Question to mothers/parents of adult children - breaking silence about abuse as child
I'm feeling some strong emotions tonight after reading some painful emails from a few years ago (note: I advise all your ladies and gents on deleting old/painful emails and letters...to avoid triggers like the one I encountered tonight).
I'm not a mother. I'm very single (with no prospects), overweight, and in my mid 30s. My parents are good parents now that they are older/elderly and our relationship has gotten better now that I'm in my 30s. As a child, they gave me food, clothes, and thought they were protecting me by not allowing me to participate in sleepovers and participating in sports/activities as a child). They had their own issues and my dad, in particular, wasn't very attentive when I was growing up. I still love him to death though.
I don't want to pain my parents so I'm asking all your parents out there if I should finally tell my parents about their nephew sexually molesting me when he was living with us back in the early 80s. I was only 6 years old at the time and my cousin was 18 years old.
I feel like my weight gain, mild depression, constant restlessness about my life and my future, and my constant troubles with not finding a good man to settle down and have a family of my own with ALL stems from my childhood sexual abuse. I harbor anger, especially at my mother, for not protecting me as a little girl. I'm not a parent, but I would think a mother's instinct would kick in regarding her little girl crying and playing out sexual scenarios with her barbie dolls as major red flags.
On the flip side, my parents aren't too emotionally healthy either. My dad has always dealt with depression and anixety for most of his life (he is on medication to control it) and my mom is a codependent and turns a blind eye (in my opinion) to things because it's her self-defense mechanism kicking in. When it comes to 'fight or flight', she tends to do the latter.
The reason why I'm considering telling them NOW after all these years is because I feel like I need to give them a reason as to why their daughter is such a fat loser. I'm very sucessful in my professional life even though I don't care for the work that I do. Yet, my personal life is a hot mess. Even when I'm out on a date, I can't seem to losen up about a man. I believe this is due to the sexual abuse. In my early 20s, I had 2 relationships, but I would have to drink some alcohol in order to not flinch and/or jerk away when my boyfriend would touch me.
I just feel like if my parents finally saw a real/concrete reason why I am overweight and single, then perhaps they would say they are/were sorry for not being there for me as a child...and perhaps wouldn't would ask me if I've lost any weight and/or if I've been exercising every single time that they call me up.
The stink of it is...they reason I've kept quiet all these years is because they aren't emotionally strong enough to deal with the harsh reality. The parent is supposed to protect the child...not the other way around. I've been protecting them from having to deal with the guilt and anger of their daughter being sexually molested repeated under the roof of their own house by their nephew.
So I ask you parents...would you want to know from your adult child, after all these years have gone by since the sexual abuse last occured, that he/she was sexually abused. Please keep in mind that my parents aren't "strong minded" people.
Last edited by FreeBird3 : 02-29-2012 at 01:10 AM.
As someone who was sexually molested as a young child (five years old) I understand your compulsion. I made a personal decision years ago, while my parents were still alive, not to tell them.
However, I would strongly add that this decision was made after I had been through years of counselling. First I had to come to terms with the things that had happened and then see how they influenced my life and those lives around me.
There are many reasons why I grew up very angry, not just at my parents or siblings, but generally the whole world. I realised that a lot of my desire to unload was because of this anger and it was vengeful. It would hurt and anger my family to be told and they would suffer as I did. I learned, though, that I truly wanted to protect my family or they would feel as violated and abused as I did. I am comfortable with the decision I made.
I do not know if you have sought counselling but it is a good way to learn to cope and accept, balance out and get past, traumas and tragedies. Sometimes we all just need someone qualified who we can trust and feel safe with, who will provide insight and quidance and help up to learn to get past anger, and pain. Perhaps this would help you to find the answers inside you that you need to get through this.
I never went through what you had, but my mother and many close people in my life had. They chose to tell their parents after they had grown up and in my mother's case, my grandparents did not believe her. I saw the impact that abuse had and no, you are not a loser. You are a survivor.
I agree that you should try counseling if you had not already. Also, keep in mind, there is no statue of limitations with child abuse. It might give you closure to make that man pay for taking your innocence.
As for your parents, if you feel strongly that they need to know, that they should know, then do it. As a parent, I would want nothing more then to know what is going on with my children and God help the person who ever lays a hand on them. You have to do what you feel is right for you, not them. Much love and luck to you.
I could have written your post - the only replacement would be to substitute a 50-something stepgrandpa for the nephew. I have to second/third/fourth the counseling recommendations.
I was "lucky" in that my breakdown came in my senior year of high school, and with that, came the therapy. I learned early that to keep looking back is to give that event and that person wayyy too much power. Therapy gives you a chance to define it, acknowledge, and put boundaries on it. To grieve for the childhood, to assess your natural reactions, and to MOVE ON. I'm still very slow to trust anybody. My personal space boundaries are pretty big. But I've been married for 22 years and have a terrific son. There's no reason to tell anybody in the family (my husband does know), because it won't help me or them. God or karma is taking care of evening the score.
We are survivors. That does not need to mean "scarred for life". You are not a fat loser! You might be damaged, but damage can be healed when you get down to the roots. It won't be easy or fun - in a way it's a lot like dieting. There's days you want to crawl back into the bad habits because they feel good for a minute, there's days you don't want to eat the dang broccoli, and often it's not fun to flip over the mental rocks and step on what scurries out. The payoff for both is huge and worth the effort - you get your life, ALL OF IT, back! Goes right back to "Being a victim is hard. Being a survivor is hard. Thriving in spite of it is hard. Pick your hard."
PM if you like! It can be difficult to see the sunshine when your head is down.
My situation was different from yours in that it was my adopted father. It went on for 5 years. He mentally and physically abused my brother and my mother (and myself but with the added sexual crap). He beat me down hard. To top it off - I thought everything was normal. That stuff like that happened to every little girl. When i finally figured out how wrong it was, it took me until I was 10 when I finally got enough guts to tell my mom. That day she kicked him out, divorced him, and pressed charges. He got 40 years w/o parole, which was basically for the rest of his life.
I can't say whether or not if you should tell your parents, since my situation was so different in that respect.
I can tell you that, while hard, you can learn to live, deal, and be happy. My teenager years were hard. My first boyfriend was an emotional abuser who tottered on physical. I was only able to survive by meeting my now husband who showed me men can be different. I went through a lot of therapy. A LOT. Taking psychology classes in college helped me as well. Horses helped heal me as well. I firmly believe that I would not be alive if it wasn't for my heart horse that I had in my teenage/early 20s years.
The posts above me gave good advice. Really look inside yourself and make yourself move on. Do not give that person a second thought. You are the better person and you will stay the better person. To be miserable and scared will only mean the other person won. That they succeeded in dominating and controlling you. You control yourself. You will not always succeeded but soon the good days will outnumber the bad.
I would suggest healing and loving yourself before finding a mate. I didn't do this and sometimes I feel it would have better if it had happened that way.
Last edited by KatTheAmazon : 02-29-2012 at 10:06 PM.
I was abused as a child and my mom didn't find out about some of it until I was nearly an adult because she was so focused on my brother that I got left behind. I know MANY if not all of my issues stem from that. My advice to you is that you tell your parents if you think that telling them what happened and how you really feel about the situation will make YOU feel better. You aren't very much overweight and they really need to lay off of the comments. My dad used to degrade me when I was 165 pounds as a teen and it let to me overeating. As an adult I told him that "I am making my own decisions, whether nor not I choose to be fat is my choice. If you don't stop making remarks about my weight then don't bother talking to me." in addition to the emotional explosion of confronting him about the fact that he was physically and emotionally abusive. He has improved and now offers to take me grocery shopping occasionally so that I can get some "good" food. So do what will make you feel better, your parents are adults and can handle the pain. Also, you don't want to regret not telling them when you no longer have the chance. Get it all in the open, allow some healing to occur, and maybe even get some professional therapy-either individually or as a family. As for the jerking away from boyfriends, it sounds like you have some symptoms of PTSD. I have PTSD and it affects every fabric of my being. You should look up the symptoms, because therapy can help (but not fix) that too.
I think it's important that we recognize a possible reason to tell your parents is for validation but you may not get that validation how you wish.
Consider that telling your parents may bring more frustration than healing to you. It most definitely will bring them more strife. How they historically deal with strife is telling. History predicts the future. You are likely to be hurting more after revealing the truth due to their inability to acknowledge their role in the tragedy.
I love the Kelly Clarkson song, "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger". I think you should empower yourself to believe so and let your healing take a different path. Telling them won't fix anything.
What is the nephew doing now? Is he in a position to do the same harm to others? Consider pressing charges and "outing" him to protect others.
I was in an abusive marriage. Although I was never sexually molested, the psyche of abusers is well documented as the same across all types of abuse. It involves bullying, coersion, threats, emotional abuse all the same. I think the damage is the only variable that differs - how the victim deals with it is different for everyone - and I think that you link your feellings of "fat loser" to the abuse is key here.
Use that anger, that victim mentality, to not only survive, but to thrive. Personally, I put that into my work outs. I burn the anger calorically. I also reach out to help others who are suffering in their marriages. I studied domestic abuse for 2 years and have a lot to share with others when it comes to myth busting (i.e. women are not hysterical, they've been psychologically trained by a sociopath to react in a way that common society rejects as over reacting therefore letting the perpetrator off the hook as a villain.) My work in the area also empowers me and gives me a healing effect.
It bewilders me to this day that everyone in my small town knows about my past with my ex (I'm very outspoken about it) yet, even my close friends are still cordial to his face, while I'm thinking how can they still be friends with a criminal??
To sum it up, consider that you telling your parents is NOT going to get you the results you seek. Dig deeper to heal yourself. No one can heal you for you.
I have not been abused, but I am a friend to many who have been. I am also a mother, and I am dealing with aging parents who struggle -- Dad has mental health issues and Mom has her weird about living with Dad all this time with untreated PTSD, bipolar, and now prob Alzheimer! We had a terrible 2011 and he's being treated at long last.
It is a bad thing you had to endure. I am so sorry!
But instead of putting your energies in the "parent bucket" at this time, I would put it in the YOU bucket. Put you first. Do for yourself what they did not do for you as a child.
Seek counseling for you FIRST. Process this and heal a bit before you decide with your professional counselor whether or not to open up to the parents on this or not.
Avail yourself to aid and take the benefit from the opinion of a pro looking at your case and their opinion rather than 'net strangers looking in.
In other words... What is best in the interest of YOUR mental health at this time? Letting the parents in or not?
Because what if they backlash and BLAME YOU for it? Are you strong enough to deal with that alone without a support system in place with a counselor? As you say, they have mental issues of their own and are not "strong minded" people. Where you hope to find support and understanding and peace making you may find something else entirely! I would proceed with caution and always putting YOUR mental health needs first. Not your need to have parental support or comforting or understanding for the little girl that did not get it. Your mental health NOW as an adult.
You are NOT a "fat loser" and you do not have to explain yourself to anyone! Even your parents! (Who are not strong minded people to begin with.)
This is your life, not theirs. You live it how you want to.
Now I deal with PCOS and a whole mess of other stuff and I'm closed mouthed about it around my parents. Dad in his own mental health wacky "helicopters" around Mom who is his caregiver. So I can never talk to her alone. So I just don't. I was lecturing her about being mad at her not telling me Dad was getting worse. And she got mad and told me what about me? I never say anything to her about my health. I told her that was different. She said no it isn't. I said yes it is.
Because if she tells me things about dad's health, I will not fly off the handle and work myself up. I am not mentally ill. I can try to assist her to ease her burden.
If I could tell her things in private, I would! But we rarely get that luxury!
But since he does the "caregiver shadowing" thing, she is NEVER alone, I never have a moment of privacy to tell her, and I am not going to tell my mom about it if my mentally wonky dad is in earshot. For what? So he can work himself up over it and act out and who knows what? He is not mentally fit. He cannot be supportive of me or help me. All he would do is cause me more energy drain. Which adds to my burdens.
She grew quiet. Then sighed. And told me I was right. The time for telling Dad things openly has long passed. We have to guard against our need for us to tell him, vs whether or not he needs to hear it. Because he's no longer fit to process well and it isn't like he could be a help or supportive anyway. I pointed out that this very heart to heart talk was happening at my house while dad was in the psych ward and we were waiting for visiting hours time. The first time in YEARS, more than a DECADE since I could last talk to her in private, freely. I missed that, and was glad we had the chance now. But we knew this was what it was -- an exceptional moment. NOT the regular.
Something else to consider with your counselor. Are your aging parents past that point too? Like my Dad?
GL! I will hold you in my thoughts and hope for the best in your situation.
PTSD is very real for vicitms of abuse. There are simple measures to take to heal oneself. Unfortunately, it involves entering a situation that is similar to the abusive situation. This is emotionally scary. It is done in an environment that you know to be safe. It is role playing, in a sense, when not done in a clinical situation (i.e. psychologist's office) but it can be done on your own.
Here's an example. My husband at the time knew that I had a pocket voice recorder and that I was gearing up for divorce. I was seeking proof that he threatened my life constantly and was 100% threatening all of the time. So he stopped the verbal/emotional abuse (but continued the silent-treatment and physical threat inuendo/posturing) until I was vacuuming.
I would be vacuuming and he would surprisingly come from behind, grab me, and whisper in my ear stuff like, "You stupid f-ing whore. You leave me and I will kill you," stuff like that. It would never be audible in the recording over the sound of the vacuum.
When I escaped, I had my own place. When it came time to vacuum, I found it made my heart palpitate and I would sweat unless I vacuumed backwards. Meaning, instead of vacuuming back of the room toward out the door (so you don't step on the place you just vacuumed) I could not vacuum with my back to the door.
Unrealistic! Right? He can't get in my house! He's not there! Yet I could not shake this physical reaction when I vacuumed.
So I got a male friend to practice with me. I made him promise to not approach me while I vacuumed. It took about 4 "sessions" of me vacuuming with him in my house to finally get over the physical reaction of the past abuse.
Now, three years later, some times I don't even think about it when I vacuum. When I do, I smile. I realize I survived being married to a psychopath and that I'm in WAY better shape (mentally, physically) than ever before even at age 41.
It's a celebration of survival. Let it empower you. But you have to start by facing if full on.