Never turn your back on family. We have heard this phrase many times in a variety of ways throughout our lifetime. However this concept has kept us in some truly horrible relationships. When we are born it seems that we are bond to a whole group of individuals that we did not choose. Ideally this doesn’t matter because the love that each member of that family is also set at their birth. I love you because you are my (fill in the blank). Unfortunately this is usually not the case.

In most cultures family is the sphere that we orbit around to remain grounded and sane. Yet first let’s define what exactly family means, though it’s different for everyone but according to family is an intimate domestic group made up of people related to one another by bonds of blood, sexual mating, or legal ties. There is the immediate family such as your parents and siblings and your extended family such as your grandparents, cousins, and in-laws. These roles are not always so easily defined whereas you may have a grandparent raising the child and the home is filled with cousins instead of siblings.

The toxicity comes in when these roles are abused. When the child is abused by their parent or guardian, be it physically, emotionally, or sexually. Abuse, especially sexual abuse, crosses all lines and hurts the child emotionally with severe detrimental consequences. Even though you may want to separate yourself from your abuser, the victim often can’t because they have no where to go, they are too young to escape, and they hope things will return to a normal relationship. Such as your parent is supposed to love and protect you, so you wait to hope things will change. The child is often left with only one recourse: runaway. A recent study found that 79% of homeless youth reported experiencing multiple instances of childhood abuse.

How do you handle such toxic relationships when you are supposed to support family no matter what?

  • Speak Up: If you are being abused seek help immediately. Call the police or talk with a trusted friend or relative.
  • Get Counseling: Once you are out of the abusive environment make sure to get help for yourself and the trauma. If you don’t get help you may be doomed to repeat abuse.
  • Move On: Say good bye to those who have wronged you or create chaos in your life and seek out more positive people to share your world with. There is no law that says you have to continue these toxic relationships.
  • Love Yourself: The number one thing you can do to save yourself is to love yourself. Don’t forget that not only should you give love to others but to yourself as well.

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