I’ve gone through a lot. I’ve experienced bullying at school, sexual abuse, having an alcoholic and a gambling addict as parents, and violence in close relationships. The term violence in close relationships is new to many people, and it can refer to many issues beyond physical violence. I want to share this story because I believe that many students are struggling with similar experiences.

The violence in my close relationships was never physical. However, the coercion and threats started already when I was in primary school:

“You can’t tell anyone. Otherwise, the ladies from social services will come and take you away.”

I was about to go see the school social worker for the first time because of bullying. I also heard a similar comment when I went to the youth psychology outpatient clinic to discuss my experiences with sexual abuse. What was going on at home, my dad’s alcoholism, and my mom’s gambling addiction were not to be mentioned, ever.

When I reached upper secondary school age, I also faced financial abuse, the use of siblings as an instrument of abuse, and guilting. Once I enrolled in an upper secondary school, I moved out to live in a school dormitory. Throughout my upper secondary school studies, I worked part-time, twice a week. For the first time in my life, I was able to earn more spending money. At the same time, a legal case was underway due to the sexual abuse, and my mother blamed me for it at first. However, her opinion of the matter changed quickly.

At first, my parents borrowed small amounts of money from me, but the sums escalated quickly. This one time, my mom called me to ask if I could lend her some money.

I was underage at the time, and my mother had access to my bank account. The next day, I tried to pay the cashier at a grocery store, but there was no money in my account. A day earlier, there were a few hundred euros in that account.

The borrowing continued after that, and it’s still not over. I’m starting my third year at the university, and my partner and I are living off of my study grant. I’ve told my parents several times that they can’t ask me to lend them money, because I can’t afford it and get anxious when lending money. My younger siblings have told me it’s my fault that there’s no electricity or running water at home, because I refused to lend money. Every now and then, I also hear my mother say that she can’t afford to buy medicine. She’s also threatened to take on high-interest consumer loans.

This summer, things escalated to the point where a younger sibling asked me for rent money because they had lent theirs to my parents. What hurts me the most is that my siblings have used a large chunk of their student loans to lend money to my parents, who will never pay the money back due to this cycle.

I’ve finally begun to realize that I can only influence my own actions, not my parents’ or siblings’. I don’t need to feel guilty if I refuse to lend my parents money out of my small financial assets, or about having my life together.

I’m studying to become a master of science in a field where job prospects are excellent. I have a wonderful life partner and friends, who support me. It’s also okay if I sometimes spoil myself or go to a student event instead of putting money aside to lend it to others. Taking care of your personal wellbeing is your main priority, and you should not hesitate to seek help.

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