Writer Talk: Depicting Abuse

Before I begin, I’d like to place a trigger warning for this article. I will be discussing abuse, specifically from parent to child. If this will trigger you in any way, I advise not reading any further. Thank you.

Hello all,
I’ve decided it’s time to tackle the elephant in the room. A common thread in many of Episode’s community stories is that the MC has an abusive parent / abusive parents. The thing I have noticed as a reader, is that in many cases, these stories fit a stereotypical evil. By this, I mean that we are often shown the MC thrown into a basement and beaten, treated with pure malice and violence.

As a survivor of abuse, I’d like to raise something I feel is important. This can (and I use can, because some will disagree, and that is completely okay) be extremely damaging to victims of abuse. It invalidates the experience of having abusive parents, in some ways.

Let me explain.

In most cases, abuse comes in mostly unrecognisable forms, including, but not limited to, financial abuse, threats, demoralising comments, gaslighting*, and more. Sometimes, we don’t even recognise we are being abused until it is pointed out to us. But the damage is still the same. There are so many covert forms of abuse, that I just do not want to go into.

The other thing is-- sometimes it is incredibly hard to hate your abuser. Especially if they are your parent, whom you love. Sometimes, our abusers are kind to us. They put a roof over our head, take us on family trips, spend quality time with us, and can make us feel very loved. But this does not excuse their abuse. Sometimes, they will have outbursts, and hurt us physically, or others we love. Maybe they won’t apologise. Maybe they will. Maybe they feel guilt, maybe they don’t.

Do not get me wrong, I am not discounting the kinds of abuse depicted in these stories, in which the MC is held captive, beaten daily, etc. These things can and do happen to some people. But for most of us, the abuse is discreet, and we find ourselves justifying their behaviour. Because they love us, right?

I guess, all I am trying to say is, it is becoming toxic, seeing all these heavily abusive parents. I know I have questioned the validity of my abuse, because of how it is depicted in movies, and other forms of media. I’ve asked myself if it was really all that bad. But you know what? It was.

Covert abuse exists, guys. Abuse comes in many different forms. We need to recognise that. Because mental and physical health and safety are important.

And of course, we need to be sensitive to it, and consider that when we are writing.

What are your thoughts on this? Please be mindful when writing any responses! This is a very sensitive topic.

If you think you are being abused, I suggest doing some research, and seeking help from a trusted individual or, preferably, a professional.

Not sure what gaslighting is? You can find information on it here: https://www.verywellfamily.com/is-someone-gaslighting-you-4147470


Thank you for posting this! It’s a pretty common element in the background of MC’s that they are being physically abused by one or both of their parents. The most common one I see is MC’s getting slapped after shouting at their parents and then the parents screaming at them about being ungrateful, or the parents make their kids slave away at three jobs so Mommy can drink or gamble it away all while calling the MC useless. The MC then uses it to justify leaving the parents, or this is used to show that a less than stellar love interest is the better choice than being at home.

To me, writing things like this is an easy way out. It’s a weak plot point.

It’s not that I don’t like to see this depiction in these stories - these things happen and need to be discussed openly so we can work toward preventing it, so we can talk about why things like that are wrong and help prevent it from happening, but I’d like to see it used properly. All forms of abuse by parents shape the psyche of a child and create behaviors in them - mostly it’s distrust, paranoia, fear of things they shouldn’t be afraid of, inappropriate dependency on others, inability to make meaningful connections…things that MC’s would need to overcome. They don’t just spring back up because LI has forced them into a kiss.

What I’d like to see is abuse used as a vehicle for some great character development instead of just a shallow reason why the MC needs to be rescued. Their abuse can give them their fatal flaw that keeps them from loving, and they need to overcome it so they can trust another LI who, for the love of God, is a good guy that isn’t going to just be another crappy chapter in MC’s terrible life. I would have much more respect for a story that tackled things like that instead of walking away thinking how shallow it all was.

So if you decide to write a story with a crappy parent, here’s a quick guide to popular abuses other than physical. These are examples of mental, emotional, and financial abuses in that order:

~Silent Treatment: In which the parent will completely ignore the child for long periods of time.

~Manipulation: In which the parent will make a child fear that certain outcomes will occur (such as abandonment, death, or harm to parent or others the child cares about) to get the response the parent wants.

~Playing the Victim: In which the parent will play the victim to make the child feel like they have wronged the parent. Also, one parent can use this while making the other parents out to be the abuser, thus trying to divide the child from the second parents.

~The Stare: I’m not talking about the look you mom gives you when you’re being a brat at the mall. This is an intense look with no feeling behind it. It’s not a warning. It’s not something they are using to try and communicate something with you. It’s a stare that’s only purpose is to elicit fear and submission.

~Gaslighting: In which the parent lies about the past to purposefully make a child doubt themselves, their judgment, their memory, and the sanity.

~Unapologetic: In which a parent refuses to take responsibility for their actions. They ‘forget’ promises or commitments made to the child, lies, and dismisses the feelings of the child.

~Personal attacks: Criticizing, calling the child names, mocking the child and their responses, judging their feelings and opinions. This is NOT a parent who does this out of attempts to be funny or because they care. This isn’t Dad calling son ‘butthead’ or Mom saying that daughter is wearing too much makeup. This does NOT come from a place of concern, even if misplaced. This comes from the parents trying to elicit a negative response from the child, with the intent to cause the child to feel bad about themselves.

~Blame: In which the parent insists that something that went wrong is solely due to the child.

~Nitpicking: The child needs are made out to be far less important than the parent’s own. None of the child’s accomplishments or attempts are ever good enough. This isn’t a parent saying your dream of being the Queen of England is impractical, this is a parent saying your dream of being the Queen of England is stupid because you are stupid.

~Shame: Parents shares information about the child without the consent of the child to elicit a feeling of shame or embarrassment. Rule of thumb of this is if the parent knows that you will find a retelling of the story funny or knows you have shared it yourself before, then it’s not abuse. If they bring up a story that will make you cry or you won’t be able to look that person in the eye for some time, it’s abuse.

~Inferior: When a parent repeatedly makes the child out to be inferior to another - this can be a sibling, an athlete, or a movie star. If the intent is to make the child feel badly about themselves and their skills, it’s abuse.

~Extension: The parents makes the child out to be an extension of the parent, rather then their own person. To the parent, the child is not thought to be their own person, and thus their cares and considerations do not matter to the parent. The child may or may not be aware of this.

~Alienation: Parents speaking negatively about others to child in attempt to isolate child from others. A parents can try to isolate a child from their friends, from family, or from other parents.

Here’s the run down on Financial abuses:

~Denied Access: Money or possessions given to child either through means of gift or inheritance are taken by parents and all access made by child to them are denied. Has back accounts made in parents name and has child’s money put into there for the personal use of the parents. This isn’t grandpa giving mom 15,000 to put into a college fund and mom using some of it to pay for daughter’s high school tuition. This is mom spending it on new cars for herself or paying for her and the pool boy to have a trip to Hawaii.

~Theft: Parent exploits the child financially, steals their money or defrauds them.

~Credit: Parents takes credit cards out in the child’s name.

~Career: Parents punishes the child for trying to receive an education or attempting to work.

These abuses, as you can probably see, are trick because they aren’t always so obvious. Many of them can easily be interpreted as regular parenting - the rule of thumb is if the parents intent is to elicit a negative emotion in the child, it is abuse. There is a lot of grey area here that makes it tricky - a parent telling their kids there might be a monster under there to keep them in bed after dark is kind of an asshole move, but it’s not necessarily evil. A parent that doesn’t give their child breakfast and cites the child getting out of bed the night before is abuse.

I hope some of you can find use of this!


I can’t agree more. Nowadays, many people connect abuse just with the physical abuse. I’m not talking only about some random serious discussions between ‘ordinary people’. Police, and other institutions are used to this stereotype too. According to the ‘unspoken law’,
Abuse means physical abuse.
(Obviously, there is more evidence after…)

It always angers me because I can tell from my own experience that there is emotional/verbal abuse too.

I know some authors use abuse as a way to form character’s personality and (or) introduce us his or her tragic past but it shouldn’t be used randomly. I read a few stories where the main character was abused by her parents or her boyfriend/partner and honestly, it felt like it was pushed. The abuse was just shown as some kind of torture in the basement of a house and I can’t help myself, it feels like cliché.


I have never been abused by my parents.

but my counsin her mom was the worst. abusive to her kids and husband(my uncle) they left our family 15 years ago. and i finally got contact with my cousin a few months ago. that woman had told her so many lies about us. apparently, she told my cousin In was a drug addict. despite the fact she had not seen me since I was 7 years old. I tried to ensure my cousin I had never taken any drugs. not even for my depression. I mean I don’t even drink or smoke.unfutently she have a hard time believing me

Thank you endlessly for this important addition to my original article. You’ve added so much depth that I’d like to take the time to commend you for. And I couldn’t agree more with the shallowness to some such stories.
Much love,

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Thank you for taking the time to respond to my post. You’re quite right about the unspoken stereotype in which many align abuse with just physical. In this way, I do agree that some use this as a plot device too often, without enough depth to justify. This is a damaging cliche that exists.

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I hope you are able to rekindle your relationship with your family. Just remember, it can be very hard for a victim to overcome any lies they were told under an abusive environment. Take things slow and approach these sensitive topics with caution. Perhaps try asking your cousin what you can do to help them develop a level of trust in you. They may not know the answer, but it’s not a bad idea to be as honest as you can with them, of course being wary of any triggers they might have.
B x

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I think my mother has used inferiority before. She almost always does.

Thank you for this.

Trigger warning for abuse

Personally, I’m tired of abuse being a plot point that is never going to be talked again after episode 1. Abuse leaves trauma, trauma is hard to cope with. You can’t just find a vampire/werewolf -for some reason there’s always a “rebound” with a fantasy creature- and live happily after with them. I’m tired of seeing “MC has been abused her whole life, what happens xxx”. Don’t tell me she has been abused her whole life, and she’s still happy after it, sure, you can be happy. But trauma is too hard to cope even for a short period, imagine being abused your whole life.

With that being said, abuse is a great thing to implement into stories. -its not a great thing in real life, but hear me out- Abuse can help with character development or become a really strong plot point. You can even save someone’s life talking about abuse in your story. We shouldn’t just implement psychical abuse, many relationships have emotional abuse, a lot of them. But everyone turns a blind eye to them since partners didn’t hit each other. -Yes, relationships where both partners are abusive exist.*-

In my opinion, emotional abuse is more dangerous than psychical. Yes, there’s a chance that abuse can end up in murder, but most psychical abuse are recognized. -Most of them- Just like you said, emotional abuse never gets the talk as psychical, that’s why I think it’s more dangerous. Emotional abuse can lead people to self-doubt, self-harm eventually even suicide. That’s why I think it’s more dangerous and should be talked more.

*Relationships were two partners are abusive to each other is more common than you think. The worst thing about these relationships is that they never realize how much damage they give to each other. It’s easier to notice the damage in one sided abuse relationships than both sided abuse relationships. With that being said, two negative makes one positive in math. I’m not saying that both sided abuse relationships are healthy, it isn’t. Of course it changes from the abuse, psychical abuse in a relationship is just unbearable and you have to leave but times when two-sided abuse relationships are obsessed which each other and always try to control each other, it can be positive. -can, it’s not always the case-

I hope I made some sense, this is a very touchy subject for me, I’ll be leaving my own experience with it. Sorry for the grammar/spelling mistakes.

My experience with abuse

This part is too personal, so if you are uninterested, feel free to skip.

I can guarantee you I’ve been abused by my both parents. They had an abusive relationship, in fact, all of my families’ marriage except two failed, most of my relatives are divorced. -This feels like a curse. Funny yet saddening.-

I’d always face nitpicking from my dad, he would disregard anything good I did and always focus on my mistakes, for my mom, it was complicated. I’d get blamed, I’d receive silent treatment, the stare. -This was the WORST one when I was a child.-
I don’t hate my parents, I love them. They are my everything and I’m grateful for them. Sure, there were toxic moments but no one is perfect. They are healing, we all are.

I grew up in a toxic house. I’ve never received enough attention from my parents, one never came home other one was busy. Of course, I decided to seek attention and love from other people.
I’ve never had a relationship in my life, as I’m typing this, I still don’t have one, but I’m glad I don’t. It’d be abusive.
I recently discovered how much of an abuser I was. I’d make personal attacks on my mom, and I feel awful for those moments. Like I said, both sided abusive relationships are more common than you think.

I’ve never had a relationship, but I’d always, always victim blame everyone I had a crush on. “You think you’re sad?! Quit lying! You wouldn’t be sad if you didn’t date that girl! She cheated on you, so WHAT?! I’m not surprised, you’ve never taken interest in me, why would you take interest in her!” , “You are dating HER? Haha! I can’t wait for her to cheat on you! Your miserable face will be my entertainment!”

Thank God I’ve never said this to anyone. But I’ve always thought this and many other personal attacks I can’t write here since it’s too much. I’ve always had these thoughts, I never said them because I was too “shy”. I regret every single they I wasn’t self-aware. I’m trying my best to change, I’ve been abused, I abused, I’m leaving those in past tense, I’m trying to change and help.

Now the question is, should we have sympathy for the abuser?
In my personal opinion, it really depends. Not everyone deserves it, but it’s not like nobody deserves it. If the abuser is self-aware My situation. and is willing to change, yes, we should have sympathy. This may seem biased, but like I said, not everyone deserves this chance. I don’t for a start.


In addition to all the examples @Hooded_Dreamer has written, which pretty much covered everything I think? ^^ There two examples, I’m not sure if they’re abuse or not but it’s crappy things some parents do:

- Neglect: this is when a parent is there but not there for their child. The parent never asks about their child, the child can’t open up either out of fear or they believe their parent doesn’t care, their parent’s figure/support is almost non-exsistant at home or in life altogether.
- Divorced parents issues: parents make child pick a side by playing the victim as mentioned by @Hooded_Dreamer, or they will always complain/insult the other parent and their family sometimes they will resemble the child with the other parent in a negative light, parent/family are unwelcoming / hate / leave out the child because of the second parent’s actions, push child to ask things they need from other parent / refuse to help and tell them to ask the other parent for help (especially in financial help), child can’t have a conversation without it somehow always ending up about financial expenses (especially if the child is seen as a burden, or if the child is a teenager but doesn’t make money - it’s not really abuse but it doesn’t exactly help the relationship grow either).



If you’re going to talk about sexual abuse, do it right. It’s not just about assault. It’s emotionally harmful as well. People who sexually abuse others are not sick, they might be victims too.

My experience with abuse

It wasn’t my parents who did it. I was molested in 7th grade when I was 13. The boy followed me constantly, saying things to me, and humiliating me in public at school. I’d face sexual advances and attempts at him trying to kiss me. I don’t wanna go into full detail, but that’s the gist of what happened to me.