16th July 2020 at 9:07 am #110116
I’ve posted here before about an abusive family member and the fact that they died recently. They were pretty much dead to me before that as I had no contact with them (despite their attempts to contact me). I struggle to talk about this person. On the one hand I don’t want to sound bitter and angry. It was my dad and I feel like family and parents are so ubiquitous that I won’t be in a situation where I can choose never to talk about him or our relationship again. Nothing seems to cut it though in terms of how I describe him. I think some of this is my own inability to be angry (there was a lot of playing the victim on his part because he was mentally and physically ill, which I know is not an excuse, it’s just hard when I lived for so long with the knowledge that any attempt to stand up for myself was just going to be met with how bad his life was and how I had to just ignore how badly he treated me). I’m still coming to terms with being able to talk about the fact that he was frankly a s**t father. There were some good things he did and that sometimes rears its ugly head and makes me think that maybe he wasn’t so bad. Then I remember everything he did wrong and the way he tried to manipulate me, his lack of compassion and empathy, his demands for help at any time, the emotional blackmail, and I realise just how much he failed me as a parent. It does make me angry and I struggle with my own anger. I’ve also tried really hard not to be like him as he had an incredibly nasty and vindictive streak in him. The way he used to talk about people was awful and so I’ve always tried not to be like that. I think in some ways I’m equating my own justified anger with the way he used to be with people. I haven’t yet been able to separate anger and holding people accountable for their s****y actions with blaming and aggression.
I guess what I’m wondering is how do we talk about family abusers in a way that honours our experience in a culture and society that seems to believe that family can do no wrong?
16th July 2020 at 10:40 am #110122EggshellsParticipant
Hi star queen, I’m sorry for your loss. Odd to say that when your abuser has passed but I’m guessing that you may be feeling a lot if mixed emotions at the moment.
I guess the answer is just not to engage in coversations about him. It’s really hard but just stay silent. Just listen and don’t comment. If you’re asked a question just give a closed answer, “yes, no, I don’t know”. I’ve found it’s s great tactic for moving the conversation on. Or you could just say that you find it too hard to discuss. They’ll interpret that how they choose. xx
16th July 2020 at 11:13 am #110126Eve1Participant
I had to respond to this even though I’m not sure I can be a great help. I identify so much. My dad was an abusive man. Growing up he was often angry with a big booming scary threatening voice, very frightening to grow up around and though my Mum stood up to him, sometimes causing more scariness for me, she was no match and usually resorted to the ‘soft pedal ‘ approach. It did mean, I think, that I became close to Mum and I’m grateful for having one parent I could love. But she was trauma bonded, rationalised his behaviour. My brother was older, out of the house as much as he could be, was more confident than me and doesn’t, or chooses not to remember him like that. My dad also had health problems from mid life on and this gave him victim status too. He also had this nasty streak at his core, always ready to soak too people aggressively, to be the dominant one. I hated him.
Of course he had his good side, abusers aren’t bad /7. But for me this counts for nothing.
The only person I’ve truly been able to talk to about him was a counsellor. My mum was in denial, my brother (he has some of Dad’s beliefs I suspect, particularly about the low status of women) won’t hear my version. If you haven’t already I can recommend speaking to a counsellor. Someone to properly listen to you, validate you and not judge. Because, like you I’ve found it hard to find anyone, especially in the family, who could hear my version. So I stopped telling it really. I know it. What happened behind those closed doors was the truth. It made me timid, afraid to stand up for myself, even now and made me a good fit for an abuser when he came knocking.
I find that I just don’t talk about him. It doesn’t help that my Mum, who was a lovely grandma, kind of moulded, shaped and sold him as a decent grandad, so my kids and nephews don’t think badly of him. I even bought into this a bit myself, wanting the kids to have decent grandparents.
It took me a long time to admit to myself that he was a bad father. I didn’t really understand that he was until I left my abusive husband and looked at all male relationships of mine.
But you’re right, society does have this rosy view of families. I’ve found that I end up not seeing much of people who really can hear no bad of my dad. But in general people don’t want to talk badly about parents, which is wrong, because bad ones do so much damage. Maybe while you still feel so angry about it, this will be difficult for you. I’m still struggling with it myself in some ways, but a counsellor definitely helped.
I hope others can give some help too. I’m sure you can definitely speak about it on here. It is a kind of taboo in the world at large. Maybe because is so shocking and damaging.
16th July 2020 at 12:45 pm #110134cirrocumulusParticipant
Yes, I have an abusive father also, and share your view that society only sees family members a kind, loving and supportive individuals. Covid and lockdown have only acted to reinforce these views given the focus in the media portraying how everyone is expected to be struggling without having their family members around. It’s like there is something wrong with you if you don’t say how much you miss being able to hug a family member.
My mind has blanked out much of what happened in my childhood with my father so it must have been quite traumatic – I have little recollection of events or the time leading up to my parents divorce. My mum won’t talk much about it, but he did try to get social services to take us away, portraying my mother as unfit to look after us. She won her court case against him. I don’t think he’s ever forgiven her for that and seems to have vowed to take his revenge by being unpleasant to me.
He sends me letters every now and then reminding me just how awful I am. I’ve tried counselling, many times in fact, but it’s hard to describe how you feel about things when you can’t remember them. Consequently I’ve not really been believed. That’s a hard b**w to take. My body has kept the score though, and it reacts when I find myself in certain situations.
I’ve always wondered what it must feel like to have the support of a loving family. I find dealing with life without that unconditional support can, at times, be really difficult.
16th July 2020 at 5:17 pm #110157
Thank you everyone, I really appreciate your comments and I’m sorry that some of you went through the same thing, sending you lots of solidarity and good thoughts. I already see a counsellor so this is something I think I need to explore a little more. I think also to be honest his death wasn’t a loss to me, which makes it even harder to talk about. The biggest loss I felt is the loss of the father I deserved. I think one reason I struggle with this is because he would dump his problems on me and then try to force me to keep them secret and silence me. So I feel like having my own voice and my own story is really important and yet it’s so hard to tell it in a way that keeps my integrity because I don’t want to be or come across as a hateful person, but nor do I want to betray myself by keeping silent about what a b*****d he could be. It’s definitely something that needs working out through counselling I think!
22nd July 2020 at 10:16 am #110725Anonymous
I think it’s such a mixed bag of many things with family. I had a horrible father, stepmother and biological mother I met later, all extremely abusive, especially my father. And no, could’t talk about it to anyone. Not to the family members, not to friends, no one. I think one reason for it is to protect the group or as I affectionately call it – the gang. It’s a survival tactic and quite primal in that there is power in a group, whereas one alone is not going to have such a good time of it. You see this in the animal kingdom as well.
I’ve seen this alot. And there will be the patriarch or the matriarch sometimes who rules the roost and everyone is afraid of them, bows down to them, takes orders from them so to speak. It does’t mean the power that comes from this group is good power or healthy but it is power. It seems the need to be that collective ball of yuch sometimes, too, is all about fear. Because, as in a gang, it’s all about fear and control. Ever notice, too, that a gang doesn’t have a conscience. Each and every person in a group can have one but the group as a whole doesn’t. So when “the family” or the gang or the group does something it’s like they have this entitled thing going on that says Well we can do this and we can do that because we are a “we”. kinda of interesting…..yes? Everyone backs everyone else up on whatever so once again there is power, fear and control going on. Have one stand alone and it’s a whole different ballgame.
And at the end of the day, at the end of it all it’s about hiding secrets, it’s about being afraid to be alone and their own person. The brutal yardstick that comes down on our heads if we even think about climbing out of the crab pot and to freedom and authenticity is brutal! Oh Nooooooo you don’t missie! Where do you think YOU are going??? You’re going to put on the family colors and you’re going to shake your little pom poms and you’re going to tow the family line and keep your mouth shut!
Eh, not so much………… I didn’t. It’s like being in a 24/7 girdle. Can’t do this, can’t do that. I have this one little saying that I really really like because I got soooo tired of people saying to me every time I’d dare to speak about my abuse was – Well, you know they did the best they could and you have to honor your parents………and I’d say – hm.m.m…..for one thing them putting clothes on my back, food in my mouth and a roof over my head is something they should just do as a human being even though most of the time it’s so society wouldn’t look down on them but anywho – and for another thing, me giving “honor” to anyone means they have to earn it. So no, I totally disagree with you, I don’t have to honor anyone if they don’t deserve it, including my parents. If they were horrible people then they totally earn me dishonoring them and I don’t feel guilty about it one bit but they should. I’m sure you can imagine the reaction I got from that one! Being an honorable or good parent isn’t just about being a sperm donor or being able to lay an egg either.
10th August 2020 at 5:57 pm #111828MashedpotatoParticipant
My daughter is an alcoholic. She is verbally abusive, foul language and been evicted from rented places because of her behaviour. So she came to live with me. She gave no money so was financially dependent on me. She trashed the room I gave her. I fed her, did her washing, ironing and all the other things a mother would do. She wet the bed, pooped on it and there was mouldy food all over the carpet. As the months went on she became more abusive so one day I called an ambulance to try and get her help. She refused to go as she said there was nothing wrong with her. So they left her with me. She was always faking suicide and blamed me for everything she had done wrong in her life. If I answered her back she said I was provoking her. Then the violence started. Punches to the head etc. On the fourth attack I called the police and she was charged. (detail removed by Moderator) my son isnt. speaking to me as I ‘handled it wrong’ although he won’t have her living with him. Apparently I’ve shown no empathy and I have ruined her life. I live on my own and I am a widow and an OAP. I’m broken. I pray to god each day to take me as because of her I have lost everything.
14th August 2020 at 9:39 pm #112124
Oh, mashedpotato I’m so sorry you’re going through this, it sounds awful. Have you tried the helpline or your local Women’s Aid, they may be able to help you. There is no right or wrong way to handle anything like this and it’s not okay that you’re being treated like this by your family.
I get the accusation of having no empathy, my dad accused me of treating *him* badly! If you had no empathy you wouldn’t have done all the kind things you’ve obviously done to try to help your daughter. Sending you lots of love and solidarity.
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