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How to handle racism and abuse in the family

Community Member

Hey all,

My niece recently revealed to her parents that she has been seeing a guy for over a year now.
She didn't want to tell them because of her dad's and to some extent her mum's racist beliefs.
Her boyfriend is of a different race which her parents cannot accept.

Her dad was so furious she kept it from them for so long that he verbally abused her, calling her names of a sexual nature which I do not want to repeat here as it may lead to my post not being published. He told me what he called her yesterday as he called me to tell me she has a boyfriend.

Anyways, I saw my niece today and when I asked how she is going she started crying, she's very upset and cannot understand why her parents won't accept someone of a different race.

My sister keeps saying to my niece that her boyfriend is using her for sex even though she has not met him.
From what my niece tells me he seems like a very nice and caring young man. They met at high school.
My niece is 2 months shy of turning 18 yet her parents say she is too young and has TAFE to worry about.

I was furious at this, I regret not pulling my brother in law up on the phone about the verbal abuse, specifically the one of a sexual nature.
I asked my sister to call me after work and I told her that her and my brother in law are wrong and that they are overreacting.
My brother in law did not want me coming over as he is crying and all upset and hurt at being lied to.

Today I told my niece I am there for her and see nothing wrong with her boyfriend and told her I understand why she hid her relationship for so long. She choked back tears because she wants to be open with her parents but feels like she cannot due to the racism and that her dad won't accept someone of a different race into his house.

I am just concerned my sister and brother in law will think I am overstepping the line as it is their daughter.
I just don't want my niece to end up suffering mental health issues because of this.
Her dad calls her stupid, dumb and worthless and says she won't amount to nothing.
I told my sister on the phone this is very damaging and why I developed mental issues because of how my mum did the same to me.

Am I doing the right thing here, am I overstepping? I handled it the best I could.
I cannot sit idle and let this slide, I'd be complicit otherwise.
My niece is a good person who is mature for her age, I don't want to see her dad destroy her.

Thanks in advance.

9 Replies 9

Community Member

Hi MisterM,

I think your niece is very lucky to have your support. I definitely don't think you're overstepping. When it comes to abuse- and as long as your own personal safety isn't at risk- I don't think "overstepping" even applies. Much respect for you. It takes guts to stand up to and for family.

It would have taken immense courage for your niece to have opened up to her parents. Yet all she heard was verbal abuse from her father. His words were absolutely appalling.

Judging from your comments, your sister has no grounds that the guy is just "using her for sex." I feel as though she is only saying that to undermine their relationship, and wouldn't make such claims if he was of the same cultural heritage.

To be honest, I'm not sure if I have any worthy advice. Racist attitudes are often quite ingrained and difficult to change. Not completely impossible but very difficult.

My only suggestion is maybe wait till your brother in law and sister are in a calmer state before trying to talk to them. They're still in the thick of it and unlikely to be receptive to anything you have to say. There's also the issue of abuse, which is never acceptable.

In the mean time, keep supporting and listening to your niece- she sounds like she needs you.

Keep writing here as well to unload (if you want to). You must be feeling incredibly conflicted and stressed. Mad props to you for being there for her.

Dottie x

Community Member

Hi again,

I just found something on the BB website called "Read further for tips on talking about racism with your family."

If you type that into the BB search engine, you should be able to find it.

All the best,

Dottie x

Thank you Dottie, much appreciated.
I am quite upset, very sad for my niece that she cannot be allowed to be happy.
I wish I could take her under my roof but I live with my parents, my mum won't approve of her boyfriend due to his race either, I plan on telling her tomorrow as today is her birthday and don't want to upset her.

Yeah my sister did admit she said that he's using her to get her to end the relationship.
Her dad is selling her car as punishment.

I wanted to speak with my brother in law but he doesn't want to speak with me and doesn't want visitors as he is still very upset at being "lied to". My sister said he is crying.
I wanted to let him know what I think.
He has a violent past with women but has never hit my sister or nieces. That's what worries me.
He tried to headbutt me when I was a teenager as I was mouthing off at him and being a 14 year old brat.
So I am worried he will lose it at me for taking my nieces side.
But enough is enough, I've bit my tongue in his presence when he has called my niece stupid, dumb in my presence and said to my sister that he should belt her (my sister that is). I normally struggle to stand up for myself but when a 17 year old is involved I cannot otherwise I'd be complicit in the abuse.

Community Member
Forgot to add, my niece's friend's parents even confronted my brother in law about what he called my niece and his reaction to her boyfriend.

Community Member

Sorry Dottie,

I am struggling to find what you suggested. Could you please post the link?

Thanks in advance.

Hi MisterM,

No worries at all and thanks for writing back. It's good to hear from you again.

I'm afraid that only Community Champions can post links so normal BB members like myself can't post links. What I can do (or at least I think so?) is tell you how I found it on the BB website.


- I googled "beyond blue racism"

- This led me to a number of sites. Select the BB link, "The Invisible Discriminator. You can change racial discrimination. - Beyond blue"

- Scroll down on this BB page till you find a long blue box that says "What is the link between racial discrimination and mental health?"

- This will lead you to another BB page. Scroll down till you find the green box that says "Talk to others" where you'll find the "Read further for tips on talking about racism with our family."

Sorry, it's just that I'm not allowed to post links. I hope this helps!

Dottie x

Thanks Dottie,

Yeah I found the first two but didn't see the green box.
Got it, it took me to another page from another organisation.

Thanks again x

Hi again,

He does sound very volatile. As you're already aware, emotional abuse is definitely abuse, and combined with his history, it is doubly worrying. Also, "brat" or not, I don't think head butting you was warranted.

He's verbally abusive, controlling and vindictive (e.g. selling your niece'a car), etc. Also, he seems to lack the ability to put himself in other people's shoes. Like he can only feel his own "pain" at being "lied to." But he can't put himself in your niece's shoes and comprehend the impact of his own words and actions- his abuse- on her.

Anyway, this is my long winded way of saying that I'm worried for both your sister and niece. I think this sounds like domestic violence.

I applaud your courage in defending your niece. She is indeed very lucky to have you. But at the same time, just be aware of your own safety too. This is a tricky situation.

Dottie x

Great, I'm glad you found it!

Dottie x