] [!]

Quoted for emphasis.

Your father's actions are not okay in any sense of the word. I remember reading your original post and being upset by the way your father treated you, but I didn't (and still don't) know what productive suggestion to make other than take the leap and get out on your own.

You sound as if you are well-educated and talented. You have a master's degree and a job. It sounds like it is within your means to get out on your own. Do so. Don't tell your father until you are moving out, ideally when you are putting boxes into your car / your friend's car.

If you're worried about your father knowing that you're searching for an apartment, you can get a prepaid cellphone for $30 or less at Target or any other big-box retailer. Pay cash if you need to. Or, well, since it looks like your current cell is compromised, just register for your own plan with your provider of choice. Again, there's no need to tell your father about this until you're walking out the door. In terms of tracking when you're apartment-hunting, just turn off your father's phone and, if asked, assert that you forgot to charge it and the battery went dead.

This is not okay, and you have every right to be outraged and seek to get out on your own and away from this mess. I'm sure other people will have better advice than I, but I figured I should not stay silent.
posted by Alterscape at 7:56 PM on February 18, 2008

Turn the ringer off, mail the phone to a friend on the other side of the country. Let him track "you" for a thousand miles. Then show up at home. That would make for an interesting conversation.

Seriously though--get out of the house! You know that you need to. Is there a reason that you haven't yet (since the last post)? What action could he take that would make you move out?
posted by zerobyproxy at 7:57 PM on February 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

Sansgras, what is your relationship like with your mother? Could you call on her to assist you? Or other family members, like aunts or uncles?
posted by paperlanterns at 8:00 PM on February 18, 2008

You're making a couple of mistakes.

One is checking your father's email using his password. At some point, he'll figure this out - either because a message he hasn't seen is marked read, or because he's logging the activity on the computer you use to do this, or some other way.

Another is telling your boss and coworkers about this. Do you want to lose your job? Don't air your family's dirty linen in public. You need to keep it low profile until you can get out of this mess.

Another is your plan to leave your old phone hidden in the house at all times after you get your new phone. This will just cause him to find out that you have a new phone before you want him to, which will lead to a confrontation you don't need. Get the new phone, have the bill mailed to a good friend who won't betray you and whose mailbox isn't open to others (like her parents) who might tell your father, and keep it secret. Meanwhile, leave the new phone in plausible but deceptive locations - not always at home - while you go about your business as you normally would.

You need to get out of this situation, but until you can, you need to practice damage mitigation and control. Be smart.
posted by ikkyu2 at 8:02 PM on February 18, 2008 [6 favorites]

I'd like to provide a ... different tip.

Give him his money's worth. Freak him out; Go someplace with your cellphone that he'd never want you to go - some bad bar, or a bad part of town, or a strip club, or any of a million places that he wouldn't want you going. Or take a cross-country trip by car. You could stage anything to freak him out - if you really wanted to get complicated, take a highway trip, then randomly stop on the side of the highway... A while later, head to the hospital. Your dad would probably have a heart attack, thinking that you got in a car wreck.

He'll surely call to pretend like he's just checking on you - don't answer. Just stay there, wherever crazy you decided to go. When he shows up, interrogate him as to why he knows where you are. It would surely make him look like the bad guy in the situation.

I'm not a therapist, I don't know that this is the right way, but it sure would be the way I would go, because I'm a crazy out-of-the-box thinker like that. And I also think, maybe it wouldn't solve anything. But like I said, I'm just throwing that out there.

Another alternative, if you can stand to be away from your cellphone for a few days, would be to ship it somewhere. Take a trip out to the post office, have them ship it someplace that's not really an address and make sure to have a return address on it, so that it will bounce back to you. Drop it off there in the morning so that it will start moving that day; then go to work, and then stay overnight at a friend's house or a hotel. Come back home the next day to a very freaked-out father.
Okay, so I probably wouldn't even do that. But, you know, just giving you options! :)

But yes, on a more serious note, I think it would be good to cut out all of your dependence on your father. Even though you may be of age, you are still living under his roof, using his cell phone and insured by his insurance. All of these things need to be severed if you want to be out from under his wing. It's a huge step, and you're getting plenty of encouragement by listening to the commenters here, but you need to go do it, as soon as possible.

posted by Ricket at 8:05 PM on February 18, 2008 [2 favorites]

Have you looked into domestic violence protection and women's shelters? If not, do so ASAP! Your first question was worrying enough, and that you haven't moved out or improved things

Get your own phone, but keep this one and don't let on for now that you know about the tracking. Leave it in your work bag, so you only carry it between home and work. If you call him, use that phone. This means that if you have to escape suddenly, leaving the phone in a bus or train or taxi or mailing it out of state will buy you some extra time.

As long as he thinks he's able to track you and that you don't know, this gives you a resource. Also, don't assume this is the only way he's trying to track you. Check your computer for keyloggers etc.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 8:06 PM on February 18, 2008

Give him his money's worth. Freak him out; Go someplace with your cellphone that he'd never want you to go - some bad bar, or a bad part of town, or a strip club, or any of a million places that he wouldn't want you going.

Go to Fedex and mail your cell phone to a Mefi'er in Japan (for instance).

Then get a hotel room for the night.

posted by fusinski at 8:14 PM on February 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

Your first question was worrying enough, and that you haven't moved out or improved things

Whoops, mis-type. I meant to say:

... that you haven't moved out or improved things in the meantime is grounds for concern. What have you done towards establishing independence? How did things go with the boyfriend? How's your general state of health? Have you seen a therapist?

You don't have to take anyone in particular's advice, Sansgras, but you need to do something. It's very easy to be in a bad situation and get overwhelmed by it and just push it aside planning to deal with it later, and never get around to dealing with it at all. If you can feel yourself doing that, ask your friends to help you. The times we most need help are often the times we feel most reluctant to ask for it.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 8:14 PM on February 18, 2008

I hate to be dramatic, but you do realize this thread will show up in a google search don't you? I mention that because you said his computer messages have the same name as your user name here. There is nothing cowardly about being anonymous. And he sounds like a person who would google you in a heartbeat.
That said, I agree you must get out. Obviously that isn't as easy as just saying it. Takes a good chuck of change to get started. And you don't want to get into a worse situation with someone that you sorta have to stay with or end up on the street.
Can you save some money and move out to a cheap place? Perhaps share with some college friends?
I'm thisclose to begging you join the Peace Corps. With yr masters you'd be a real asset, and in a few years time have incredible experiences, new skills and a nice little nest egg.

And I agree with most advice here, except I'd urge you in this situation to not do anything to enrage him, that's a big NO. Of course I only know what you write here, but 'reading between the lines' it sounds like a situation that requires you to be 'wise as a serpent and harmless as a dove.'
posted by dawson at 8:15 PM on February 18, 2008

He is tracking you.

You have hacked his e-mail account.

Neither of you has spoken to the other in a month.

You're both putting your poor sister in the middle of this mess.

Before you do anything too drastic (and you might have to), maybe it's time you 2 adults talk about all of this shit instead of playing games behind each other's backs.

[Assuming you don't actually fear for your life, in which case get the hell out now.]
posted by probablysteve at 8:17 PM on February 18, 2008 [2 favorites]

'wise as a serpent and harmless as a dove.'

Don't underestimate the value of 'crazy like a fox', either.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 8:18 PM on February 18, 2008 [2 favorites]

I did a little reading and it looks like 100 text messages are included in this "family locator" plan, so what's probably happened is he installed the software on the phone, enabled sms, then confirmed your compliance via sms himself, when you weren't paying attention or were otherwise away from your phone.

It is time for you to leave his house.
posted by loiseau at 8:27 PM on February 18, 2008

probablysteve: He is tracking you.

You have hacked his e-mail account.

Neither of you has spoken to the other in a month.

You're both putting your poor sister in the middle of this mess.

Before you do anything too drastic (and you might have to), maybe it's time you 2 adults talk about all of this shit instead of playing games behind each other's backs.

With all due respect, Probablysteve, this is not a matter between two peers. This is a parent and child, which adds all sorts of complexity, history and baggage. You are always the child and they are always the parent, no matter the age, and they raised you, meaning you are not on a level playing field.
posted by loiseau at 8:31 PM on February 18, 2008 [2 favorites]

Update since my last post, just to clarify some things: I am so glad I made that initial post because it provided me with a lot of the insight and motivation necessary to realize that my living situation is not healthy, and the only viable solution is for me to gain independence and leave.

Regardless, I still have such a profound sense of guilt. I feel like I owe my father something. I feel like I'm disrespecting him. I want him to be happy and content (despite knowing that I don't love him-- not now, not ever), but I also want those things for myself, and I know that we will never come to a compromise.

My plan to leave is as follows. I'm extremely tied up in my research at the moment, so the best I can do for the next few months is continue to work and save as much money as I can, while spending as much time as possible out of the house. During the week I'm either in the lab, studying in the library, or working. I leave the house at 7 a.m. and don't usually get home until 9 or 10 p.m. I work on the weekends. I don't have friends so I don't go out, but I have been dating a guy (the same guy I mentioned in my initial post back in mid-December), and I see him every weekend. He lives relatively far and I usually don't get home until 4-5 a.m. after seeing him (which is obviously completely and utterly inappropriate according to my father), but I'm trying to reassure myself by reminding myself that I am an adult and I am allowed to go out. If I'm not drinking or putting myself in compromising situations, there isn't a problem... right? (FYI-- my father thinks I'm out with coworkers. Again, I don't talk to him, so he keeps up with me through my sister. Now with the tracking device, of course, he can tell exactly where I am.) The guy I'm dating is familiar with my family situation and he's been more or less supportive of me.

I also opened up a credit card to start establishing credit, which I realize is necessary if I ever plan to move out and get an apartment. I've had my own checking account for the past three years, and he in no way controls my finances. He doesn't know about the credit card.

I am also back on anti-depressants. I summoned the courage to see my GP, and I'm now on an SSRI and a benzo. She wants me to see a psychiatrist and a therapist before she continues to see me anymore. I feel the SSRI is helping me in a number of ways, but what scares me is the fact that I may have to stop taking it. I pay for my medical visits and prescription costs (mainly because I prefer my father not to know what I'm taking. He knows I've been seeing my doctor, he just thinks it's for an unrelated issue), and when my prescriptions alone are $600/month (I use two other medications, both of which are medically necessary) WITH insurance, it's really a financial detriment to my plans.

My eating disorder has flared up. I lost about 20 lbs since mid-December. Eating is the last thing on my mind.

As far as establishing support through friends and family: I have no relationship with my mother. She is a normal one, but we don't communicate. It's probably been a month since we last exchanged a word, and she also lives in this house. She is fully aware of how my father treats me, but she has openly stated that she doesn't care and can't personally do anything about it. I'm don't know any of my relatives, nor do I have any desire to form a connection with any of them, so that is also out of the question.

My support mainly comes from my boss and coworkers. I am lucky to have a relaxed, informal job where my only requirement is to sit and talk, and so it's not at all inappropriate to be discussing my issues with them. I don't bring anything up unless asked (despite rambling here, it kills me to talk about myself with others, for fear of coming across as self-important... another issue of mine), and my boss (who is essentially my mother at this point) has really gotten me to open up to her. Her advice has been invaluable. I can't say I'm any more courageous, but it's nice to know I have people to talk to when things get rough, people who care enough to ask or call me to find out how I am doing. I've never had that before, and it makes me feel worth something.

With the email issue-- I only opened messages he had already opened. I have my own desktop and laptop, neither of which he uses, but that is irrelevant because I used my computer at my workplace to access his email account. I don't plan to snoop anymore.

With the silent treatment issue-- it isn't a game. When I was a child he would ignore me for weeks at a time (not a single exchange of words-- literally), and for no particular reason. He's done this my entire life. I've tried to talk to him but he'll continue to ignore me. I stopped feeling bothered by this a few years ago. I'm an adult. I'm here to talk. If he doesn't want to, that is fine too. I'm not going to beg for his attention. His explanation for his silence is that he is punishing me, despite being told by my mother and sister that for me, this isn't punishment. I don't mind not speaking to him.

Also-- my father knows I want to move out. His only response is to laugh and remind me I can't support myself, which I realize. I may be educated, but I have no idea where or how to look for a job. I don't know how to look for an apartment. I don't know how much money I need to live comfortably, to keep up with bills and living expenses. I'm not used to having to consider finances at all, although this was at the expense of my sanity. What about health insurance? And my car? My car was paid for in full, but how does car insurance work? My father once suggested that if I left, I would have to return the car, which I understand, but that is another expense I would need to consider. (I live in an area that requires one to have a vehicle. There aren't trains or a subway system, and buses are not at all sufficient.)
At the moment I'm researching and hoping I'm making the right decisions in looking for a cell phone plan of my own. The biggest obstacle is that I was raised being told that I'm young and helpless and unable to do anything, that everything must be done for me, so now, despite desperately wanting to be more independent, I'm not naive and realize there is so much I don't know. I'm still trying to figure out where to begin. At this point, I'm just saving money until I solidify my plans.

And I realize my posts come up easily through a Google search. I haven't given away any identifying details, my username is one I made up for this site only, and only someone who knows of my personal situation who recognize my posts (and only to read the things they already know), and if my father were to read, whatever. I can't pretend to care at this point.
posted by sansgras at 8:50 PM on February 18, 2008

I know that one more body on the pile won't finally make you start moving, but -
Get out of that house.
Leave the cell phone behind [although mailing it is still a hilarious idea]
stay with friends
stay at a hotel
stay with anybody who is not a relative [they will likely tell your dad and feel like they're helping you unless they really know your situation, and maybe even then].

just go.


That kind of behaviour is not cool. Not at all.

The peace corps is a good idea, because I think what you need is to be separated from everything familiar so you can come back [much] later with some real perspective.

he is tracking you in other ways [for sure], and will redouble his efforts when you leave. Mention this to the police, or [I don't know the procedure], but be prepared for him to flip out, and be prepared to be far away when it happens.

just go. life is fun when you let it be.
posted by Acari at 9:00 PM on February 18, 2008

I'm agreed with the general consensus that it's time to move out. There's a lot more going on here than the cell phone. If you are in the US, you have full adult rights at 18. Your father has no legal hold on you, and you have a job and a masters, which means the only power he has over you is the power you allow him to have. You can get your own place, get your own phone, and never see him again if you want, and there isn't anything he can do. If you do move out and he continues to invade your privacy, it isn't hard to get a restraining order.

I don't think this is the time to talk to him. You need to establish yourself as an adult and level the playing field first. It may seem like a big step, but if you can get a masters, you can certainly do this. I'd suggest moving in with a friend until you can get an apartment of your own--or, as others have said, finding a women's shelter.

If it seems overwhelming: I happen to have a peculiarly large network of helpful people in my database. If you decide to leave and need some assistance, you are welcome to email or MefiMail me and I may know of someone nearby who can help.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 9:04 PM on February 18, 2008 [2 favorites]

...I am the 20 year old with the master's degree.

Really? This might seem like a derail, but I find this statement kind of telling.

Not only do you have a masters degree barely out of your teen years, you also have a job. This is exceedingly unusual. To me, this indicates that there is some special circumstance to your life, and probably your family situation since you have a graduate degree and you are only twenty years old. Therefore, the advice given from most people - informed from their own, more typical upbringing and family dynamic - may not best be applied to you. Perhaps you are some kind of prodigy, or your father drove your academic achievements mercilessly at a very young age, but my hunch is that there is a lot more going on here than an overbearing parent.
posted by dendrite at 9:04 PM on February 18, 2008 [2 favorites]

Because I like bandwagons, I thought I would add my voice to the chorus of people telling you to LEAVE your father's house. Because that is what it is- your father's house. It is not your home, because you would feel safe and be treated with respect. That is not happening right now. You wrote that your previous thread made you realize that your father was behaving in an abusive way. I don't know to what extent you have internalized that thought, however, because you have not removed yourself from that situation as of yet. I honestly think that you need to, for your own sake, and frankly for your sister's sake as well. Living in an environment where you are treated as incompetent, as something to be controlled, is not mentally and emotionally healthy. It leads you to do things which you know are wrong (like break into your father's e-mail account). It will poison your relationship with your sister, as she is used by both you and your father for information and as an ally.

Maybe it seems scarier to leave your father's house than going into the unknown. A woman strong and smart enough to finish college and also a master's program, who has friends and co-workers and a boss who is supportive (as you seem to have) can definitely handle getting her own apartment and leading her own life, including cell phone bills. Friends, co-workers- these people are your allies, use their help to get out of that house and into a safe environment of your own. It doesn't have to be all that complicated- ask around for someone who is looking to rent out a room in their apartment, check out what is available on Craig's List, read the classified ads in your local paper. Many people move house in a weekend with little notice- you can do it too.

Maybe these many responses telling you to leave your father's house seem melodramatic, like we are all urging you to throw out the baby with the bathwater. Maybe so, but I for one am worried that in 5 years time you will be facing the same problem in the same house, since your father absolutely will not change. It is up to you to address the problem in the way that is the healthiest for you, and healthiest for you is not in a house where your father thinks that tracking via cell-phone is acceptable.
posted by that possible maker of pork sausages at 9:04 PM on February 18, 2008

I have no relationship with my mother. She is a normal one, but we don't communicate. It's probably been a month since we last exchanged a word, and she also lives in this house.

That is NOT normal, in any way.
posted by chiababe at 9:06 PM on February 18, 2008

Like everybody else says: Get out.

What is your father going to do when you finally find a boyfriend? What's he going to do when his surveillance places you in your lover's bed? Every aspect of his behavior as described in your previous post is a glaring red flag. You're in danger.

Take your stuff and go. Communicate with him only in a way he can't use to infer your location, and hope that someday he will learn to relate to you as an adult whom he cannot control. I'm so sorry; this is so sad.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 9:06 PM on February 18, 2008

You need to more than leave. You need to disappear. You need to establish yourself without being tracked or watched. Even by your sister. Start saving CASH. Credit cards can be tracked.

There is something seriously wrong with this man and this situation.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 9:07 PM on February 18, 2008

After seeing your update, I think women's shelter may be the best option for you, if there is one nearby. A good one will be able to connect you with people who can take you step-by-step through the process of becoming independent. An early step will be finding a job that can pay your basic bills--but for a single woman without a lot of debt, that shouldn't be hard to find, especially with a graduate degree.

And you're still welcome to contact me in case I know someone close.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 9:08 PM on February 18, 2008


There are resources for abused women. They can certainly help to guide you through the logistics of becoming independent.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 9:17 PM on February 18, 2008

Get the hell out of there.
posted by LarryC at 9:21 PM on February 18, 2008

If you want a technical solution to the immediate issue of the phone tracking:

Get another phone that looks exactly like the one your dad has, but with your own plan. Forward your old phone to the new number. Turn the dad-phone off. He'll think the tracking feature stopped working.
posted by kindall at 9:29 PM on February 18, 2008

ditto dendrite. there's more going on here than mefites can sort out. stay close to what friends you have - and professional help.
posted by whatisish at 9:31 PM on February 18, 2008

Also-- my father knows I want to move out. His only response is to laugh and remind me I can't support myself, which I realize.

This is nonsense. Your family is not supporting you in any way except financially. With the right job, you can overcome that. Dealing with life--bills, jobs, cars--is not nearly as hard as your father wants you to think it is.

I do agree, again, that you need to find a women's shelter. That will give you something of a support network, and put you in touch with people who can help you become independent. They deal with situations like yours all the time.
posted by almostmanda at 9:41 PM on February 18, 2008

Forward your old phone to the new number.

Since the father maintains the phone plan, won't he know if this occurs?

And my own advice:
Move out.
Getting your own phone should be secondary.
Don't believe what he says about not being able to support yourself. Jobs, insurance, bills, etc. You're perfectly capable of learning how all of that works with the help of the internet and other people & organizations in real life.
posted by kidbritish at 9:46 PM on February 18, 2008

such a profound sense of guilt.

I've known a lot of women to stay in abusive relationships because they feel they owe their partner something.

he's tracked me approximately 40 times in the last 48 hours

This is an abusive relationship. I hope you get out.
posted by moonlet at 9:54 PM on February 18, 2008

About the "His only response is to laugh and remind me I can't support myself" bullshit.

You have a Masters. You have a JOB. You have bosses and coworkers who care about you.

Grad students making "poverty level incom + $1" get by and make it.

You've got a Masters. You can figure out how to live on your own.

I'm not asking how much you make, but it's probably more than the median cross-America income (it's around 35-45k?), right? That's enough to support a single person - permitting for lifestyle and the cities in the extreme cost spectrum; in less metropolitan areas, it may be enough to support several people.

Tell your coworkers that you're thinking of getting a place of your own but don't know where to start since it's your first time moving out. I'm sure they'd be more than happy to help. Or ask them if they know anyone who needs a flatmate/roommate.

For car insurance, or where to find a good mechanic, or who's a good plumber in your area, and whatnot - I've seen askme posts here asking for recommendations on who to call or advice and they've gotten answers. Try your best, just go and take a chance or an unknown. What's the worst that can happen? (they overcharge you - so if it isn't an emergency, ask for a quote, ask around to see if anyone else you know had the same problem and how much they paid to fix it, or post it here on the green with the area your in).

If you need to, at the very LEAST, you can come back here on the green.

It really sounds like your boss and coworkers care about you. It's ok to ask for help; it's flattering to be asked of help.

(at least, based on the plethora of responses to your posts. and of course this second post of mine)
posted by porpoise at 9:56 PM on February 18, 2008

Wow, it sounds like your dad has managed to convince you that you'll never be able to survive without him. Which is absolute crap. You can easily find out how much money you'll need to move out. Most friends will tell you how much they pay in rent if you ask nicely, or have a look in the paper or even go and look at a few places. Car insurance is also pretty straight forward. Just call up a company and get a quote. (you know you should of course get more than one and compare them) Spend ten minutes approximating a menu for a week and then next time you in a supermarket look and see how much it would cost. Sneak a peak at your families electricity and telephone bills. Budgeting is just knowing how much money you've got coming in, and controlling where it goes. Also, surely if you're a student, you can get loans?

As for the phone thing, whilst completely inappropriate, unless he does anything with the information, it is really just a reflection on your father's issues. Coming home at 4-5am in the morning when he doesn't know where you are probably isn't helping this btw. (not that I blame you there).

Reading your other askme, it does sound like you're waiting for someone else to come along and solve everything, a boyfriend, a friend, a therapist, your mother, or you're just hoping that your father suddenly changes. Which was probably fair enough as a child, but you're now an adult and responsible for your own fate. Any change in your situation is probably going to have to be initiated by you - you're going to have to start helping yourself.
posted by kjs4 at 10:03 PM on February 18, 2008 [4 favorites]

Oh, in general, if you spend 1/3 or less of your takehome (post-tax) income per month on renting (and just the rent) your domicile, you're in an very ok zone.

Unless you have three wall-length closets full of clothes and the third wall of your room is a rack of shoes (or a heavy drug addiction), you'll probably find that you'll have a lot of money left over at the end of every month even after living on your own.

What are you doing with the money you are earning now? If you have been saving it, it should be a relatively large nest egg. Have you been signing your cheques over to your family?
posted by porpoise at 10:03 PM on February 18, 2008

The phone is a red herring here. You yourself say it's not the worst of his abusive, intrusive behaviors. The true issue is that your father is manipulative, controlling, and scary, and that you are terrified of doing anything about it.

As you well know, one of the key tactics of an abuser is to develop a relationship in which the abusee is dependent on the abuser. This is precisely what makes an abusive situation so hard and so fucking scary to end.

But you know what? You are the only one who can end this. You say yourself that your mother is unwilling or unable to do anything. Your sister is too young. Your father pretends to care about you while caging you up and behaving in a way that is not only disrespectful of your fundamental humanity, but that is terrifyingly intrusive and boundary-less.

You say you can't support yourself. This is bullshit. You are an educated woman with a job and many prospects. You say you feel guilty and as if you are disrespecting your father. While I understand how this can be, your father is actually disrespecting you by not allowing you to develop outside of his "care."

This will only get worse if you don't intervene on your own behalf. I urge you to do something to ensure that you get to lead the young, full-of-kinetic-energy-and-potential life you should be leading in your early 20s. Please get help now.
posted by mynameisluka at 10:15 PM on February 18, 2008


Unusual, yes, but that is the truth. Aside from all that I've mentioned here, my upbringing was fairly unremarkable. I was an average student as a child, mainly because I possessed neither the interest nor the personal well-being to truly care about school. It wasn't until I started college as a young teenager that I devoted myself to school and did very well (I can't explain the details of this publicly, but if you're genuinely interested I can explain privately). And the reason I was so successful and continue to be successful probably has to do with the fact that I establish my self-worth and my identity through my grades and academic achievements. It was never so much about being intelligent as it was about being scarily driven and stuck on this idea that I was going to accomplish x, y, and z by this age if I ever wanted to prove to people (my father?*) that I'm worth something.
I have been very unimpressed with my graduate education. I learned nothing, it means nothing, and I only went down this path because I needed something productive to do after undergrad since I'm stalling on the medical school plans.

*And of course my father couldn't be any less impressed. We don't talk about my education anymore, but (and I don't intend to sound full of myself) I used to ask him why he isn't proud, why it is that elsewhere people seem to be astounded but when I come home that sentiment isn't there. And all he would do is call me an idiot because so many people have families who don't care and how dare I question his support.


Actually, I probably make under $15,000/yr after taxes, working part-time. I'm not sure exactly because it has only been recently that I've been forced to really think about finances and what I need to do with myself. Prior to this, I was literally collecting checks and going to Nieman Marcus. It's pitiful, but it's the truth. I would work more often, but I'm busy with my research and school. Beginning in May I will be free to work full-time. And regardless, right now I'm saving pretty much all that I can while I still am without bills. My job has nothing to do with my educational background nor is it in my field. I realize I could probably do much better, but I'm not really sure how to go about finding a real job regardless of whether its related to my field. The only reason I'm at the job I have is because I get paid to do absolutely nothing and I enjoy the people I work with. I think it's easy for my boss to forget that I have an extensive education for someone of my age. I'm sure I could get a 'real' job in the company, but I don't have the confidence to ask. I check Craigslist regularly, but rarely come across anything. Additionally, I have this idea that my age will be an issue whereever I go.
posted by sansgras at 10:16 PM on February 18, 2008

You're making a couple of mistakes....Another is telling your boss and coworkers about this. Do you want to lose your job? Don't air your family's dirty linen in public.

I often agree with ikkyu2 but this I disagree with vehemently. Abusers count on their victims being too ashamed to tell anyone what's going on. Keeping this "private" will heighten your isolation and will make you feel like you have even fewer options than you feel you do now.

Tell the whole world- your father will be who looks like the psycho- not you.

Oh- and get one of your friends AND one of the women's shelters to help you get set up on your own. That is- call the women's shelters and then have a friend go with you for anything you might want support for. It really is really daunting to try to figure it out on your own the first time, especially when you've got all this emotional stuff to deal with. (It doesn't seem daunting to the folks here because we've already been doing it awhile.) I solemnly promise that you aren't the only one going through this kind of thing. The abused women resources/shelters/etc are used to crazy scary people - your father won't intimidate them, and they'll know how to get you set up with a place to live and all that. You'll be a piece of cake for them- you're educated and you don't have kids to worry about.
posted by small_ruminant at 10:18 PM on February 18, 2008

A specific question regarding your car: do you have the title and is it in your name? That's really important. Because if he has the title he will report the vehicle stolen when you leave, which creates a world of problems if you get pulled over in a "stolen" car. I know you said you need a car where you are but you can always take a taxi or buy a new used one (renting a car might be tough at 20).

And, you've heard this already, but I've got to tell you to leave NOW. Your father is potentially extremely dangerous. A woman's shelter is probably a good step because they're set up to help women in abusive situations, like you're in.
posted by 6550 at 10:20 PM on February 18, 2008

get a pre paid mobile account now.

If he's paying the bill ring someone from New Zealand and have a nice long chat.

Change his email password on him.

You're 20, move out.
posted by mattoxic at 10:20 PM on February 18, 2008

Hmm, is there a career counselor at your university? They might be able to help you organize a job search.

As for making the transition into adulthood, you are not alone! There are many FABULOUS books that were written just for you, to answer your questions about how other twentysomethings have supported themselves (without their parents), finding a job, finances, your car, health insurance, etc.

From Amazon, for example:

Book Title: What They Don't Teach You in College (Paperback)

Book Description
Youre finally free-so now what?

Youve passed the last final, and suddenly youre expected to know how to do all sorts of grown-up things-get a job, rent an apartment, pay for health insurance. The only problem is, no one ever told you how to do these things. Take a deep breath, because What They Dont Teach You in College is a crash course in Life 101.

Your Job
soar through all the new-hire paperwork
create the best benefits package for you

Your Money
live large on a small but smart budget
control your student loan payments

Your Health
keep insurance costs low
get to know your HMO

Your Apartment
spot the most dangerous traps in your lease
keep roommate headaches to a minimum

Your Taxes
make filing your returns a breeze
discover simple ways to increase your refund

Your Car
avoid used car pitfalls
negotiate like a pro for your first new car

Packed with helpful checklists for every situation, easy definitions of essential terms and practical advice from an experienced lawyer, What They Dont Teach You in College makes lifes major decisions as easy as 1, 2, 3.

Say good-bye to college and hello to your new life!

Other books include:

20-Something, 20-Everything: A Quarter-life Woman's Guide to Balance and Direction

The Turbulent Twenties Survival Guide: Figuring Out Who You Are, What You Want, & Where You're Going After College (Paperback)

Embracing the Real World (The Black Woman's Guide to Life After College)

How to Survive the Real World: Life After College Graduation: Advice from 774 Graduates Who Did (Hundreds of Heads Survival Guides) (Paperback)

twentysomething: Surviving and Thriving in the Real World


Seriously, hit amazon, or the library. There are scores of these books around, and I think collectively, they'll give you the crash course you need. As my mom would say, you sound like a smart cookie - you just needs some information to take the next step into adulthood. While it's a shame your parents won't help make this transition smooth for you, you have it in you to take that step anyway. Hundreds have before you (read the books) and you can too.

Best of luck, I'm rooting for you!
posted by anitanita at 10:20 PM on February 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


My solution is to get an entirely new cell phone plan-- different service provider, different phone, different number, different everything. I then plan to keep my initial phone silent and hidden in the house at all times, so when he goes to track me, all it shows is that I'm home. Not only is this a slap in the face, but I'm trying to slowly separate myself from this abuse cycle, and by being less dependent on him in this one regard (having my own phone), which I suppose is a step in the right direction.

Thank you for reading. I will appreciate any insight. At this point, I am so confused, I don't know what to think.

Don't do this, it's playing games which will invite more games.

On Second thoughts

It sounds like you're in need of some professional help anyway, so I'd be seeking that rather than taking advice from anonymous strangers.
posted by mattoxic at 10:24 PM on February 18, 2008

You say that you're working and saving money, which is great. I think now it's time to start researching all those "adult" things (insurance, apartments, etc.) that you're unsure of how to approach. You took the first step in researching and obtaining a new cell phone plan and getting a credit card. It's the same with everything else. Keep track of your spending and make a budget (you may have to drop the expensive clothes). Look on Craigslist for average rent costs in your area and look into used cars if you need one. These are things that parents usually help out with before they push their children out of the proverbial nest, but yours aren't going to help. Utilize your friends and coworkers for guidance on the practical stuff.

The real hurdle is that any move for independence will be futile unless you feel confident in yourself and know that you deserve it, which probably won't happen without therapy. Hundreds of people on MeFi telling you that it's won't make you believe it. Perhaps your doctor can recommend a therapist. That seems hugely important in your life, especially considering the antidepressants and the eating disorder.

Best of luck. My thoughts are with you.
posted by easy_being_green at 10:35 PM on February 18, 2008

Since the father maintains the phone plan, won't he know if this occurs?

It'll have a separate number. He could probably find out if he checked. Maybe he would, maybe he wouldn't. You could do it only occasionally when you want to elude his tracking.
posted by kindall at 11:08 PM on February 18, 2008

One thing you haven't talked about much is your research and your relationship with your fellow academics. See, the way it's sounding like to me is: the biggest barrier to your getting out now is money (also experience, but I think you know more than you realize, and can learn a lot more with the help of your co-workers/bf/a women's shelter/etc). But you have a low salary, and can't get another job because of your academic work/research.

Now, I'm not telling you to drop your research! But I think it would be worth talking with your advisor about all this, perhaps in conjunction with a discussion with a domestic abuse advocate. None of us are there with you to see how dangerous the situation is (although I really don't think you should disregard the dozens of people saying GET OUT NOW), and they're the ones best placed to help you figure out whether you can and should stick it out for another few months in that house for the sake of your research, or whether you should postpone the academics for a little while in order to get out immediately. Your safety should be your top priority.
posted by bettafish at 11:22 PM on February 18, 2008

Thank you for reading. I will appreciate any insight.

I don't say this to be unduly harsh, but you are really at the point of your life where you need to figure this shit out yourself. The specifics may very, but you are an adult now and need to be able to figure out what's acceptable for you and what's not without asking a bunch of strangers on the internet what to do.

Taking responsibility for your own life and what's a part of it is the ultimate goal here, but to make this easier (as a first step): STOP CARRYING A TRACKING DEVICE AROUND and PAY FOR YOUR OWN DAMN PHONE. And I say this with smiles and a hug: it's time for you to grow up. That means paying your own way. It's harder in certain ways but trust me, it's a lot more fun on the other side.
posted by dhammond at 11:24 PM on February 18, 2008

Sangras, I'm nthing everyone who says get a new phone and away from your parents pronto. Does your research job help provide cheap(er)/free housing for its employees? That might be an option.
posted by brujita at 12:23 AM on February 19, 2008

Clearly your father is an unpredictable and irrational man, so you need to have plans that keep you safe. Take advice from professionals in this area, which would be the women's refuge folks and maybe Pater Alethias' friends. I do not think you should leave or even get rid of the phone until you have worked out a plan with the goal of an independent life elsewhere. If you have lasted this long you can afford to take the time to get it right.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 12:42 AM on February 19, 2008

$15,000 after tax is very, very comfortable for a student. It will still obviously depend on where you set yourself up, but you could easily choose to move to a cheaper far-away locale to make the escape more complete. You might not need your own apartment - rooming with someone else (craigslist) or subletting a room from someone would be much cheaper.

Although, a few things jumped out at me.

1. From your previous post. I understand and sympathize with why you spend a lot on haute couture, but really, this is not sustainable. Start cutting back drastically now, while you are still in the planning stages.

2. Can you go to a different city? Can you move to somewhere at leaset 7-8 hours away? Because really, you think moving out was hard - avoiding him as he stalks your home will be much harder to swallow (it's your home! yours! you paid for it!) and a much bigger blow. I have no trouble envisioning him driving a few hours to satisfy his obsession with you, and you shouldn't either. Get out get out get out, and get FAR away.

3. A lot of people my age, and yours, have this notion that moving out is this big scary thing with all sorts of hidden knowledge that the evil adults never told us about, but it's really not that complicated. Pay the rent on time (look around classified ads to get an approximation of how much passes for normal in your city). Pay the utilities and bills when they arrive in the mail (you have a debit card. sign up for online banking and it is honestly the easiest procedure in the world). keep track of all, and I do mean all your expenses. Don't not write something down just because that purchase makes you feel guilty - it's better to know where everything is going. Really. Set yourself a budget for food, a budget for transportation, a budget for bills, and a bit extra for contingencies/misc living expenses. Stick to it, like glue. And that's all there honestly is to it. I expected to flounder when I moved out this year, I expected to screw up repeatedly and completely and negate any positive emotional effect of getting away from my parents. I didn't, because it's... not as hard as we're led to believe.

You're stronger than you think. You are. My father's asshat-ery doesn't even begin to approach the appalling behaviour I've read about twice now, but I am not unfamiliar with the deep-rooted self-esteem issues someone in that position can instill in us from a very early age. But I'm out - I'm 18 and doing my undergrad and stressed as hell, but I'm out. Trust me, it is the best thing you can do for yourself. Please.
posted by Phire at 12:44 AM on February 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

Find a women's shelter.

Get your own phone.

Leave your father's phone on the bus.
posted by flabdablet at 1:07 AM on February 19, 2008

I did a little reading and it looks like 100 text messages are included in this "family locator" plan...

Yep. loiseau is right on.

Sprint Family Locator..."gives you and your family peace of mind in the palm of your hand. All devices now supported with mobile web—go to on your phone. Locate Your Children immediately, from any web-enabled mobile phone or from the web."

As mentioned above, ditch the phone -- or at the very least attach it to the collar of a wandering dog. Boy, that should keep your Dad entertained.

In the end ... get your own mobile phone.
posted by ericb at 2:59 AM on February 19, 2008

trying to think of this from a parent's perspective.... is he worried you're going to do some harm to yourself? is it possible that he just needs reassurance that you're ok psychologically?

he's spying on you and not your sister. you mention an eating disorder and your gp wants you to see a psychiatrist. is it possible that he's very very very frightened for you and has no idea how to handle it? (explaining the silences) and hasn't really coped with your transition from child to adult? like the boundaries issues with tracking.... which would be appropriate for a 15 year old but not a 20 year old.

he definitely sounds like he has "issues", but i wonder if you're more of a handful than you realise and he's worried sick about you. and not just for the reasons you think.

i may well be entirely off base.... but i'm a mummy and i was trying to get in to his head. it's uncommon, in my experience, for people to be as black and white, good or bad as it appears here.

if we asked your dad about you..... if you were being brutally honest with yourself.... what would he say. and why?

and i'm absolutely not trying to blame you for any of this. absolutely. i just think it might be useful to try and get in his head a bit. if possible. sometimes working out other people's motivations can help us readjust our own.... and things can improve.

and sometimes i'm wrong. but as i'm a mummy, i'll never admit that in public. ;-)
the very best of luck, anyway possum.
posted by taff at 3:23 AM on February 19, 2008

Get out now.
posted by arimathea at 4:14 AM on February 19, 2008

Protecting yourself from this is more important than continuing your education. You have to get out of this relationship and this house as soon as you physically can.
posted by Hogshead at 4:48 AM on February 19, 2008


Anyone who works with abused women will tell you that the most dangerous time for them is right after they leave the abuser. It is considered an affront to the abuser's control over the woman, and a threat. My best friend worked in a shelter for abused women, and knew of several women who were murdered by their husbands or fathers after leaving.

But, just because it is frightening and dangerous to leave doesn't mean that you are safe in your father's house. He's killing your spirit and soul at a minimum, and if he feels you are pulling away from him he could try to physically restrain you.

Don't play games with the phone. Turn it off. Get another phone in your own name if you must have one. MAKE SURE IT IS WELL HIDDEN, and the ringer is off while you are still in your father's house.

Get a Post Office box for your mail. It's cheap security, and will buy you some time. Check into Mail Boxes Etc.

Get out of this house, but do it in a smart, careful, safe way. DO NOT TELEGRAPH YOUR INTENTIONS! Don't tell your sister, or any family member. Make your plans, keep your plans secret, and move.

If you don't have strong family and friendship ties to this place, consider moving farther away. The farther away you move, the safer you will be. You mention that the guy you are seeing lives a distance away from your father's house... could you perhaps move in that direction and still be able to commute to work?

DON'T MOVE IN WITH THE BOYFRIEND! You need to establish yourself as an adult before co-mingling your life with someone else's.

STOP FEELING GUILTY. You don't owe anyone anything... except yourself. You can't change what happened last year, last month, last week, or yesterday. You only have control over the next right thing. You owe it to yourself and to your future to get away from this dysfunctional situation.

SET A GOOD EXAMPLE FOR YOUR SISTER. She's next... and she may end up taking some punishment for your disobedience.

Don't write anything down, don't keep anything at the house that you need for your freedom. GET YOUR BIRTH CERTIFICATE, AND ANY OTHER IMPORTANT DOCUMENTS.
Make a plan, stick to it, and GET OUT, before you become a statistic.

Good luck.
posted by Corky at 4:50 AM on February 19, 2008 [11 favorites]

sansgras, I have a friend who had a baby when she was 16, moved out, got on welfare and got a job, stayed in high school full-time with her daughter in daycare, and graduated at the top of her class with a happy little girl. Do you think she knew anything about how to find an apartment when she was 15 and pregnant? Do you think her age was a factor in getting jobs? Of course, but she did fine.

Don't let him limit you. You know how to learn something because you're determined that you need to succeed, so do it again.

Also-- my father knows I want to move out. His only response is to laugh and remind me I can't support myself, which I realize.

No, you do not realise this. You have never tried. How could you know what you are capable of yet? Prove him wrong. Being able to support yourself is not a superhuman trait. You are a smart, capable, determined young woman, and that's more than you need for this. I was making less than $10K/year when I first moved out and I was perfectly fine. You're going to be making more than $15K because you'll start working full-time. Make the jump.
posted by heatherann at 5:08 AM on February 19, 2008

Can't track a phone if the battery isn't attached.
posted by Mach5 at 5:33 AM on February 19, 2008

I wonder what your dad says to HIS confidants when it comes to family issues. Labeling him a sadistic abuser is what is off base.

I bet none of you had a dad that paid for your extended education (finishing early) and bought your a fully paid car with insurance and probably got you a job. Even though this kind of sheltering is detrimental to ones personal development, if he follows through then you can consider yourself lucky. At 21 you will legally be able to sign papers and sever ties.

Although, My advice to you is to be more compassionate towards your father (not feeling guilty).It will help your peace of mind. You don't have to try to speak to him but try to understand that he is from a different land. It makes it hard for him to cope with raising a family the way he always imagined. It seems he failed in many ways. So he relegated to simply provide for you; but felt his hands were tied in mentoring you because of such societal differences.

You see my mother came from a different culture as well and had trouble raising a quickly Americanized boy. Conversely to your dad, She realized she was never able to provide me nor my sister with any grounding or support so therefore let us loose on the world in our late teens. We both finished college and I chose to move in with mom to help her out.

You see, in exchange for my unadulterated freedom, unconditional-love, She botched up a most crucial part of my economic life since I was a child, But I held no grudges. I know it was difficult for her. You can't have your cake and eat it too. and I'm sure there is plenty more that is going on but bear with it and you will come out stronger. It's a small price to pay for such a head start.
posted by Student of Man at 5:40 AM on February 19, 2008

If my father was tracking my whereabouts 40 times in 48 hours I would go without a cellphone. If you can't afford your own cellphone plan stop using his phone that he is paying for. Take the bus. What would you do without his money? What if he weren't here? You would have to figure out something.

You are in an abusive, controlling environment. You are under his thumb. You've been treated as a child. This is tough, and I sympathize, but you can't have your cake and eat it too. You are spoiled. Spoiled by an abuser that has taken care of all of your financial concerns for the most part. Your parents have not prepared you to save, or think about your financial future. He has not prepared you to be an independent human being. You can blame him for a lot of things, but you can't really blame him for everything. I wouldn't hold a lot of blame for anybody because this can be very destructive. You are an adult that is capable. Stop telling yourself that you're not. Why would your father to to pay for your things? Buy your own things. You're a big girl now. Hook up with a female roommate through your university or job. You can support yourself. Figure it out. Stop being dependent on him.
posted by LoriFLA at 5:57 AM on February 19, 2008

As universities are supposed to be in the business of transitioning young students into adults, it seems you should be able to check your university for job placement, career counseling, internship possibilities, etc. It is also extremely likely that your university has resources you could use for locating an apartment or roommates. Finally, have you checked into whether your institution provides discounted medical and/or psychiatric services?
posted by Squeak Attack at 6:40 AM on February 19, 2008

Seek professional help to extricate yourself from the constricting psychological mess you find yourself in.

Best done after you have taken some control over your life. You have to want to change your victim mentality.

Age is not relevant to the ability to survive 'in the real world'. Some of the most efficient and proficient people I know are your age, whilst some of the least able to cope are in their thirties and forties.

You have the support, so use it.
posted by asok at 7:01 AM on February 19, 2008

NB. At least one of the twenty-somethings I know has a thoroughly unsupportive father who sounds like he may be on the same spectrum as yours. She is one of the most together people I know, she has accepted the burden of self-reliance and acheived spectacular results.
posted by asok at 7:04 AM on February 19, 2008

I think you should treat this phone as a traveling gnome. Send it to far-flung fellow Mefites. Let him track that. My email address in my profile if you want to start by sending it to Brooklyn, New York. Then I'll happily pay shipping to send it to another Mefite in Alaska, Alabama, or wherever.
posted by Mo Nickels at 7:06 AM on February 19, 2008 [3 favorites]

You said one thing keeping you busy was your research. If that's keeping you from leaving, then to hell with your research. And I say this as Ph.D. who saw a lot of people bail, and a lot of people stick it out. You can be happy and fulfilled on another course, and you can get back to this one in time--but you're stifled now, at a minimum, and probably in some level of personal danger as well. Kick out of it and don't look back.
posted by stevis23 at 8:04 AM on February 19, 2008

I may be educated, but I have no idea where or how to look for a job. I don't know how to look for an apartment. I don't know how much money I need to live comfortably, to keep up with bills and living expenses. I'm not used to having to consider finances at all...

Don't worry, neither did a lot of people, myself included. But you will learn. Just as we did. Just as your dad did. Just as your b/f and colleagues did.

Your masters degree is proof that you can learn. If you are smart enough to get a degree, you are definitely smart enough to figure out how to cook, how to pay bills, how to get car insurance, etc.

Maybe you won't be perfect the first time around, but that's part of the learning process! Life doesn't have to be perfect right away - the beauty of life is in the learning and the growth.
posted by bitteroldman at 8:21 AM on February 19, 2008

On a technical note, often, authorities and cell phone companies can track cell phones even when they're off. I've heard even removing the battery sometimes won't do the trick.

On a more human note, you've made the first step by recognizing you're being violated and disrespected. At 18, you could die in Iraq. You're twenty, and deserve to be treated like an adult. Add my voice to the folks encouraging you to leave your father's house as soon as possible.

Best wishes to you.
posted by Lucy2Times at 8:24 AM on February 19, 2008

Here are some suggestions: Look for a roommate, possibly one associated with the school. Shared expenses are cheaper, plus living with a good roommate would teach you a lot about practical living. Talk to your doc about generics and samples, and sliding scale therapy. SSRIs are dirt cheap. A bottle of 100 fluoxetine can be had for less than fourteen bucks. If the benzodiazepines are your big expense you may have to gradually wean off them; (you don't want to use those long-term anyway). Your school will have therapists on staff that should be free, if you want to go that route. Talk to the university about funding. If you're doing well in your program, they will help you find some source of funding. If you live and work on or very near campus, you won't need a car. Is flexcar available in your area? If not, it's very possible to buy a $1000 beater that will last you for a year. Have any car you think about buying checked out by a mechanic first. If the seller won't agree, walk away.

If you talk to coworkers about your situation then your social anxiety isn't as bad as you make it sound, and clearly you have the cojones to ask for practical help. "Hey, want to help me check out this car I'm thinking about buying?"

If you're doing an unskilled job you can find something better. Confidence is just a feeling, and it isn't necessary. You make yourself do things, whether you feel like them or not, that's how you get to be confident, through practice. Or you stay home with your father. It's your choice.

Get a new phone and stop worrying about making your father happy. No one can make your father happy except for your father.

I've lived on 15k a year, but it sounds like you're more interested in making excuses and describing your childhood at length than looking for solutions. I would like to point out the pluses here: you're of adult age. You are not being beaten, and your movements are not being physically controlled. You have a job, and a boyfriend, and a degree. These are all assets. When you get discouraged, remind yourself of all your assets.
posted by tejolote at 10:14 AM on February 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

I establish my self-worth and my identity through my grades and academic achievements. It was never so much about being intelligent as it was about being scarily driven and stuck on this idea that I was going to accomplish x, y, and z by this age if I ever wanted to prove to people (my father?*) that I'm worth something.

Sweetie, you really don't have to prove anything to anyone but yourself. I think you know that, and you know how hard that's going to be. But you can do it.

A lot of things that you give as examples of things that you don't know how to do, the things that intimidate you, are really quite easy and simple when you try them. For example, the car insurance thing. If you take a few hours off and watch some TV, you'll probably see ads from half a dozen companies promoting their services and web sites. It's so easy a cave man can do it. :-) And you are undoubtedly much, much smarter than a caveman.

This guy you're seeing, and your friends at work: Can you talk to them about some of the things that you don't know? For example, tell them that you're planning to move out and get your own place. Ask them for advice, maybe even to go out with you to help you look (and give a little moral support). You've had people tearing you down so many years and keeping you from building self-confidence. It's o.k. to ask for some hand-holding, and to explicitly ask for people to help build you up.

About the cellphone, you can walk into any Wal-Mart or Target or what-have-you and walk out with your own cheap pre-paid cellphone. Do it this weekend, when you are out away from the house. Don't let another day go by.
posted by Robert Angelo at 2:23 PM on February 19, 2008

I've heard even removing the battery sometimes won't do the trick

I too have heard all kinds of nonsense.
posted by flabdablet at 6:54 PM on February 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

Talk to your doctor about switching your meds to generics. There is a whole slew of them that only cost $4/mo at Target, Wal-Mart or Costco. Many SSRIs are now generic including Wellbutrin, Zoloft and Prozac. Further, most pharmaceutical companies offer programs that will work with you to get their drugs free/discounted if your doctor can demonstrate you need them but can't afford them.

Good luck, Girlie. I'm pulling for you! Be safe and Godspeed.
posted by dancinglamb at 11:07 PM on February 19, 2008

What Corky wrote above is perfect.

You are more capable than you know, and the reason you don't know is the abuse.

The way people gain their independence is that they make reasonable plans and follow through. They don't know that things will work out until they get life experience, and until then, they just have to take some things on faith.

In your position this is twice as hard, because on one hand you're sheltered by your father so you are lacking in experience. And he reinforces this idea that you cannot support yourself (which is not true as you have a degree and a job). On the other hand, you should not be up front about this either.

Please listen to Corky's advice, get yourself ready, and see a woman's shelter. There are resources to help you and you don't have to take on all the responsibility yourself. There is absolutely no sense in trying to barter for trust, or trying to gradually break the abuse cycle. There is no such thing; that's why it's abuse.

And if I were in your position, I would turn the phone off or just leave it at your desk at work or school.
posted by cotterpin at 12:32 AM on February 20, 2008


1. Get a new phone.
2. Get out of your parents house.
posted by heavenstobetsy at 7:28 AM on February 29, 2008

In addition to what has been said above, please check in with us to let us know how you are doing.
posted by prophetsearcher at 3:33 PM on March 1, 2008


- I caught my father spying on me while I was getting dressed to go out the other night. I was too disgusted to say anything. For the past few weeks, he's been sneaking (literally tiptoeing) around the house, peering through doors left slightly ajar, looking under the cracks of closed doors, etc. My sister called him out on it and asked him aloud why he is spying on me, and he got very angry and defensive. "You think this is spying?! How dare you say I'm spying on her!" According to my sister (whom he's been paying off nicely), I'm still being tracked multiple times a day, and my father's paranoid by the idea that I will find out. I can't help but think he thinks I'm a complete idiot.

- I've ordered a new cell phone with my own plan. It will be here on Monday. I haven't decided yet whether to keep my old phone on and with me (selectively), on and at home, or off altogether. Either way, my father will eventually realize I have a new phone and number. I just don't know whether it would be better to let him find out sooner or later.

- The guy I was dating told me a nicely as possible that I'm damaged goods to the extent that he can't get any more serious with me, which kills me because I'm trying so hard to be independent, but my family issues still have a way of following me around. I didn't even want to tell the guy about any of my personal problems, but I suppose given the extent of them and how enmeshed they are with my everyday life, it was inevitable. He kept pushing me and the truth slowly came out. I get crap for being closed off, yet I'm rejected once I open up... He is very close to his family, and it's been in my experience that these people tend to not be able to comprehend living in a household with someone while simultaneously ignoring him.

- My boss, with whom I've been having daily exhaustive talks, has been keeping me in check. She suggested I look for a job as a pharmaceutical sales representative. I certainly have the science background, unlike most candidates I would presume, I have the sales and clinical experience, and I've been told my looks won't hurt me, so I feel that if I can interview well, I might land a job. She located a bunch of job postings online and she's helping me put together a resume. I hope to send it out to a bunch of the different places by the end of the week. She has also been encouraging me to find a sliding-scale therapist or at least see the one at my school. (NB: I no longer have access to my insurance so I can't see my doctor until I have my own insurance. This also means I'm currently tapering myself off the Lexapro since I won't have it once the current pills are gone, and this also worries me because it helps so much. I don't have the energy to feel any worse.)

- I'm not sure just yet what the deal is with regards to my research. It's very important to me and I absolutely need the publication that I'm certain will come out of it, but it's not something I can walk away from temporarily or be involved with only part-time. I either stick around and finish the project to its completion, which will take months, or walk away. I simply won't be able to work or take on a real job so long as I'm in the lab. I know the answer is to walk away, but I'm still hesitant. It doesn't help that I am not close to my PI at all despite working so closely with her (blame the social anxiety), so I don't know how to talk to her about this or what to even tell her when I do.

- I am slowly starting to gather the paperwork and documents I should probably already have in my possession in preparation for when I do leave. Suggestions? So far I need to find my birth certificate, both of my passports, and social security card.

- Conflicted about the car situation. The title is not in my name, and while I obviously haven't asked him if I could have it if I were to ever move out, I'm inclined to think the answer is no, which is stupid because I know the car will just sit in the garage if I don't have it. A car is a necessity, and I'm not sure how I'll ever manage to afford one by the time I hope to move out.
posted by sansgras at 8:00 PM on March 1, 2008

Your father is CREEPY. Lord, I wish we knew where you were, so you could find some more local support.

The cell phone and job search sounds great. If you are not planning on moving out immediately, then you may want to do the selective cell phone thing. The degree of paranoia your father is suffering is making me worried for your personal safety, and it may not be a good idea to challenge him until you are sure you have somewhere to escape to. Temporary mollification may be the only route to take until you are ready to go.

I'm so sorry about your boyfriend. I have a poor relationship to my family, and it is absolutely true that people who are close to their families can be pretty damn judgmental when they encounter someone who is NOT living the Beaver Cleaver life.

Do see the therapist at your school. This is probably your cheapest (and quickest) bet. At my school they're free--they may not be the best, but they at least provide a professional ear and extra documentation of the troubles you're having with your family, if things were to ever enter legal proceedings.

With regards to your research--handling a full-time job, a part-time job, and your research would be a load, so I understand if you can't add anything else. But--if your weekends are free, can you pick up a waitering job? You can make a good deal of extra cash waitering at a nice place, and it could help.

Caveat: I'm not involved in academic research, so I don't know the feasibility. But, perhaps you could simply tell your PI that you're currently experiencing some serious family issues that may force you to change jobs and earn a good deal more money (and take more time) than you have to spend on the lab. Ask her what the possibilities are for continuing the research. Maybe things are more flexible than you assess?

The car is a goner if the title's in his name, I'm afraid. Your name is likely on his insurance, but that doesn't give you clearance to take it. It's dumb, but if your dad's petty like that you will have to get one if you ABSOLUTELY need a car. Do consider job options and housing options that are close to one another so this is not a necessity until you have proper savings.

Also, important documents include
- birth certificate, passports, SS card (which you already have)
- bank statements, financial information, stock, bond, investment certificates
- insurance information
- driver's license
- papers documenting your medical history, if you have them
- School transcripts and academic records--diplomas, standardized test scores, etc

Really, driver's license, passport, birth certificate, and SS card are the #1 priorities. Everything else is just gravy. You can get extra copies of the school stuff if you need them.

You may want to start sending your mail to a P.O. Box. This is simple--just rent a post office box at a local post office and fill out a change-of-address form on the spot. They MAY send a confirmation card to your house address--maybe your sister can catch this if it comes?

Also, I would encourage you to visit a local domestic violence support group. You are going through what a LOT of domestic violence victims are going through, in your quest to obtain independence without alerting or angering your abuser. Women's shelters should be able to find economic, social, and legal resources to assist you.
posted by schroedinger at 10:31 PM on March 1, 2008

He is very close to his family, and it's been in my experience that these people tend to not be able to comprehend living in a household with someone while simultaneously ignoring him

We comprehend it just fine. We're just sure it's a really bad idea.

Ignoring people you live with is toxic to your mental health (and theirs, come to that). Doesn't matter if it's the creepy Dad or just the slob housemate you don't get along with - it's a toxic pattern. If you find it necessary to do that, well, that's just a Big Fat Clue that keeping on living where you're living is not good for you.

Sounds like you have the moving-out thing well in hand, which is great. Don't stay until it's the perfect time to leave, though - if you don't quite have all your ducks in a row, it's not worth waiting an extra week to get them there.

Seriously. Just go.
posted by flabdablet at 4:51 AM on March 2, 2008

I am slowly starting to gather the paperwork and documents I should probably already have in my possession in preparation for when I do leave. Suggestions?

Schroedinger got most of it. I'm close to someone who went through a similar situation with his family--he got all of that documentation, but regrets not picking up some baby/family photos. if it's likely you won't be speaking with your family for a long time, i'd grab any of that stuff that you want now. think about any of the stuff you might have in the attic from when you were a kid, like cherished toys or baby blankets.

also, try to find your immunization records. your school might have a copy on file somewhere. and, it sounds like a "duh" thing, but remember to take any special medications. you'll probably remember the stuff you take daily, but if you have some sort of "in case of emergency" meds like an epi-pen or fast acting inhaler, be sure to get those.
posted by almostmanda at 2:21 PM on March 3, 2008

Practical tips: generic Lexapro, Escitalopram, available at discount rates.

Emotional incest.

Emotional Blackmail: When the People in Your Life Use Fear, Obligation, and Guilt to Manipulate You by Susan Forward

Toxic Parents: Overcoming Their Hurtful Legacy and Reclaiming Your Life by Susan Forward

Imo, your father's style of over controlling, stalking (and he is stalking you), boundary violation, incestuous possessiveness, mixed messages, sounds like a pathological narcissist.

Narcissists typically focus on one child as a golden child to stalk, obsess over and can ignore, devalue, scapegoat or demonize the other children. The mixed and disturbing message is that the so-called golden child feels 'special' in this role and that maybe nothing about them is good enough except to be in this role, which is a lie. Your true worth as a human being is not as a fetishistic object, an extension of him. But that will be part of your recovery journey, to find your own worth, your real worth as a person, a female, a woman.

Dr. J. Reid Meloy's Violent Attachments and The Psychology of Stalking

And it also sounds like you are enmeshed with him, have picked up 'fleas', some of his boundary violating tactics, by snooping in his email account. Practice the golden rule. You don't like being snooped on, then don't snoop on others. It's a violation of trust and healthy boundaries.

Anorexia and bulimia are common among incest survivors.
Lost for Words: The Psychoanalysis of Anorexia and Bulimia

Naturally, since you were trained by him to associate games, stalking, silence and emotional withholding as 'love', you will unconsciously seek that out in love, friendship and career relationships. You will prefer the company of wound mates, others struggling with depression. Anti-depressants may cause ED. This will change as you work on your recovery, find healthy detachment and de-enmesh from him, work on having your *own* life in incremental steps.

If your biological mother is not protecting you against your biological father's obsessive and life destroying focus on you, then she is a co-perpetrator. But she may be able to do nothing. The least she can do is to validate you but then she might find herself kicked out and with nothing. She has sold her soul to this man.

Building Healthy Boundaries

Healthy vs. Unhealthy Relationships
posted by nickyskye at 5:40 AM on March 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

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