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.

Note from Darlene: My answer can be found below.

Email addresses, phone numbers, home addresses AND website/blog URLs in visitor comments are strictly prohibited.

Comments for Why doesn't my family believe me?

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Jan 13, 2008
Familial denial
by: Darlene Barriere - Webmaster

Firstly, thank you for your kind words about my site, Ray. Accolades are always graciously appreciated. Secondly, congratulations on thinking highly enough of yourself to enter therapy AND to attend support group meetings. Regardless of what your family thinks, what you are doing is the right thing for you.

Family are in denial for a variety of reasons, depending on the role they have assumed in that family. I'm going to answer your question based on family that you grew up with.

What you are describing is not at all unusual. In fact, it's far more unusual for family members to band together to help the victim of abuse than it is for those same members to support the offender. Nothing divides a family more than a disclosure of historical sexual abuse (where an adult discloses abuse from childhood). A disclosure of sexual abuse puts family members in a position of choosing who they want to believe; they must "pick sides" so to speak.

In the case of siblings, it rips into the fabric of what these family members believed when they were growing up. Their own experiences with the offender often govern their choice of who to believe. In the case of parents, there is the added guilt that they did not protect their child; and rather than admit any responsibility, they would rather deny that anything criminal took place.

In your story Ray, you stated that you were sexually abused by an uncle; the relationship your parent (mother or father) has with that offending brother and the rest of his or her family (your mother or father's parents, siblings, etc.) is at the core of the response to the disclosure.

Be it parents or siblings, aunts or uncles, it is far easier for these family members to completely ignore what the victim is saying, indeed, even call them "liar" than it is to wrap their brains around the possibility that someone they trusted, loved and grew up with could do such a heinous act to a child. To make things even more convoluted, in some cases, the very family members who are denying that sexual abuse took place, were themselves sexually molested, by that same offender. The section titled How Victims Adapt on my sexual abuse victims page can provide some insight.

When the victim is male, the issues are even more complex. Ray, the list of reasons that victims don't tell on my male victims of sexual abuse page are many of the same reasons that family do not support the abuse survivor.

My reply here touches on an explanation; it's not intended as an excuse.

Darlene Barriere
Violence & Abuse Prevention Educator
Author: On My Own Terms, A Memoir

Jan 13, 2008
I Believe You! I Believe You!
by: Francine

Ray, that is so mean when your family wouldn't believe you at all! Shame on your family for not protecting you from your perverted uncle/offender (excuse my French) cuz when I read your story and question, these made me want to cry! I am so sorry! If I were your family members, I'd protect you and call the cops on your offender, the pervert! Well, my brother beat me up, too, and no one ever believed me nor did anything about it! I really feel you, Ray.

Jan 13, 2008
Support
by: LLS Buffalo

Hi Ray,

This is weird. I hope I am not writing to my own brother Ray. I would support you if you were though so it's probably just a fluke. My story is posted if you are wondering. I have the same problem you have in my family. Sometimes families just arent what they are supposed to be. But you know in your heart that you are doing the right thing. You are reaching out and by doing that you are reaching in. If your family doesnt want to take the courage and strength to support you then that's what it will be. But let me tell you how many friends and new family members I have adopted and who have adopted me who make my "real" family who I can depend on. Ya know, families dissappoint. They tend to by nature. But .......you are different. There's something different about you compared to them that drives you on, that makes you care and wonder and persevere. I know this is true and I have never met you. So you go out, you make connections that you feel good about and don't loook deeply into their lives or reasons why. Just you. It's all you now. And you are doing a pretty damn good job. They aren't controlling you. You are actually doing what you need to do for yourself and I am proud of you, Darlene is proud of you and I hope you are too. Hang in there.

Jan 13, 2008
Support
by: Gabriela

This behavior is frequently displayed in families where abuse has occurred which is very sad for the victim as we would all like to think that families band together when one of the members has been hurt. This is what we would all expect and but in reality we must realize that for most people when dealing with abuse, especially sexual abuse don't deal well and find the only means to cope is to as you say "pretend it never happened".
It's not that they don't believe you; on the contrary they must there behavior indicates that they definitely do. There may be various reasons to the behavior, in most cases they feel ashamed or responsible for what happened as you where only a child and the adults in your life should have been there for you as they should be there for you now.
I know that may be of no consolation to you as you are the victim and you definitely did NOTHING wrong but maybe this might help.
My Mother is the same, she doesn't like to show emotion at all and that does make it hard for me but I know I must be strong because it is my life and I am the master.
I know it hurts but you've done the right thing by finding people that can and will support you. You have proved just how strong you are, it takes enormous courage to even speak of the abuse, but maybe your family is not as strong as you would want them to be and maybe they never will be. But you have to find a way to be okay with that and I believe you will.

Apr 08, 2008
Supporting Ray
by: Hayley

I second that Ray. It's a great website, I was really scared about looking at it at work incase any of the night staff asked me about it but I'm glad I did and was able to relocate it at my public library. The replies I have had to my contributions are amazing and have made me feel really good.

It's not nice when people don't seem to want to acknowledge what has happened or just prefer to push it under the carpet. You've done totally the right thing Ray, fair play to you. Hang on in there, you are way better than that filthy pervert

Hayley

Apr 21, 2009
Lack of family support
by: Brenda

I didn't tell my parents about my abuse until I was 36,because I didn't think I would get a supportive response. But when I found out that my uncle had also molested my cousin (his daughter), which he and my aunt had both denied when I confronted him in my 20's, I could no longer hold it in. I could no longer attend family gatherings and I was worried for his grandchildren and other children around him. I had thought it was only me all those years. My mother and sister still try to get me to attend family events that he will be at, even though I have told them in no uncertain terms I never will again. I have moved to another state and still have such pain when my mother tries to pretend I am the problem. She claims not to understand why I don't want my kids around him. When I told her we might come for Mother's Day, she informed me that she had plans for my 86 yr old grandma to come to her house and "of course" that meant she had to invite my aunt(her sister) and her child rapist husband. My own mother would rather see them than her own daughter! Is there any explanation for this behavior? I cannot imagine doing this to my child--like Darlene, I would defend my girls to the end of the world, no matter what!

May 28, 2009
Hate
by: Anonymous

I really dont know where to start but i know im mad as hell and want to die! From all the abuse i suffered i now have bipolar disorder and anxiety disorder that makes me have seizures! I hate my life and i hate my parents! Im 33 and feel like im 12 inside! I hate this all of it

Aug 10, 2010
mother rejects and denies abuse
by: Anonymous

I am being blamed for destroying the family and called a liar. I am 46years old. My younger sister aged 39years told our mother she had been sexually abused by our father as a child. My sister also told her that I was also sexually abused by our father. My Sister was sent a letter of apology by my father who admitted to the abuse to my mother.I received no communication. I was too fearful to confront both of my parents about their abusive behaviour whilst growing up. My mother told one of my brothers that my father denies any abuse and that I am a liar and ill. It was suggested that my counsellor was the cause of my allegations. For some reason the abuse of my sister seems to have been accepted and I have been shut out. My other brother cut off all communication when I told him of the abuse. I can not understand how my mother can believe an abuser over her own daughter.

Aug 11, 2010
Sorry
by: BK

I'm very sorry you are going through this. It is like lot of little deaths and why famililes react in this way is beyond my comprehension. I think a lot of it is self-preservation, which certainly doesn't speak well for their parenting skills, does it? Please go talk to a counselor for your own peace of mind. It has taken me years and years to even be at peace with my own decision to have no contact with my uncle and all his family that enables him (including my own parents when they were doing that). Best of luck.

Mar 07, 2013
When your family don't believe you
by: Anonymous

I can relate to all of you. Im 43 and in so much pain and torment. My family chose not to believe me. My sister hates me for saying i was abused by my step.dad who is her real father. Now she is turning my two brothers against me. Although i told my mum when i was 18, i wasnt believed and sent to stay with my aunt for a few weeks until (i calmed down). I found a letter my mum wrote saying i was making up malicious lies about my dad and that i obviously had mental issues, I do...but not for the reasons she thinks. I love my mum so much and feel guilty because sometimes i think she let me down. my mum now has alzheimers, my family have disowned me and this really hurts. I want to have the strength to forget them, but deep down I love them and just want them to love me and believe me. I know this will never happen. Sometimes, in fact most of the time i feel i hate my sister for not believing me. She never invites me to any family occassions and that hurts me. I know ive done nothing wrong but tell the truth. My fiance loves me and supports me but doesnt truely get it, why ive not just forgot about them. I suppose you dont get it unless you have been through it. My heart goes out to all of you who have been abused, and i just want you to know that i think of you all even though i dont know you personally. Hopefully one day we can put the hurt aside and get a chance of happiness. We need to believe that this is a possibility, others may not understand but we know the truth and thats all that matters. I really hope that we get peace in our hearts, i believe that would solve our issues, but the journey to get there might not be easy. Love to you all xx


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