How do I deal with family members who abused me and my siblings?

by Pamela
(Pennsylvania, USA)

My younger sister, brother and I were all abused in varying degrees by our parents and extended family. The abuse includes sexual abuse, emotional abuse, and physical abuse. I am now in therapy, and am learning to face my real feelings about what happened to me, but my family refuses to face the fact that they are at least in part (I feel bad saying in whole) to blame for what happened to us as kids, and how we act towards them today.


For example, I rarely, if ever, talk to my family. I have tried and tried to explain what has hurt me so much (Mom and Dad knowing I was being molested several times and doing nothing to step in because they didn't want trouble with the law - among many, many other issues), and I keep getting stonewalled with the "That isn't their fault" or "Well they clearly trusted you more then they should have" (I love that last one).

The reason I keep trying to explain is that my grandmother keeps trying to tell me how bad off my mom and dad are, and is so torn up that me and my younger brother do not really speak to our parents. Each time I mention the abuse, I am told I need to get over it and move on, or that they trusted me too much as a child, or something equally stomach-turning for me to hear.

I would love more then anything else to cut off all contact with them, but my therapist wants me to keep polite and distanced contact with them, so that I do not feel guilty if something happens to them (they are all in poor health). I understand that completely, but at the same time, I can't take the insinuation that it is MY fault, and my brother's fault, that we act towards our parents the way we do.

By the way, my sister is the family favorite, and my parents let me and my brother know over and over again that I was an accident and he was a mistake, that they never wanted a third child, and that they really, really never wanted a boy.

So here is my question. How can I politely let my grandmother know that things are not going to get better as long as she is helping my parents cover up any responsibility they had in raising us? How can I explain that my brother does not speak to my parents because they told him he was an unwanted child, over and over again? I'd just like to explain how being a victim of parental abuse affects us through out our entire lives, and how it's not a simple answer that can be given to 'fix' things.

Sorry this is so long, I wanted to give you background.

Thank you for your time. I appreciate you reading my submission!

Reply from Darlene: Pamela, you don't have to apologize for the length of your submission; it is always easier for me to answer questions when I have some background information. When my visitors take the time to inform me of the details, I don't have to guess at them; I can hone in on a more fitting reply.

The remainder of Darlene's reply to this Ask Darlene question "How do I deal with family members who abused me and my siblings?" can be found below.

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I hate my mother; does this make me a monster?

by Daemon
(Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada)

My mother was someone who both terrified and inspired me. My dad left us when I was just born; and probably wanting a better life for us, she moved far away to P.E.I. (Prince Edward Island) to live with my grandparents. I don't remember much living there. I guess it all began when we moved to Vancouver. Me and my newborn brother (who's dad we don't even truly know) found ourselves in the "ghetto" so to speak. My mother was on welfare at the time. She had us when she was young, so that result was to be expected. However, this simple lifestyle all changed when she met "him". From the moment she brought him home I hated him. He was a usurper. I was quite satisfied not having a dad around the house, and all of a sudden this A-hole comes up and takes control. Here's the kicker: WE WERE POOR, we didn't have enough to buy groceries; it was all food banks, donations, and welfare cheques. But he didn't care. He was using us just so he had a place to stay (seriously, he lived with his mother, and he was about 35 at the time). But she seemed happier and less surly, so I guess I left it alone (besides I was only five).

When I was 6, we moved to an apartment complex that was for single mothers. "He" was still in our lives, only now that my mother had gotten herself back in school and was never home..."He" became abusive. Physical and emotional abuse was my life from then on.

I remember once when I turned 10 he slammed me into a wall for being in his way. I'm not going to say I was a perfect little angel. I was quite the opposite. I had a terrible attitude. I guess I was saying things that most kids would get sent to boot camp for.

As I got older, my relationship with my mom got worse. She knew I hated him. But being afraid to tell her the full truth, I stayed rude and bitter to everyone around me. As more time passed, I got taller (and thankfully stronger) so I was able to fight him off. But then it got worse emotionally. I was put down by him all the time, of course I responded with my usual "eff-you!" But deep down inside I felt that in a way, maybe he was right...

"If you were never born, your mom could have been really successful."
"You're a child from hell."
"You're pretty chubby; no wonder girls don't like you."
"Ahahaha...your grounded 'cause I say so!"

I never once in my life considered him my dad, never! But he was a usurper to the household, so my mother always stood by his decisions and I was punished unmercifully (for things that were actually quite trivial).

When I hit my teens and entered high school, my relationship with my whole family was in the pits. I was a terror. I didn't give them the time of day because I was so busy with my war with "Him" and myself. I was an awkward kid. I wasn't popular. I was bullied frequently and was left out all the time. I couldn't confide in "Him" could I? My mother was always busy. She was never there when I needed her the most. I guess that's when I began to resent her. I truly despised my mother at this point. By grade ten, I started hanging out with the wrong crowd and got into trouble. (Shoplifting, skipping class, late nights) but like the eternally awkward child I was, I never fit in enough to hang out with the drug people (which I guess was good). Things at home were still the same though. But it was when I turned 17 that everything crumbled...

I got into a very violent fight with "Him" and ended up hurting him pretty badly. He phoned her at work when I ran down to my room after it was over. "Get the *&%& out of my house." The words that deep down no teen wants to hear.

"'Im your son!"

"I have no son! You are a mean and twisted little..." (Let's not get into detail.)

So the words were said, and after being threatened with the police I left. I called a friend up to help me find a hotel to stay the night. (I had a little bit of money from my last paycheck) All the hotels were too much money. After lying to my friend that I had a place to go, I dropped off the bags I was carrying at her house and left.

Wandering the streets as a homeless teen was nothing short of hell. It was a new low in my life. I honestly don't remember how long I was out walking, maybe 10 hours? But I didn't want to end up some crackhead, so I swallowed my pride and phoned KIDSHELP. They gave me the most needed advice I had ever heard:
"Your mother has chosen "him" and there's nothing you can do." As blunt as the message was, it put a lot of things into perspective. The woman gave me directions to a youth safe house, and I stayed there for half the summer. (We don't need to hear that story, but let's just say I was scared, and elated for the first couple of weeks. Homeless teens have A LOT of issues and drama, but I kept my nose clean when I stayed there and didn't get into TOO much trouble.) In that safe house I balanced summer school, work, and finding a place to stay. But when you're a bitter, angst-ridden teen, your family doesn't really want anything to do with you. Sure I got pity from my grandparents, but they lived too far away. And my uncles had their own families to take care of. It was here that my social worker offered me something called a youth agreement, which basically means the government pays for my own place and groceries until I turn 19. I turn 18 in February 2008, so I'm still living on my own. I haven't spoken to my family, except my younger bro, who goes to the high school near the old house I used to live at. That includes "her".

I'm WAY happier living on my own! It's great. I'm more independent than I ever felt possible, and all my friends are jealous. But I have to lie about who supports me. I can't tell them about my "situation" because I don't want to be pitied by them. But not a day goes by that I don't say to myself, What if...? What if I had just come clean about all the abuse, then maybe she never would have been brainwashed by "Him" and I could have lived a normal life. But I didn't, and I hate her...for everything? I'm not so sure....

There's so much more that I want to say about my life, but there wouldn't be enough room! I'll be blunt. I was abused by my mother's boyfriend all my life, and I hate them both more than anything else in the world. Does that make me some sort of monster?

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Is it child abuse when parents refuse financial help for college?

by Karen C.
(London, England)

Career 'Choice': 
Is it abuse when parents don't let an offspring follow the career they wish to follow and threaten them that, if they try and take the college course they want to, that they (the parents) won't help them financially with anything?

Reply from Darlene: My answer to this Ask Darlene question "Is it child abuse when parents refuse financial help for college?" can be found at Comments below this submission. Depending on system activity, there are sometimes delays in comments going live on my site; but rest assured, they do eventually appear. So if you don't yet see them, I hope you will return later to read what I, and possibly others, have written. I thank you for your patience and understanding.

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Historical Child Abuse: How do I deal with abusive in-laws?

by Weak No More
(Arnold, Missouri, USA)

Protective Husband and Father: 
My wife is the one who has actually been abused, but after being with her for 16 years, and in proximity to her abusers, I feel abused. When abuse is extended to include spiritual abuse, my feelings fit the definition.

For years, my wife has told me stories about the physical and emotional abuse from her mother. Her childhood friends and neighbors often volunteer stories about my mother-in-law, and these are eyewitness accounts, not hearsay. Until recently, my wife has said little about her father, other than, "he is an asshole and always defended his wife's abuse" (e.g. breaking bones, pushing my wife down the stairs, etc.).

Our relationship with my in-laws has always been filled with tension. As a Christian, I'm required to honor my parents and my wife's parents. I'm also required to forgive and forget. So, I've forced my wife and myself to make an effort to have a relationship with them. Although, my in-laws attend church, they live a private sort of occult life-style, which doesn't fit with my beliefs or my wife's desires. On the surface, they present themselves as good grandparents, always willing to babysit and always inviting us to dinner. Below the surface, the invitations to dinner are a summons, and the babysitting is more like kidnapping.

Five years ago, they actually kidnapped our children and we had to call the police to get them back. I was foolish enough to re-establish a relationship with them to obey my Christian teaching, but I made the error of not resolving the root cause. Behind my back, they have always tried to say that I was controlling my wife, and hated me because of my Catholic schooling and belief in evolution. When we put my oldest daughter into pre-school, they practically beat down the door begging my wife not to do this, because they wanted to babysit instead.

Whenever, I try to take my family on a vacation, I practically have to ask my in-laws for permission. We've argued about taking our own children with us on our vacations. They always wait until I'm not home to intimidate my wife.

They refuse to attend counseling sessions with us, so that my wife can stop having nightmares about her childhood. They forbid my step-daughter from calling me dad, even though I've been the only dad that she has known since the age of 2. They forbid me from adopting her and they try to stop my mother from seeing any of our children. They hate it when they call my mom, Grandma.

It has been torment for the past 16 years, and I feel bad that I put my wife in the middle. I've always told my wife that they are her parents, so she should be the one to confront them. I didn't realize how fearful she was of them, even though she told me.

Recently, we've started having trouble with my oldest daughter, now 17, experimenting with bisexual behavior and other rebellious activities. So, my daughter wanted to live with my in-laws where she will have no chores or rules. My in-laws have seized the opportunity to attack me. They have been threatening to fabricate stories of abuse against me unless I let them have the children. We've completed forms at the children's schools forbidding my in-laws from picking them up, but it hasn't worked. My mother-in law has been stalking my children, by calling the office frequently to gather information about school events. One of the office personnel at my youngest daughter's preschool had become friends with my mother-in-law and invited her to the school without any regard for our form, restricting her from my children.

Over the years, I've come to know my in-laws, especially my mother-in-law as evil people. She always visits dying relatives, but then stands outside their hospital room and says horrible things about them, and says that she wishes that they would just die and get it over. Although, they profess to be Christians, I've never heard them say one good thing about anyone.

We want to move away so that these people can't torment us anymore, but they keep stalking us and threaten to fabricate stories against us. I'm a respectable citizen, so anyone who knows me, knows better. Unfortunately, not everyone knows my in-laws under the surface. They are good on their word about fabricating stories.

The first time that we turned down a summons to dinner, my sister-in-law claimed that we weren't coming because I had beaten up one of the children. With the exception of a handful of swats on the butt over 16 years and 3 children, I don't even spank them.

Aside from threats of fabricating stories against me, my mother-in-law has been suggestive that they would shoot me. My father-in-law is a hunter and owns guns.

Recently, my wife has been starting to tell me stories about her father forcing his way into the bathroom when she was attempting to get dressed. She also had some naked pictures of him that she found as a child. She says that she used to find sex toys and KY gel next to her bed. She has also told me that my mother-in-law would force my children to change their clothes in front of my father-in-law, but they always acted modest whenever I or my sister-in law's husband were around.

I fear for the safety of my children and wife.

We've prayed about it and seen a counselor at the church, and everyone has told us to keep a safe distance from these people, but I can't find a way to get away from them. My attorney said that even a "permanent" restraining order is only good for one year. These people will still be insane a year from now.

I'm a scientist and would rather spend my time concerned about unraveling the mysteries of the universe, than dealing with crazy people. If crazy people interested me, I would have been a psychologist. Still, this burden exists. If I can't escape their stalking and threats, I fear that someone will get hurt. I'm even considering buying a gun for protection, but the system should have a way of protecting me and my family without having to resort to such extremes.

Do you have any suggestions?

Reply from Darlene: I'm not sure how it is that I can help you. You said you've spoken to church counsellors, that you've talked to an attorney about a restraining order, that you've gone to the school to fill out papers to prevent your in-laws from "stalking" your children, and that you've even had to contact the police in order to deal with a "kidnapping" situation that involved your children and your in-laws.

Other than to tell you to move as far away from your in-laws as possible, I can only offer you the benefit of my experience as a violence and abuse prevention educator as it relates to child abuse, my own experience as a survivor of child abuse at the hands of an equally malicious mother who tried to destroy me, and the benefit of my experience as a 50-year-old woman in the midst of spiritual Awakening.

Remainder of reply from Darlene can be found to this Ask Darlene question "History of Child Abuse: How do I deal with abusive in-laws?" can be found in Parts 1 and 2 below.

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Why doesn't my family believe me?

by Ray
(Oshawa, Ontario, Canada)

My family have never wanted to discus my abuse. I am in a support group for men who were sexually abused as children, and I think my family is ashamed of me for going to this support group. I don`t know how to handle it, because they (my family) have never given me any support. It's as though they would like to pretend my abuse never happened.

Darlene, I would like to thank you for creating this wonderful web-site. It really gives us a voice, and we all need to be heard.

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When do I finally let go of the hope that my family will believe and support me?

by Sheryl
(California, USA)

Dear Darlene,
I have read your answers on "Why doesn't my family believe me" and "Why do families abandon incest victims" and though it helps to understand why, I can't seem to let go of the hope that some day they will believe and support me. Like the story of your previous writer, my mother and siblings have rallied around my father (my abuser) and chose to believe "his side" of denial.

Are there books you could recommend to me that might help me let go of my hopes and desires that they will ever believe and support me? I have been married for 24 years to a wonderfully supportive husband and have raised two boys who are now both in college and love and support me, so why isn't that enough? Why do I still seek my family's approval and support?

I had repressed the abuse memories as a child and spent my life pretending and protecting myself by painting a picture of a life that wasn't mine. It was what I was taught, to not talk about the anything, just pretend everything is fine. They still live their lives this way and I don't fit in anymore.

I just want to let go of them and the hope of them, and move on. Can you help?
Thank you,
Sheryl

Note from Darlene: My answer to this Ask Darlene question "When do I finally let go of the hope that my family will believe and support me?" can be found at Comments below this submission.

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A Child Abuse Survivor: How can I turn my life around at 50?

by Lisa
(Quitman, Mississippi, USA)

Darlene, I am a licensed BSW (Bachelors in Social Work) and am going back to school for my MSW (Masters in Social Work). As a child I was physically abused, sexually abused, emotional abused, and neglected in every way thinkable. I weighed only 135 pounds when I came to work for the MDHS (Mississippi Department of Human Services) in June 1994. Now I weight 200+ pounds.

I married at age 17 and had a son and daughter in 1976 and divorced in 1990. My son was a perfect child and teenager. He now tells me that he is a homosexual. My daughter inherited all of my negative behaviors. She is expecting her fourth child and she now lives with the baby's daddy and not married.

I remarried in 1992 and inherited a four- and five-year-old, as their mother is a crack cocaine user. The past 16 years has been a rollercoaster, and my life felt like I was doing social worker 24/7. My stepchildren love me, but they know that they can't act like they do around their mother's family, and so they don't come around me often. I am angry at myself for taking care of everyone else and not my own self.

When I married my husband I had A-one credit. Now I cannot buy a piece of bubble gum. I am still here, and he receives Social Security benefits and I work all the time. He rides his motorcycle and plays.

Before I die, I would like to stop feeling like a failure. My homosexual son does not come around often because I cannot totally accept his life choice. I cannot talk to my co-workers about my feelings because they are all under 35 and I will turn 50. I was always in shape, now I look like a Good Year blimp. Can you give me some suggestions? My husband has nine heart stents and four herniated discs, and I feel sorry for him. Stupid 1958

Note from Darlene: My answer to this Ask Darlene question "A Child Abuse Survivor: How can I turn my life around at 50?" can be found below. If you do not see the comments I've written, please be patient, as there is a system glitch regarding comments going live on my site. Lisa, I replied to your query June 8, 2008, comments titled "Regrets, righting wrongs, and a responsibility to yourself..." Keep checking back to this page. I thank you Lisa and my other visitors for your understanding while I work at getting this minor malfunction resolved

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How do I approach my adult family about our childhood abuse?

by Offended
(United States)

I am now into my 30's. When I was a child, I witnessed my father abuse my two older sisters. This went on for a number of years. I never said anything, and I'm not sure why. When I was about 12 or 13, he started to abuse me too. I was then abused by my brother. I never told anyone until recently. It has never been discussed within my family. I feel tremendous guilt over not protecting my sisters.

Now that I'm older, I see how this trauma is affecting me and my relationships. I also see what it has done to my sisters. I want to open up to them and tell them that I know and I am sorry for what they have gone through and that they are not alone. The only thing is that it has never been discussed. I'm not sure how to approach it. A part of me feels as though I need to find peace with them so that I can find peace within myself.

Note from Darlene: My answer to "How do I approach my adult family about our childhood abuse?" can be found below.

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Why only me for child abuse?

by Ros Taprell
(Kempsey, New South Wales, Australia)

Just me trying to survive

Just me trying to survive

Hello Darlene: 
I am one of two sets of twins. From the time I was a baby right up until I was 16, I was physically and emotionally abused by my mother. Then I was put into a girl's home, where I was sexually abuse once.

My question is, why? I'm the littlest out of the twins. Now at 43, I suffer many disabilities. I'm deaf through my mother's abuse around the head. I have a very bad back and I have a hip replacement as a result of too much bashing. I'm trying to work through my pain and loneliness. I feel so empty all the time. I feel like I'm falling apart. I have three children that I have not abused. I refuse to live in abuse, but I have lost my oldest daughter, as she has chosen the abusive life of living with a man that emotionally abuses her. I couldn't take it, so she has asked me to stay out of her life. I do speak to one part of my family.

I don't hold relationships well. I have nightmares almost every night. I'm lucky to sleep 4 hours a night. I do see a psychologist, but I feel I'm getting nowhere with her. I have written my story as best as I can, and got it down on a disc, as this is what I was told to do: write and let the feelings out. I'm in a great deal of pain with what my mother has done to me, especially now that I'm unable to hear for the rest of my life because of her. Sometimes the pain I live in 24/7 gets too much for me.

Please, do you have another why for me to look for peace, joy and happiness? I know I need to face it, and not run from the abuse, but I am so scared.

Thank you for giving a site for women like me to let a little out of our life.

Ros

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Why would my mother beat only me?

by Name Withheld
(Location Withheld)

This is a case where a male in a large family was the only one of the children who was beaten repeatedly by his mother, one time, even in an area where he was injured. This adult male was still haunted by these incidents of abuse and experienced physical symptoms whenever he recalled these incidents. As a boy, he had a strong resemblance to his maternal grandfather, a man that was supposedly revered by this boy's mother. The question that arose: Did his mother pick on him because he reminded her of her then-deceased father, whom she adored?

Darlene initial reply: First of all, you must understand, it was NOTHING about you. You were perfect exactly as you were. Period. End of story. No question about it.

Secondly, what I am about to say is only a possible explanation; I offer no excuses here.

I'm not a psychiatrist or a psychologist, but I will offer the benefit of my experience. It's unlikely your mother would turn on you when you were a child because of a positive relationship with her father. It's far more likely something insidious had gone on. Remember, I offer no excuses for her repugnant behaviour and treatment of you. I offer only possible explanations. And even with my suspicions about the true nature of the relationship and dynamic between your mother and her father—which, by the way, she might not have even remembered; she may have only had deep angry feelings surfacing, without the benefit of recall—the explanation will most likely still leave you with unanswered questions. This is because there are NO valid reasons for the abuse you suffered at the hands of your obviously disturbed mother.

It is not at all uncommon for abuse victims to say wonderful things about their abusers and claim love and devotion to them. Victims of abuse OFTEN protect their abusers, even well into adulthood. We'll never know for certain if your mother was molested by her father, or indeed someone else which could have triggered feelings of anger and betrayal toward her father for not protecting her, which in turn could have been transferred onto you. There are so many convoluted possibilities, way to many to go into within the limited space of this page.

I recommend you read through my various sexual abuse, sexual victims, and sex offender pages. You'll find them listed on my navigation bar on the left margin of this page. Reading through those pages might give you a better understanding of the twisted dynamic between a victim and her/his abuser.

But regardless of the reasons that your mother treated you with such contempt, if there is any hope in moving on, you cannot keep giving up your power to her. You must take back that power. To continue to allow your mother to affect you physically is to continue to allow what she did to you control your life. You are worth so much more than that: you were then as a child; you are now as an adult.

Please consider some form of counselling to help you through the emotional residue. There is no shame in asking for help. You are definitely worth it.

Remainder of my comments to this Ask Darlene question "Why would my mother beat only me?" are at the last link below.

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Why do families – mothers - abandon incest victims?

by Hayley
(England, UK)

I was sexually abused by my father when I was 12-16. He is going to court in two weeks, even though it happened 30 years ago. He has admitted rape, but I am also fighting for the charges of anal rape and indecent assault.

He was high up in a religion in Ireland, but was asked to resign eventually.

My question: Why is my mother blaming me for the abuse? I told her when it first happened, and she yelled at him, but she left me with him alone, etc. As an adult, I have tried to talk to her many times, but all I get is:
'I had a hard life too'
'God has forgiven him'
'You have to ask god's forgiveness for your part'
'It's not my Johnny's fault that women throw their knickers at him' (my dad had several affairs)

I have not spoken to either parent since I reported the abuse 3 years ago. Also, some of my siblings aren't talking to me since I reported him. They have told me to 'be quiet for the sake of the family.' My father is still being cuddled by the family whilst I am out in the cold.

I have spoken to many people who have reported the abusers in the family who also have similar tales of being abandoned by their families, whilst the abuser is still welcomed. Why is that?

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