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

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Jan 29, 2008
A difficult task to be the first to open up
by: Darlene Barriere - Webmaster

It's not unusual for adults in their 30's to begin to recognize the impact abuse has had on them; it's a time of reflection, a time of questioning, a time when a person has matured enough for personal values to truly set in.

Before I address your question, I have to address your unjustified guilt. MY GOD, YOU WERE NOT TO BLAME! You were a child; you couldn't have protected your sisters. You cannot attach adult values to actions, or lack of actions, that you made as a child. The fact that your sisters were abused was NOT your responsibility to bear! It WASN'T your fault. It ISN'T your fault. It will never BE your fault. Your father was to blame FOR ALL OF IT. And your mother should have been there to stop it. Witnessing the abuse was emotionally devastating to you; and you suffered right along with your sisters, even before being assaulted at 12 years old. You MUST get past those feelings of responsibility. And if your siblings try to instill responsibility for the way things went down when you were children, come right back here to this site and read my comments over and over and over again! Because you WERE NOT RESPONSIBLE! PERIOD!

Enough sermonizing...

All too often, family members live in a state of denial about childhood abuse, especially sexual abuse. The very people who were themselves abused often refuse to admit it openly because of shame and guilt (groundless, of course), and sometimes because they've blocked out the memories as a coping mechanism. And the ones who were NOT abused often refuse to believe that someone in their family could possibly have been an offender. This all makes the task very difficult.

Broaching your family generally only works when all family members are ready, willing and able to open a dialogue, but of course it always takes at least one member to get the process started. The trick is to bring up the subject with your individual family members using what I call a "soft" approach, an approach that is geared toward feeling them out before getting into the nitty gritty of it. But that could still result in one or all of the family members lashing out; I offer no promises. I don't recommend an all-out family meeting until after all individual members are approached; one-on-one is better, at least to begin with.

Consider opening the conversation with the simple statement, "We were abused as kids," then see where things go from there. Take your cues from the responses you get. Don't force anything. Your family will be at varying stages of readiness to open up; be respectful of that. And if your family members DO open up, then perhaps you can all begin the healing process together.

I do wish you all the best. And keep us informed about how things go.

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

Jan 29, 2008
Reply
by: Anonymous

I understand how you feeling,the other side of you want to tell your sisters and the other side you don't want to. Think for a moment and asked yourself,"Am I ready" and if you are then Darlene called your sisters and asked them to come over because they probably feeling the same way like you are but don't have the gut to come forward.The more you don't talked about the past, the more likely it's going to affected you in the near future. Hope this answer help you and God Bless You.

Jan 31, 2008
re:
by: Offended

Dear Darlene,

Thank you for your words and your heart. I took a moment to embrace what you had to say and I'll take as many more of those moments until I am ready to confront my family with it all. I'll be sure to keep you posted with how things go.

Thank you for being here for myself and for so many other people. The day I wrote you was a really low day for me filled with a lot of sadness and anger.

All I can say is thank you!

Jan 31, 2008
To Offended:
by: Darlene Barriere - Webmaster

You are so very welcome. I can't tell you how much I appreciate being thanked for the comments and answers I give to my visitors. I only wish I could have replied to you sooner; perhaps doing so would have alleviated some of the anger and sadness you were feeling at the time.

Again, thank you for taking the time to graciously send me your words of appreciation.

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

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Disclaimer: To the best of my knowledge the child abuse
stories on this site are true. While I cannot guarantee
this, I do try to balance the need for the submitter to be
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How I got over the devastating effects of child abuse and moved on with my life

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