When a Parent Targets One For Child Abuse Part 1
(New York, USA)
This is a response to the article on this site entitled Why parents target a specific child for abuse. The article explored the issue that has baffled me my whole life. What makes this kind of abuse so difficult to heal from is that, at least in my experience, the whole family covers up the abuse and denies it.
It seems the abused child is forever an outcast, even years afterward into adulthood. The parents of course deny/justify what they did to you--but what is most damaging is the siblings continue to deny it as well, which isn't just invalidating, it's frightening, it distorts your view of yourself and of life and is very discombobulating.
My question about families where a parent selects one child in particular to abuse: Is it basically a universal fact that the rest of the family covers up and protects the abusive parent, and protects themselves, by denying that abuse took place? Do they all forge a sort of alliance against the victim? Is this a pattern that simply does not break despite the passage of time?
I understand why my mother abused me: She had low-self esteem, needs a lot of attention, and my father displayed too much interest in me. I was a vivacious happy child and my mother was depressed and fought with my father constantly. When he wasn't around she picked on me, told me I was "just like him" and wished I would die. I also looked like him which didn't help. She'd throw dishes at me and slap and shake me every day. When I would ask why? Why are you yelling at me? Why are you mad at me? It would always make her escalate into a full rage of slapping me into silence with name-calling. My asking why was labeled "talking back." Asking why meant I "had a mouth on me" and deserved to be slapped and called names. The face I saw of her was that of a ferocious animal well into my 20s. Yet to my siblings, she was giving, always displaying a proper sweet-toned voice and smile, which is the same persona she dons in public. But to my father and me, she showed constant resentment and threw violent tantrums.
As an adult I understand her. She is a very fragile, needy, miserable, and weak person emotionally. She is also intelligent, but emotionally it is impossible for her to conceive any wrongdoing in herself. She grew up adored as the only girl (and a much wanted one) and could do no wrong. I'm sure that played a role in her psyche. This is the best she is capable of and I ask for nothing more.
What I still grapple with is my siblings' role in all this. They witnessed as I was verbally berated, slapped, shaken, shoved and called names for no reason. My siblings were there, silent, frozen, watching. But as we got older they joined in by taunting and making fun of me, excluding me. To this day that undercurrent remains in play.
I have theories but no answers. These are successful, well-balanced, jovial people. I know they remember our mother going to town on me, but they downplay it, to them it wasn't abusive. They think our parents are simply oversensitive, but any "frustrations" my mother took out on me I deserved, for they still ascribe to the same story our mother drilled into us, which is that I was a "bad child" and "just
like her father."
I have forgiven my abuser (my mother) but I'm still grappling to forgive my siblings. I can guess that they needed to believe I was a bad child in order to justify their failure to stand up for me, to not have to feel guilty. Plus it's always easier to stand with the powerful one, the one that provides for you and loves you. But why into adulthood does this dynamic remain in play? They sometimes speak in whispers about our parents tempers but always vehemently deny and dismiss the idea that it was abusive or that I got the majority of their wrath (especially from my mother). It's all a big hushed up secret. No one outside the family knows the extent of my parents' volatile tempers. My sibs are very loyal to my mom and seem determined not to tarnish her image or memory in any way. Despite all that happened! I suppose that is easy to do when she never raised her voice to them and they have a vested interest in denying it ever happened. I suspect my presence makes them uncomfortable because I am a living reminder of all the unhealthiness that went down behind closed doors, a shameful memory they are determined to deny, keep secret. Perhaps that is why I am forever bound to be the black sheep. They will always try to invalidate, exclude, and devalue me, albeit to a lesser extent than in the past. Yet that dynamic still remains. I just don't understand WHY they need to do this as they are young adults now, intelligent, happy, well-adjusted individuals--they are not like our parents at all. They truly are balanced, thriving, light-hearted people that love to joke around and have fun. They don't have my parents foibles, tempers, or personality disorders--truly they are normal individuals--which makes it all the more difficult and baffling for me to forgive them. By forgive I mean understand. For I don't know what forgiveness is other than understanding and therefore accepting, making peace. Yet I don't understand how my siblings can continue to deny what happened to me, and continue to justify it at the same time. They were there. They saw. They even joined in to some extent. They ridiculed. That awful time has passed but they continue to deny it, and still try to invalidate me in other ways. Generally, it seems they always want to think poorly of me, and make sure other people think the same of me. The exclusion continues, not with the same intensity, but it is an undercurrent that remains and I wonder why they feel they still need to do this. As long as I am alive do they feel threatened by what I represent? Theorizing here...Note from Darlene:
I regret that I can no longer continue the practice of commenting on visitor submissions to the degree I have in the past, as I am currently writing a book on healing from child abuse. I ask that you please read my post of June 24, 2009 titled Announcement Regarding my Comments
for a complete explanation. I welcome you to follow my progress on my Facebook page at Healing from Child Abuse
. When you get there, don't forget to click onto the Become a Fan link. I do hope to hear from you there.Email addresses, phone numbers, home addresses AND website/blog URLs in visitor comments are STRICTLY prohibited, and could result in being banned from making further comments on this site.
When a Parent Targets One For Child Abuse Part 2
(New York, USA)
I have forgiven my abuser, my mother. Yet I FEEL abused by my whole family even though they didn't directly harm me. They didn't abuse me. But this analogy best describes how I feel: Imagine you are violently raped repeatedly over a number of years. One person rapes you but there is a crowd standing around watching, cheering, gloating, calling you filthy names all the while. They do nothing to help you. In fact, they act as if they hate you, as if you are a dog, they tell you you're a dog, they get others to treat you the same. They look down on you, kick dirt on you as you lay wounded on the ground. You are labeled an outcast, shunned, and they entreat everyone around them to exclude you as well.
Meanwhile, the rapes continue and no one stands up for you. Instead they stand around and say you deserve it "you b****!" "you s***!"
That is what it felt like growing up.
Now as a young adult you have to look these same people in the eye. They have to look you in the eye. And I find that although the abusive stage has passed, they are still trying to put me in that box labeled as "bad" "unworthy" "freak". They still try to invalidate me, not just regarding the past, but just in general. They still need to think that way of me, and to invalidate me with outsiders and among themselves. If they were flawed individuals like my parents I could understand this, but they are anything but.
Another pattern I've noticed and wonder if is universal: when a person intentionally hurts another person, key word being intentional, does this mean that any attempt to ask them to stop, any mention or hint that they actually might have done something questionable--does that make them re-double their effort and hit you harder? Come against you with even more ferocity than before?? It doesn't have to be hitting of course...I think the type of people capable of hurting someone willfully, on purpose, NEVER react well when you ask them to stop. If you even speak of what they did--it is not allowed. It's as if they can't accept what they've done so they silence the notion by silencing you. The little things they can apologize for, but some things are too immoral to acknowledge to themselves so instead of wasting reflection on what they've done or feeling bad about themselves, they hate, they lash out all the more on the one they victimized.
I suspect people that commit actions of this level of maliciousness are INCAPABLE of regret and instead dislike any reminder of what they did. They can never take responsibility for their actions because they are so weak it is IMPOSSIBLE to consider they did something immoral or monstrous. Therefore they MUST silence, annihilate anything that reminds them of what they've done. Sometimes, just the sight of the person they did it to is enough. I think that's why it's such a common pattern for an abuser to escalate their aggression against a victim. Or when a schoolyard bully hits a vulnerable kid then goes back to do it again, and again, escalating it, getting others to join in over a period of time. Haven't you noticed there is a compounding effect? You see it in the school with the bully and the victim--it seems more and more people join in against the victim, it becomes acceptable to bully a certain kid. No one helps him. The same dynamic emerges in abusive families. One parent abuses a child and soon enough the compounding effect takes hold...the other siblings join in, the other parent allows it, it becomes acceptable to gang up and alienate the victim, compounding the abuse perpetually. It's not just abuser and victim. Other people allow it to go on. That is what fascinates and baffles me...how these people stand by and do not intervene. Not only that but oftentimes they make it acceptable to further abuse this person. It becomes pack-like mentality. This is very, very common and other people look the other way and dismiss it, they downplay whats going on, because they are all complicit and it is NOT a passive thing by any means.
Note from Darlene: I regret that I can no longer continue the practice of commenting on visitor submissions to the degree I have in the past, as I am currently writing a book on healing from child abuse. I ask that you please read my post of June 24, 2009 titled Announcement Regarding my Comments for a complete explanation. I welcome you to follow my progress on my Facebook page at Healing from Child Abuse. When you get there, don't forget to click onto the Become a Fan link. I do hope to hear from you there.
Email addresses, phone numbers, home addresses AND website/blog URLs in visitor comments are STRICTLY prohibited, and could result in being banned from making further comments on this site.