“It would be easier to tell people my parents are dead. Orphans get sympathy; I get judgment. When I tell people that I don’t have any contact with my mother or father, it’s usually the same response: Oh, well, OH! Some of them move on to safer topics but a few of them inquire in hushed tones, “Why not? What happened?”
These are the opening words to an incredible article on Overcoming Sexual Abuse’s Blog at http://overcomingsexualabuse.com/2010/12/12/my-parents-are-dead-to-me/
As I read the article I felt someone was writing my story. It’s an amazing feeling when you read something someone else wrote and everything in it resonates with you. It’s as if someone got inside your head somehow. It’s also extremely comforting to know there are people ‘out there’ who’ve experienced similar things to you. That helps ease the sense of isolation which comes with surviving incestual abuse.
The awkward questions that tend to crop up about family are why I avoid church and most social situations. In tackling those questions down the years I’ve said things like “I have no family, I have no contact with my parents, I’m alone in this world, I have no family or relatives”.
99.999999% of responses to me have been a look of pity and a “what happened? What did YOU do? Do YOU not want any contact with them? Surely you have someone, no one has nobody? Have YOU done all YOU can do to seek reconciliation?”
I heard assumptions that I must be bitter, angry and unforgiving to have and want nothing to do with them. As I heard all that I’d sigh inside and find myself defending my position and actions as if I’d done something wrong.
I’d say something along the lines of “oh I was abused by my entire family and then disowned when I was of no further use to them”.
Again 99.999999% of responses to me have invariably been “have you forgiven them? It is not good that someone should be alone, you should forgive and seek reconciliation”.
Many times over the years I’ve tried to explain further but ended up in so many arguments.
Nobody seemed to get what I was saying. No one seemed to get that crimes were committed against me. WHY? One reason and one reason alone - I’m talking about family.
It’s as if “the family” is a “sacred cow” which must be maintained and defended at any cost regardless of the facts.
There is so much lack of understanding and awareness of the dynamics and devastation the incest and child abuse do to people, especially in Christian circles. All I’ve met with is naivety and simplistic solutions which help no one and caused me so much confusion, frustration and isolation.
You should do everything to be reconciled to your parents because they are your parents is such a false belief system which places guilt and blame upon the shoulders of the survivor. “It doesn’t matter what they did, after all they are your parents” is the mantra.
My own parents beat me and as they beat me they said over and over “you will honour your parents because the bible tells you to.” Then Christians beat me over the head with the commandment “honour your parents” and added a “regardless of what they did to you honour them because they are your parents, forgive and forget, you only ever have one lot of parents.”
Hey, let’s turn that on its head. I would never have had any of those responses had my abusers been from outside the family. Why is it that when it is family suddenly it’s a different set of rules? Come on folks they’re still child abusers, child torturers, child rapists, child murderers – regardless of who they are, regardless of their being related to me. They are criminals who destroyed my life by their crimes. There is no other way to describe them.
BUT I’ve yet to hear any of these people say my parents were wrong to abuse me - wrong to disown me - wrong to deny they have a daughter - wrong to deny my very existence – because I am their daughter no matter what I did or what I was like. OH NO, it’s all about ME and MY response to what they did to ME and it’s MY fault I have no relationship with my parents because I won’t work towards reconciliation with them.
Come on, let’s get real. Let’s recall the facts. My parents, my entire family, abused me, beat me to a pulp, left me for dead and disowned me. Those are the facts. That is the truth of the situation.
No-one has ever challenged them about their behaviour. No one seems to have the guts. Everyone seems afraid to say anything out of fear of being sued for defamation of character.
So my parents are still free to walk in and out of church every Sunday without challenge. This maintains their facade created over many years of being “respectable Christian people” when the truth is far different. Even when challenged by the legal consequences of their behaviour they continued to lie and deny anything was ever wrong and as a result remain at large in the community when they should be rotting in jail with the key thrown away.
“Honour your parents” was not written with child abuse in mind. It was written in the context of having loving parents who loved, accepted, guided and supported their child. That commandment was not written for children who were abused. The commandment was not written to tell victims of terrible abuse to honour people who only did and said dishonourable things and to whom no honour is due, only shame.
Let’s get real.
How can you reconcile with people who have never admitted and never will admit anything was ever wrong with the family “system”? How can you reconcile with people to whom abuse and lies are “normal” behaviour? Let’s be honest – do you want anything to do with people like that? I guess NO is the answer.
So why should I just because they’re my parents, my family. It’s sheer craziness.
The mantra about “family being family no matter what” is really total garbage.
I refuse to be reconciled to people who tortured me to within an inch of my life many times. I refuse to be reconciled to people treated me like a piece of meat. I refuse to be reconciled to people who gave me the esteem of a turd or a speck of dirt. I refuse to be reconciled to people who abused me, left me for dead and disowned me when I was of no further use to them. I refuse to be reconciled to people who blame me for everything that happened. I refuse to be reconciled to people who live in a state of defiance, lies and denial of the truth. I refuse to be reconciled to people who do not even recognise or accept me to be their daughter. I refuse to be reconciled to people who committed terrible crimes against my body, mind, spirit, emotions, sexuality, identity, against ME. I refuse to be reconciled to people who would still behave that way towards me if I let them.
In fact I refuse to have anything to do with them.
I refuse to have anything to do with anyone who has not got the guts to face up to the facts and consequences of their actions. I don’t care who they are. Let’s be honest, I would not be writing this if my abusers were not my family, my parents.
Seriously, would you, in all honesty, want anything to do with them? So why should I?
“The family” is not a sacred cow that should be maintained at any cost. When “the family” has been a toxic, destructive, abusive, manipulative, controlling environment there is no reason, however compelling to sustain that system.
My family, my parents passed on only negative stuff, destruction and misery to me.
There is nothing to honour in that.
In fact I honoured them when I stopped being the “dutiful daughter”, spoke out the truth and had them confronted with the consequences of their actions. They had a choice to do the right thing – confess and face the consequences. But instead they chose to defy, deny and lie and are now free to go on with their lives as if nothing happened. That was their choice to make. The choice they made was totally dishonourable.
There is no honour in their actions. There is nothing to honour there. I heard their response loud and clear and I realised that I am an orphan. I do not have loving parents or loving family, and I never will do. Nor will my parents ever admit anything was wrong.
The truth is I am an orphan - not through the physical death of my parents –but because of abuse. I am an orphan of abuse. I am an orphan because of incest. I am an orphan because my family rejected and disowned me.
The truth is I did nothing to deserve that.
The only thing I can do is do all I can to heal from the trauma, damage and dysfunction in my life and stop it from destroying the rest of my life.