Unfriending My Abuser

Nov 21st, 2010 | By | Category: All Posts, Discovering I'm Empowered

by Patty Hite

I remember quite a few years ago, I was watching Oprah while she was telling her story about her childhood sexual abuse. She had come back from visiting her family and stated how she sat at the same table with her abuser, talking to him over their meal. Her guest asked her why she had done that. Why did she converse with her abuser as though nothing had happened? Oprah was stunned when the guest asked her that and I realized at that moment that I was too.

I waited for her answer but she couldn’t give him one. He told her that she had the right to refuse to sit with her abuser and that the reason she didn’t was because she didn’t value herself. I was stunned. It never dawned on me or obviously to Oprah either, that we had a right to stay away from our abusers. We could put our foot down and make a statement that we refuse to be a part of their lives.

With this epiphany, I couldn’t help but reflect on my life and the many times I continued hugging, having conversations with and sharing a meal with some of my abusers, as well as the abuser who molested my sister. It seemed like a natural thing to do. There was never any doubt that I shouldn’t treat them any differently than I always had. I wasn’t even angry with them. My uncle, who molested me many times, would hold me on his lap while conversing with the other adults, and I sat there laughing at his jokes.

Even after I remembered my sister’s abuse by my dad, and my dad blaming her for it, I continued to have a relationship with him. I wanted him to love me, to hug me. I wanted him to accept me and would even go as far to stand toe to toe with anyone who would dare have a harsh word about him. I continued to respect him as my dad and as a man. I knew what he did, I saw what he did, yet, I continued the same relationship with him.

Many years later, after seeing the effects the abuse had on my sister, I started to question my relationship with my dad. I saw pain and hurt in my sister. She never sought healing and spent her life being promiscuous, fearful, erratic, and as an alcoholic. She started to announce her anger at our mother because our mother had allowed her to be sent away while my dad remained in the home. Even though she had every right to be angry at my mom, I asked her why she wasn’t angry at my dad, since he was the one who abused her. She did everything to get close to my dad. When they were in the same room, you could feel this “thing” between them and there were rumors that they were still having sex. It became very confusing to me.

I didn’t understand the emotional ties that bind a daughter and her father, even after the father becomes the predator. But I did understand the effects that sexual abuse and false beliefs have. I understood my sisters “acting out” behaviors and I understood the fears and the pain that she tried to hide behind the alcohol and sleepless nights. But I didn’t understand her loyalty to him and why she wanted to be near him.

It wasn’t until I saw Oprah that day that I found myself doing the same thing that my sister had done. I wanted my dad’s love and affection. Not only I, but all my siblings. We would tap dance for him if he asked us to. It was then that I started to get angry. I felt like such a fool. I knew my thoughts of disgust for him were becoming real. I wondered how he could live with himself and sleep at night. I wondered if he had sexual thoughts about me like he did my sister. I questioned the times he gave me a hug and wondered if he was fantasizing about raping me. There was no end to the daytime nightmares that infiltrated my thoughts. I could not stop thinking about how my dad had betrayed me by being a molester.

I knew that the only way I could ease my pain was to speak about his molestations. I talked to my siblings about him and all but one wanted me to keep quiet. They honored him and respected him and did everything to remind me of what a wonderful dad we all had. No matter how much I talked about it with them, they would not take up the offense of my sister. All they saw was the after-effects of her sexual abuse. To them she was to blame and she deserved to be abused because she asked for it. I realized now that the more I tried to change their opinion of my dad, the more it caused them to focus on the infidelities of my sister. She died a few years ago and hearing my siblings bad mouth her was more traumatic to me than my justifications of having them fight for her cause. I may have lost the battle, but I didn’t lose the war.

It doesn’t matter who believes me, and it doesn’t matter if others still support the abusers. I can’t change their opinions nor can I make them fight my cause. All I can do is tell them the truth and hopefully they will guard their children and grandchildren from him. What does matter is that I know the truth and I do not have to sit at the same table nor talk to the abuser. I don’t have to tap dance or honor or be loyal any longer. I am free to talk about it and I am allowed to get angry over it. Thank you Oprah for that show so long ago.

Related Posts:
What If My Family Rejects Me? Part 1
What If My Family Rejects Me? Part 2
What If My Family Rejects Me? Part 3
My Parents Are Dead (To Me)

As a survivor of emotional, physical and sexual abuse, Patty Hite has been tenaciously pursuing her healing for over thirty years. She’s a passionate advocate for all survivors and dedicates her life to inspiring emotional wholeness in others. As a former victim of spousal abuse, she’s delighted to find true love with her husband of ­­­­five years. She’s blessed with four children and six grandchildren.

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  1. I think most people fail to get this, and that you write it out…is exceptional.

    Good job!

  2. thank you for putting this into words. I appreciate your willingness to address our collective blindness to what is really good for us.

  3. Patty,
    I can totally relate to this. All those years, it never occurred to me that I didn’t have to have a relationship with my abuser. It’s not that I chose to– I never even considered that it was an option. My split with my family was dramatic after it was obvious that my dad was still an abuser, but I’m not sure how long it would have taken me otherwise. One thing’s for sure. It was the best thing for me. I feel like I finally took a stand for myself when nobody else did. It was one of the most powerful things I did in my healing process. Thank you so much for sharing your experience. I hope it brings freedom to many others! Love and hugs, Christina

  4. Ligeia, thank you.

    Sometimes it takes us a while to get something, but eventually we do. It’s cleaning out the old cobwebs that were put into our minds as children. I know that with me, even tho I say I am an adult, those cobwebs still need to be cleaned out every once in a while.


  5. Patty,
    Thank you for writing this. I struggled with this for a long time, even went so far as to ‘reconcile’ with one abuser. He indeed had come to some kind of understanding about what he did and how it was wrong. Another abuser—an uncle of ours almost begged me to go to his death bed, but I refused. There was nothing I wanted to hear from him. They both died of AIDS and I can’t say I feel very sorry for them. Dismissive, maybe. Thinking back, I didn’t have much contact with them, by choice. And it was not terribly difficult to arrange.
    Funny how these things work so differently in some ways, and yet so much the same in others!

  6. Kimberly,

    I’m so glad it spoke to you. There is no doubt it is a constant cleaning of the false beliefs we were taught as children. I know that if I would have read something like this many years ago, I would have thought it was crazy talk. How can we walk away from our family? Do I really have the right to say NO? I’m so glad I saw the light and walk in the freedom to make my own choices.


  7. Christina,

    I think this could be a shocker to many people. That we actually have the right to say NO to our family. That we don’t have to suffer threw a meal or put up with our abuser giving us a hug….. Brrrrrrrr. I agree, it is so freeing and I hope it instills courage and freedom in others.

    Love ya

  8. Gordon,

    It was so confusing for me. Before I felt free enough to walk away, I tossed and compromised with my abusers. Not openly, because it wasn’t discussed, but I think in order to go along with the flow, I realized that I allowed them to lay back down with me. Without a fight. They never left me because I always welcomed them back, just by sitting with them. And then when I finally told about my uncles abusing me, most family members didn’t believe me because they remember me sitting across from them and laughing at the table. Of course their statements were, ” If they abused you, why were you laughing at their jokes?” Duh. Anyway, I am free now. I am not a co conspirator with them.

    Thanks for sharing

  9. This is exactly what I needed to find at this moment Patty! Thank you, I clicked the link and read it right away, after reading an email btwn my mother and I. This started with me sending a very brief thank you for the gift cards for my childs bday, she looks forward to spending it, and that my youngest child was praying for Gramma and Grampa to repent and admit the truth so she could give them a big hug and see them. She replied with well wishes and hopes to do coffee or lunch with me, correspond with the bday child privately thru email about what was spent, and actually quoted a scripture about forgive or you will not be forgiven!
    My family, needless to say is not Christian in any sense. I have not used direct scripture in any correspondence lately telling everyone we wish no contact at all till the wrong lies where it belongs and the truth is admitted, etc. So, my reply included a scripture for the first time about forgiving IF they repent, and that there was no way I was going to make my young child forgive, no way I was gonna sweep anything under the rug anymore, play pretend, and ignore the immense denial, blame and rationalizations anymore. I said forgiveness fundamentally does not mean relationship, atleast until the blame lies where the wrong really is again, and that I am still too angry, and not ready for coffee, lunch, or contact at this time… that maybe when repentance is done, perhaps meeting could occur in a therapeutic milieu.

    I had just read her final response when I saw this link to your ad. She wrote it after 2am:

    “I,m sorry, you are right . There is no relationship; not between this mother and daughter..
    I will not contact you again,”

    Again, I feel as though that is guilt manipulation… but as said, there is no room for relationship in my mind when she is still with the offender, is stuck in denial, and since it was all stayed in court, the family can go on thinking we made it all up. GRRRRRRR!

    There is no way I am willing to attempt to see any of them, particulary before Christmas, we are healthier and happier without them.
    Thank you for your encouraging post today. Sigh

  10. Lisa, I am so proud of you. What a tremendous step in declarations. It is this justifiable anger, brought out in a healthy way, that lights my fire. It is what we need in order to take our stand and have the freedom we deserve. Freedom from the garbage and denial that others live in. Hooray for you.

    I came alive when I realized I could walk away. And the freedom to start my own traditions with my children and give them truth, real love and safety away from my abusers.

    Thanks for sharing Lisa. I feel like doing a happy dance. Yeah

  11. Lisa,
    Good for you for standing up for yourself and your child and for sticking to it even after the attempt at manipulation! My mom did the same thing. She tried a series of letters and they were cycles of guilt and manipulation. There was one where she claimed her job was in danger because of what we were saying, there was one that tried to shame me into ‘honoring’ her, there was one that claimed that I should forgive her since she ‘kept no record of wrongs’ toward me and then the last one was a mention of helping her with the revisions of her will. I just laughed about it all. It was so freeing not to be pulled by that anymore!
    Hugs, Christina

  12. Aw. Patty and Christina thanks for your encouragement. Patty, for lifting me up as an honorable thing I have done, especially as the self doubt was still trying to creep into my mind! I had tried to take stands with the family before this recent criminal development, but still accomodated my mothers guilt trips to show up at Christmas and family gatherings, with the limit of boundaries around time, asking them to leave their substance uses till after the kids and I left. Then, the one year I was vulnerable from walking away from my spouse, I joined family Christmas, and we stayed and, well… the rest is history now. We had the best Christmas last year, all alone, me and the 3 kids, sick with the flu, crackers, gingerale, and movies. Amazing how peaceful and joyful it can be without the facade of family to make face cuz it’s right! Not anymore…. this criminal issue just made it more tangible, it was no longer about me and my values alone!

    Christina, thanks for the forewarning…. I suspect that letters/notes may come in due time as well, so your now I will be more prepared to consider that they are likely guilt manipulation. I truly needed this today…. I recall my mother and I being more like best friends years ago, but now realize how it was all so much of the cover up of lies, deceit, and secret sins. I have thought about the possibilities down the road when family calls to say, someone is dying, or terminally ill, etc. As far as I am concerned, there needs to admissions before any steps toward them are fathomable now. I still have to face my own childhood memories and trauma now and be willing to face those truths. I am so proud of my girl for being so brave to speak up and tell, after only a year of it! She stopped it, and stopped it from possibly happening to my others.

    I have started Courage to Heal well now, and picked up two books last week at a Family Violence Conference. The Gift of Fear which you recommeded, and another titled Invisible Girls?

    Looking forward to therapy tomorrow now, even if it means the public transit system! <3

    Again, thank you ladies for your encouragement and reminder that I am sane, and it is okay for me to say no to contact.

  13. It took me some time to realize that I didn’t have to put up with anyone’s abuse, especially that of a family member. But it sure created some waves of discomfort in my family with father and siblings. (My mother has NPD) You get this thing drilled into you that family comes first … but at what cost?? What cost?!

    I’ve recently realized that ‘keeping the peace’ while allowing oneself to be abused (in whatever way we are abused) is not worth it. ‘Keeping the peace’ only gives the abuser more power while continuing to diminish the whatever shadow of power the victim might have. It’s so not worth it. Since my father and siblings have all told me they don’t want to hear about any of it, nor do they want to talk about it – I have sensed a deep relief. No more tippy-toeing about on egg-shells, no more tension in the room that a knife could slice. No more looks from them that expressed deep disappointment in me when they’d look at me. Who needs that?! Not me.

    Truth really does set us free … and its a wonderful place to be!

  14. Paulette,

    Thank you for sharing. I think we come to a place and time in our lives that we have to weigh the cost. Is it worth it? What price am I willing to pay for this relationship? I’ve often wondered what my abusers thought when they sat across from me. What price were they paying?

    You are right, truth does set us free and I am discovering there are many wonderful places to be….. Now.


  15. Hi Patty,
    Another great blog post! As I read it I kept having flashbacks to how I thought about my mother when I began to come out of the fog that I was in about our relationship. For the most part, especially when I became an adult she was awfully emotionally abusive. She put me down every chance she got; she was critical, cold and she humiliated me in front of others constantly; she really damaged my self esteem and seemed to delight in keeping it damaged, and for some reason I didn’t think about NOT putting up with it for a really long time. When I was asked to do the content edit on a book about the misuse of power and control my mother accused me of having an affair with the therapist who wrote the book. (why else would he ask ME to do such an important job?) That was when I finally realized that my mother was the one who wasn’t worthy; that this abuse was about her not about me. That was when I realized that I could stand up to her and not let her abuse me anymore. As Paulette wrote ~ your blog post speaks to ALL types of abuse!
    Hugs, Darlene

  16. It took me 40 years to even start remembering the abuse that I suffered as a child from my father. Even to this day alot of people don’t believe me because he is a prominent figure in his town. He’s looked upon as the perfect minister/preacher who never does anything wrong. However after I started to remember and my fiance sent him a note telling him that I had chose forgiveness and now it was his choice as to what to do. He called me and offered me money and a new lawyer. I at first didn’t realize what he was talking about til I got off the phone and my fiance and his sister had overheard the conversation and it was then they showed me that he was trying to buy my silence. I have NEVER been silent and I NEVER will be.

  17. Darlene,

    I love when we can read something or do something and it “it” hits us. That is me too. I’m going thru life and then Whammo, something causes me to think and reflect and before I know it. I am doing something about it. I hate the fact that we have to walk away at times, but in order to protect ourselves, even as adults, that step is necessary. One of the things my brother brought up to me was, this stuff happened when you were a kid, why can’t you be an adult and let it go? What they don’t understand is that it doesn’t stop, just because we are adults. Even if we stop the physical abuse because we are stronger, it’s the emotional abuse that continues on.

    Anyway, thanks for your encouragement. And always ((hugs)))

  18. Laurie,

    I am so glad that you refuse to be silent. It never ceases to amaze me of the things that abusers do to try and keep us silent. Paying money for silence. It just goes to show you how they know they were wrong. It seems the more they try to do keep us silent, the more they are shouting their sin from the rooftops.

    Hooray for you for standing your ground. Survivors are a lot stronger than we sometimes realize.

    ((hugs)) Patty

  19. Like so many of the other commentators, I can so relate to this article. I try to avoid my abuser (my uncle) but in an effort to pacify my family-orientated mother, I often give in and see him. I did tell my mother some of what happened, but she didn’t believe me. Alas.

    I regret so deeply that there are so many people who are in similar positions, but in a perverse sort of way, I am glad I am not alone in being in this odd and unsettling position. I just wish that none of us ever had been.

    Thank you, Patty, for sharing your experiences, and to other commentators too. Wishing you all well.

  20. Oh wow…this is so well written and really does beg the question of why we let the obligations of family or even society persuade us to spend time with or accept the presence of our abusers. When I learned to say , “no” and the world didn’t end I understood that they had NO RIGHT to spend time with me when they had abused me. I could choose to say no, and that even though it was scary it was also something that gave me power. The power to say, “not with you, not with them, not now, maybe not ever:” was amazing, terrifying and shocking to use. Great post, thank you for sharing…!

  21. Pandora,

    Thank you! I’m so glad our blogs are speaking to you and let you know that you are not alone. We all have so much in common, it’s like being a part of a family who understands and supports us. I know how hard it is to feel as tho you have to see your abuser, but I want you to know it’s ok. We are all walking down different paths and we need to feel free to be us. To do what we need to do and and when we want to do it.


  22. Shanyn,

    I am so glad that you have taken the steps to declare your rights and to do what you feel is right for you. I understand how scary it is, yet also gives us such power. Once the shock is over, it gets so much better.
    Thank you for your encouragement and I’m glad this blog spoke to you.


  23. I remember that particular Oprah show well and the person who interviewed her and her response to his question; another Huge light bulb moment for me and obviously for others as well. That episode made me look closely at what was going on when I was being forced (often by invisible ties) to be around abusive people and spurred me to finally make that difficult break from the great majority of my birth family. When I walked into any situation where there were abusive people all gathered together again, I always felt exactly like I did as a child, (completely alone), as the people who mattered the most to me as both a child and an adult were always on their side; always seemed to be in sync, colluding with the abusers and I was on the outer as I had always been.

    The difference being of course, that now I could act on it and change it, reverse it as an adult. I remember thinking at that time that as I said No to the family system/dynamics that I had lived under; that I cannot do this anymore, this way; that it was a momentous, a huge decision and it was a real turning point and was the exact moment when I began to really grow.

  24. Kathryn,

    I seem to go thru my life with “lightbulb moments.” All of a sudden, something hits me and question why I am doing that and putting up with it. I don’t know what changes my thinking, but all of a sudden, I am ready to do something about it.

    Those ah ah moments, like Oprah that day, were life changing to me. I always felt like that episode gave me permission to move on. It was kind of like I had a partner standing beside me. 🙂

  25. Patti, Does this unfriending only apply to sexual abusers? Somehow, I get the impression from people in general that you are allowed to remove yourself from your childhood sexual abuser, but what if the abuser is your husband who has continually raped or demeaned you? Or what if you have separated from an abusive ex who psychologically oppressed you and any engagement just hooks you into more mental damage? People are always expecting me to be friends with my ex, parroting his line that we should put any animosity behind us, to the point of inviting us out to dinner so we can remain friends. Is it not true that I was never his friend and that I cannot afford be to his friend because of what it will cost me and the kids? It’s not a case of the kids “picking up on our animosity” (as my ex would put it) but a case of our kids learning that they can put boundaries and protect themselves from abuse.

  26. Kris,

    We can and should separate ourselves from any and all abuse. Family and friends seem to think they know what’s best for us, but it boils down to us, needing to make those decisions. Abuse is control and because of our lack of control, it is easy for us to remain in the pattern of allowing others to continue to control.

    I have walked away from family and friends, because they continued to treat me like a little girl and wouldn’t support me in my growth. Growth meaning = ME. They didn’t want me to change, because they wanted to continue to control me.

    There is a lot I can say about ex’s. My ex was an abusive man, but such a good manipulator. He could talk me and my family into believing he was the best thing for me. Abuse of any kind, even manipulation, is wrong. We deserve so much better. You deserve so much better. I walked away from him and never looked back, because I

    had to value me. I had to see my worth and as long as I am being abused, I have no worth.

    There is no friendship with any one, family, friends, ex’s….. who abuse. And when someone doesn’t allow or want us to change, that is the first clue to knowing that their heart is not for you. Their heart is for themselves, because if someone truly love you, why would they keep you from being all that you could be.

    Hang in there, and know that you are worth finding yourself and you are worth an abuse free life. Learning to value ourselves is the greatest thing we can do for ourselves. Even if it means walking away from others.

  27. Thanks, Patti. Did you have kids with your ex? Did the courts expect you to be friends with him and penalise you for not being on friendly terms? And how did you manage all the social contacts where people expected you to be together, like if they invite you to their house and invite him as well? Or if you attend the same church and he is always conveniently near you and starts up a conversation and you don’t want to make a scene because people are watching to see if it is true what he says, that you have become unforgiving and unloving.

  28. Kris,

    Yes I had children with my ex. He kidnapped my son and it took me a year to get him back. The courts were not in support concerning abuse, so I did everything I could to separate myself from him. I refuse to be near anyone who abuses me. Even at family functions, church or anywhere. I have been abused enough and won’t allow others to convince me otherwise. I may sound harsh and matter of fact, but, I have to protect myself as well as my children. To engage in conversations with my abuser means I give him back his power. I need to keep my power and control.
    We can forgive without having to remain friends. We must love ourselves enough to know who is not good for us. He did not love you, why or how could anyone question your motives to stay away from him. Forgive is for us, not for them. Forgiveness takes away the bitterness in us but it does not mean that we are to continue to be abused. Him forcing himself on you and manipulating others into believing it is your fault because you are unforgiving or unloving, is an example of continued abuse.

    I am going to believe that the more you learn to love yourself and realize that you are valuable, that you will be able to put up your boundaries and separate yourself from his continued abuse. (((hug)))

  29. Patti, thanks – that’s exactly how I see it too. I just get de-railed when people try to get us together. Even those who have witnessed or know about the abuse. They seem to think it is different now and I shouldn’t be so rude/distant/adversarial. A really good friend and supporter said to me that I was lucky he was at least trying his hardest to get me back, unlike those really abusive guys who abandoned their family and went for someone else. Even a pastor was puzzled as to why I would consider getting a protective order when he “seemed to love his family so much, although in a distorted way”. It seems like people are easily manipulated or just as thick in denial as he is. While I braced myself for the tough road of separation, I didn’t bargain for others sabotaging the healing. And I don’t mean just a few, I mean many. And if I wipe them off, I am wiping many close, meaningful and long-term friendships. The only ones who understand are survivors and they don’t know me very well or have little else in common because we have only found each other recently. If I change churches I am leaving a church of which I have been an active member for over 20 years and I don’t know if I can find another one that will suit me and find pastors that are supportive (at least most in my church are empathetic and supportive of the split, even if they don’t see the ways he tries to manipulate people and situations). Oh well, with the internet and online support, it is not as lonely as it could be.

  30. Wow, I can SO relate to this. Not only did I maintain a relationship with my abuser (step father) until just a couple of years ago, I allowed my mother to guilt trip me into letting him walk me down the isle at my wedding. Now that I’ve separated myself from that part of my life, it’s so crazy that it didn’t occur to me to say no.

  31. Cdcole,

    Isn’t it wild how much that false belief is instilled in us? When I finally felt free enough to say “no” and decide to separate from my abusers, I spent a lot of time wondering why it took me so long. I felt that I was still that kid and had to obey and honor. Something that would have saved me a lot of turmoil and stress and it was the last thing I thought about. I guess it boils down to “ME” being the last thing I thought about.

    I’m glad you walked away and will continue to. You are worth it.

  32. This is so wonderful! Thank you for sharing this, and so thoughtfully. The comments are all so helpful and enlightening, too. My “ah-ha” moment came over six years ago, and I’ve had no contact with my abuser/father since. It’s certainly been a process. It took a couple of years and lots of patient counseling to forgive. The one sticking point, until about 6 months ago, though, was the awkwardness of my relationship with my siblings. They at first were horrified by the revelation of the sexual abuse, one of them, my brother, was the very one who forced the confession out of the abuser at a family meeting. Incredibly, at least to me, they all very soon picked right up and continue to this day to gather as a family, play golf, etc. Without me, of course.
    Now, I never “required” any of my siblings to “unfriend” my father/abuser. I admit their lack of backbone, loyalty, whatever it was, hurt me. I just chalk it up to the selfsame bondage that kept me from walking away from him until I was 46 and about to marry the love of my life.
    Finally, this past summer I refused to participate in a birthday video being made for a brother in law. I knew my image would inevitably be edited in with his greetings and for some reason that was the trigger. I wrote a long, kind but firm letter to my siblings, explained that I wished them all well but I would not participate in any activity they also invited him to. Incidentally, there has never been an apology, much less an admission of guilt by this man. He said two things the night it was revealed. 1) it was mutual consent 2) if I ever told his wife (my stepmother) he would kill me.
    The only reply I received was an emailed letter from my 22 year old nephew preaching to me about forgiveness and how I’m like the dog who is tied to the park bench who runs around in fear causing destruction in the family.

    The cost of walking away was high. And even six years later the cost is going up. But, oh my goodness, the payoff has been indescribably good! Yes, yes, yes- it was hard to walk away. But YES YES YES my life is so much BETTER! I am a whole person today. I am FREE for the first time in my life! Thanks to God, my husband, my daughter and a couple of wonderful, understanding friends, I am happy and enjoying every minute of freedom from the bondage formerly known as my family. I have new sisters and brothers and friends who would NEVER ask me to get over it and allow my abuser to take my power away from me again.
    Do I forgive him and my family? Absolutely. I wish them well. Do I have to hang out with them and pretend they didn’t abuse/betray me? Ummm, not so much!

    Thank you for your story. It is a wonderful thing you’ve done to encourage people like me to give ourselves permission to walk away. Even though I have done so, the reinforcement you offer gives me hope and strength so I will second-guess myself less going forward.
    God bless you!

  33. Patty S,

    How wonderful that you were so brave to stand your ground and not be shamed nor bullied into the tradition of “family” above everything. I know how hard it is, it hurts. But the freedom that follows the pain and loss is amazing. The empowerment that we feel when we are in control and not others…….. Good for you!

    I am so glad you have people who are close to you. I found that once I started weeding out, the more I was able to get close to those who mattered most.

    Thank you so much for sharing and i am so glad you are standing up for your rights. ((hug)))

  34. Thank you for sharing…I have just “Come out” and told my truth October 2010. My abuse was from my brother… It started at age 4 and went on until I was 9 years old. I’ve kept the secret for 30 years and have just realized the devastating effects the abuse has had on me. All the years of depression and other side effects that befell me and it NEVER occured to me that it was caused by being molested. I’ve just entered therapy and this is all so new to me…. Your website is awesome and it’s humbling to know about how many others have my story. Right now, I’m in the process of trying to dis-connect myself with my brother. It’s hard, but it’s something I know I must do. I’ve realized that my parents are still in “Dis-belief” and at first I was hurt. But now I realize they are still realing from my unexpected news. Either way, I know that I am NOT the cause of this destruction. It was my brother.

  35. Leah,

    I’m so sorry you were abused. Especially by your brother. I’m glad that you have discovered the truths about the affects the abuse is having on you and also that you must dis-connect with your brother. Knowing that it is not your fault is a powerful statement and one that will give you strength to continue on with your healing. You and your healing and well being is what’s important and I am glad you are seeking help.


  36. I wanted to personally thank you for posting this. This is one of the most life affirming messages I have encountered! We have the right to say no! We do not have to please people who have hurt us.
    Growing up with divorced parents, I had only limited contact with my biological father’s family. Unfortunately for me (and every other young girl in that side of the family) my father’s brother- my alcoholic uncle Denny-was a child molester. It was something nearly everyone knew about. we were even cautioned “stay away from your uncle Denny, Don’t sit on his lap'” It was so incredibly sad to be that I had to watch my older cousin-Melanie sit through family dinners (thanksgiving) with the man who had raped her at 13 years old and had attempted to rape me and who also molested several other young girls in the family. Why was he allowed to continue to molest? Why were we forced to sit down and eat dinner with him and his family and ‘make nice’? The answer: because my fraternal grandmother and aunt covered it up so he wouldn’t be arrested. I feel that their love of him, made sacrifices of the rest of the young girls in the family and caused incalculable pain to so many. When i was 13, I told my mother what had happened to me and after that, I refused to ever go to another family dinner with him again. I was lucky that I had that option. This simple truth, that we don’t have to be ‘friends” with our abuser is so important to talk about! As survivors of abuse, we deal with the consequences that other people’s bad decisions have on us. We have the right to say no to that! We can stand up for ourselves and stop allowing ourselves to be victimized as adults!

  37. Angelive,

    Thank you for such a powerful story. You are so right, that we have the right to say NO. It took me a long time to realize that, but it has been the most empowering decision I ever made. I know that my parents were raised to keep secrets because their parents kept secrets. I discovered that there are many family secrets in my family and a lot of molesters. Why in the world they would sacrifice their children and protect a molester, I don’t know and can’t understand. But someone has to stop the madness.

    I am so glad that you did, and I know that I have now. And hopefully I have taught my children enough to know that there is nothing more precious than your children, even at the cost of Uncle so and so not being a part of the holiday dinners.

    Thank you again Angel, and hope to hear more from you. You have a powerful message and we need to hear it. Patty

  38. Well stated. Harder to practice, and so worth it. We, are worth it. Sometimes our behavior has to speak louder than words could ever express… Bravo!

  39. Thank you Shelley.

    It’s so true that it is hard, but it is so worth it. I am so glad that you too, know that you are valuable. It’s so important to me to do things that will empower me and give me a since of controlling my own life. I have been under the control of so many others for most of my life, and it’s good to know that I have rights too.

    Thanks for you encouragement. Patty

  40. Can you site what episode of Oprah or who the guest was?

    this SO resonates!

    I am using it with issues … my sister was sexually abused, She also went into promiscuity and reckless life. SHE LIVES! but no one knows why she does the things she does OR WHY I DO WHAT I DO WHEN I WAS SLEEPING IN A BED (later room) NEXT TO HER!

  41. Love this…Hope its ok that I copied/pasted into my facebook closed online support group called “Trauma Survivors With Chronic Illness” Feel free to join the group, if you like. Or let others know, if you like. We are rockin and rollin in there giving and recieving tons of love and support! Would love to have you, Patty. Jennifer

  42. “Illness” meaning mental and/or physical diagnosis.

  43. Kimberly,

    I’m sorry, I don’t know what Oprah episode it was, it was a long time ago. But it made such an impact on me. My sister lived a reckless life also. She never faced her sexual abuse from our dad. I am so glad you are trying to help her. Living a reckless life and coping by doing things that are harmful to ourselves, is the dangerous side affects of abuse. I too did many things I regret. They felt good at the time and helped me to cope. Now I am choosing help and healing and I like myself a lot better now.

    I’m sorry you are getting blamed, but by knowing the truth, you are way ahead. Stay true to yourself and keep to the truth. That is your strength and empowerment to continue on in helping yourself and your sister.

    Thanks so much for sharing.

  44. Jennifer,

    You may of course share our stories and blogs from OSA. So happy to support you in your cause to help other survivors.

    Thank you. Patty

  45. I posted this link on our Kids of BPD Treehouse website, and I hope you don’t mind. Your article is saving my life right now – both spiritual and mental. Here’s what I wrote on our website:


    Kids of Borderline Moms Book Club And Tree House

    This may be a bit “off topic,” but I’m seeing that BPD goes hand in hand with incest, sexual and physical abuse, murder of the soul, and much much more. Talk about having to cut ties with families like this: take a look at “Unfriending My Abuser.”

    I think this article is saving my life. It could be the story of my life, as a grown woman over 60 years of age. It’s just what I’m going through now.

    I do have the right to be FREE to talk about what happened, tell the truth, and hope others protect their children the way I was not protected. This comes through in this terrific article by Patty Hite.


    Nov 21st, 2010 | By Patty Hite |

    I thank God for the internet every single day, and for the courage of those who are willing to share their stories. Together we can be strong.


    I refused to “friend” any of my abusive family as I don’t want to be traumatized on Facebook by seeing their images and reading what they are doing every single day, and I don’t want to have to “watch my words” even though there are a few relatives I do stay in contact with. And I told the two well-meaning relatives exactly why I’m not friending any “family.” No response of course, but we stay in touch by email. What a relief.

    I have to remember that even well-meaning aunts and uncles are all part of the same dysfunctional system, and I get the same “You need therapy” from them or they say “You must have done something” when I tell what happened, instead of “the abuser needs jail time.”

    I come from an Irish Catholic family, and whenever I hear them ranting and raving about pedophile priests I point out that as long as families continue protect their abusers, nothing is going to change. No response to that. Even from the “well-meaning” ones. So it’s better to keep separate and not be re-injured and further traumatized.

  46. So many jewels and “light bulb” moments here, but one from Kris really stands out. This has been my problem all along:

    “While I braced myself for the tough road of separation, I didn’t bargain for others sabotaging the healing.”

    Amen. That just about says it all. Thank God for the internet and groups like this. Bless you all and may God bring you peace, and me. I will add one more thing: After I had my son, I stayed away from my abusive father and family, but paid for my son’s plane tickets to go to “family functions” and “family get-togethers” after he turned 14. HUGE MISTAKE that I didn’t find out until many years later… he would come back very upset but wouldn’t talk about any of it, and I left it up to him if he wanted to continue to go, and of course he did, wanting a family of some kind since he was raised as an only child with a single mother (his biological father having abandonded us before he was born). Years later I find out that my family was poisoning him with stories about me and saying I was a “drug abuser with memory loss” and a “whore and a slut” and my father calling him a “bastard child” at the dinner table when we weren’t there… and on and on and on. How did I find out about the “bastard child” statements? When I was getting married and my youngest brother said in front of my son (around ten years old at the time), “Well, I guess you won’t be a bastard anymore!”

    I got away from the sexual abuse from my father by becoming an emancipated minor at age 16, but the verbal, physical, mental, emotional and never ends. Even from my youngest sister, who showed a friendly face and wanted nothing more than to “reconcile,” but turned on me with the same cruel words and actions and my sisters wanted me at our mother’s death bed, and prevented me from seeing her, and she went along with it or caused it – I will never know – and here I waited my whole entire life for that “death bed reconciliation” and to find out why she told everyone I was a “heavy drug user with memory loss” just to protect her marriage. How could she sacrifice one of her own children and allow the rest to be beaten into submission and stand by and witness this time and time again?

    They both would be in jail right now if this happened in the last ten or twenty years. When we were growing up, women and children had no protection at all. And why out of eight children I am the only one to walk away and stay away is beyond me.

    Each to their own, and they live in their own small circle of hell, and I in mine.

    I ask God every day to show me The Way. Show us all the The Way to Peace. I know forgiveness plays a part, but it’s just not in me. I can feel sorry for (some of) them, but I can’t get rid of the hurt inside. That is what I am praying for every single day: recognition and the right to say I am injured and to hear “I’m sorry” from someone, somewhere. Instead of “You must have done something” or “there’s therapy for that” (as if I haven’t spent my entire life in “therapy” of some sort or another). Those d&*&*^^% “well-meaning” relatives and so-called friends do as much or MORE damage later in years. They just never know when to shut up. They have NO OPINION on these issues because they HAVE NOT EXPERIENCED IT.

    I need somewhere I can tell my story and be safe telling it and not be lectured afterwards. Places like this are the only ones I feel safe in right now. And I will say over and over again, THANK GOD FOR THE INTERNET. There was no internet 25 years ago when I began to disclose what happened to me (I am 61 years old) and I was truly alone. That wonderful book about Incest came out (what was the name? by Laura … ) and it was my bible and I carried it everywhere to keep from going crazy or going over a cliff somewhere. That book said “You have been programmed to self-destruct” in order to PROTECT THE ABUSER and I now believe the whole family has been programmed that way. It’s only the few and courageous who are able to escape that particular circle of hell.

    The rest can stay there, right where they belong.

    God lead us to the Light. Let us find Peace in whatever Way we must. Show us The Way.


  47. Catherine,

    I’m so sorry for all you and your son have been thru. Although my family has not blatantly spoken out about me, they have my sister who was raped by my dad. I’ve heard everything possible they could say bad about her. She’s a slut, and that is why she slept with my dad. It wasn’t until I was older and remembered my sexual abuse that I started to “take up her offense.” She has since passed away, and my dad is still being honored and showered with love and attention from my siblings. When ever I am around my siblings, and the subject does come up, I try to remind them that she was a child at one time and the way she lived her life was because of the abuse. She never got the real love she deserved from our dad and she spent the rest of her life trying to find someone, anyone, to love her like her dad should have.

    When I came out with my stories of abuse, and memories of seeing my dad raping my sister, they then turned on me and continue to try to discredit me and my memories. I finally realize after years of healing, that they were always like that. I am the same age as you, and looking back, I was always discredited. I never had a voice or was able to make a decision. The girl child. I was raised to be a wife and mother and that was my only worth and value to them. So it is easy for them to discredit me or pass me off as “haviing nothing worthwhile to say.”

    I did the family things, thinking my children needed to be near their relatives too. With them being discounted as much as I was, I finally broke those ties. It took me years to die to the fantasy I had of a loving and giving family. So, I took those dreams and gave them to my children and those who truly love me.

    My life is so much happier now because I choose who comes in it. We can make those choices now. We deserve the right to say who can or who can’t be in our lives. It is hard at first, but it gets easier. Those who are close to me are my true family and friends.

    Thank God for the internet. I am so glad to be a part of the FB Overcoming Sexual Abuse support group. Being gathered together with people from all over the world sharing their stories of survival from abuse. We are not alone. We have a whole network of “brothers and sisters” who understand.

    Thank you for sharing Catherine and I hope to hear more from you. I care and there are many others who do too. ((hugs)) Patty

  48. Thank you Patty and Christina. Patty’s story about her sister being called a “slut” hit me like an arrow in the heart. My father told everyone I was a whore and a slut, and all I did was TRY to fight him off. He would come when I was asleep, from a very young age. My siblings revere my mother and father and my mother knew all about it because I told her and she called me every name in the book and spent her life discrediting me. Now my sisters have taken up her sword. My son doesn’t speak to me either. It’s awful. But finding out that I’m not the only one – what a surprise! At least we can help each other get over our misery and HEAL.

    Everyone always says “Well, why didn’t they tell someone?” when they hear about a child being abused. Well, I did, and I’m still being abused 60 years later. It’s really something how these family members will do ANYTHING to protect those criminals, and how they engage in “honor killings” of the victim. Destroying someone’s reputation is considered a kind of “murder” under our laws, which is why defamation, slander and libel is against the law.

    I am trying to figure out how to make a case and win a case for this very kind of thing. It needs to be done.

  49. Catherine,

    It was when I realized that my family was ALWAYS like this, that it helped me to take a stand against the things they say. I always thought it was because I talked about the abuse, that they reared their heads and pointed their fingers. But in truth, it wasn’t because I spoke up, it was because, they have always de-valued me and what I had to say. Although my dad did not molest me, I know now, that if he did, they would be saying the same things about me as they have my sister. It’s their problem. They are the ones with the issues. I am getting free of how their issues, have affected me.

    I am with you, and I totally understand how you feel. But know that you deserve better and there is better out there. ((hug))

  50. Patty, you wrote:

    “It was when I realized that my family was ALWAYS like this, that it helped me to take a stand against the things they say. ”

    Wow! That’s what I’ve been trying to figure out… they blasted me into smithereens before I ever said a word, and it just got worse afterwards. But it was ALWAYS that way. Devaluing me and calling me names and ruining anything I did… nothing was EVER good enough. I’ll never forget bringing home ALL A’s except a B+ in handwriting because the nuns thought I “wrote well, but a bit too large.” I was around 10 or 12 years old, and I was tagged with “Why didn’t I get all A’s” for years.

    I was a United States National Champion Swimmer and Diver when I was 14 years old; up on the podium with all the TV lights three times… First, Second and Third. I was headed to the Olympics… that same year I even got an 8th place ribbon for diving for my first year diving! This was first, second, third and eighth place in the country. All my father had to say was to poke his finger HARD into my chest and say “Why weren’t they all firsts!” This haunted me for years. It wasn’t until almost 10 years later in college another student was talking about how he came in 8th or something on the US Swim Team and I said “that was nothing,” and told him my story and he was aghast. He said “Don’t you know what you accomplished? You were FIRST IN THE NATION with all the other medals to go along with it!”

    At that moment I finally, for the first time, realized I was worth something. Not much to my parents, not much to my family, but something to MY SELF. My Self. I had done something good.

    I never did anything good enough to get the love and approval and the companionship I was so desperate for, and wished for all my life. But I am starting to see that people like this are just bad to the core. Mean and cruel and sadistic and they can’t be any other way. They are like poisonous spiders, and toxic toads and venomous snakes, and all I can do is Thank God I am not the same. You wrote:

    “I always thought it was because I talked about the abuse, that they reared their heads and pointed their fingers. But in truth, it wasn’t because I spoke up, it was because, they have always de-valued me and what I had to say.”


    Oh Lord. So much to think about. I’m absorbing it all. Gracias, amiga. Good night. I’ll ask God to send peace to us all and pray for help and healing. Thank God for your web page and thank God for the Internet.

  51. Catherine,

    Isn’t it wonderful when we discover the truth? When that light goes off in our heads and we can make sense of the lies we believed and we can now move on to living a life in truth? I am so glad that you are discovering the truth that you are valuable and every accomplishment, large or small, is ours. It hurts when others don’t see our value, but what hurts more, is when WE don’t see our value. The more we value ourselves, the less it hurts when others don’t. One key to a happy life…… Value our selves. Boundaries will be formed, righteous anger will protect us, and we walk around with empowerment within ourselves. ((hug))

  52. Patty, thank you for your uplifting and inspiring words. I would not dare to go so far as to say I have “discovered value” in my self… for that is the GREAT UNKNOWN to me. But at least I’m not the BIG ZERO I was for most of my life. I must be worth SOMETHING, even though I have yet to find it. But I will keep reading and studying and asking God to send those “lightbulb moments” which we call INSPIRATION and GRACE.

    I am so happy to have discovered this website. So much good to be done here. Thank you all so much. Each and every person here. More later, I hope. Your friend, Catherine Todd

  53. Thank you for your post. My older brother raped me over 100 times from age 8 to 17, and he did the same to a cousin and a friend of the family. Later he molested our sister’s 2 children and then molested and raped a 14 year old for 3 years who was employed by him. He was charged but the charges were dropped when he agreed to pay off the victim. I have had no contact with him for 20 + years and recently decided I could longer have a relationship with my sister whose 2 children he molested because she doesn’t believe her children and she continues to have a relationship with the perpetrator. Her 2 two sons are now adults also so they are not in danger anymore. She thinks it is unfair of me to say who she can have a relationship with. I told her it is her choice, I just choose not to associate with people who are friends with sexual predators.

  54. Alex,

    Good for you. And I like your answer to her. She has a choice to do what she wants, but you choose not to associate with people who are friends with a predator. That is powerful.

    I am the same way. My response is: “Why aren’t you taking up my offense?” Speaking to different family members. I could and never will understand how and why someone would defend an abuser, yet question a victims integrity and value. They refuse to understand, and I refuse to be a part of it.

    I’m so sorry that you were abused, but I am so glad that you are not going to allow yourself to be abused any more. We have rights!!! thanks so much for sharing, Patty

  55. This is a great blog. For so long I felt empathetic for my abuser. In fact, at 31 years of age, I still do. Everytime I want to share my story, I feel guilty that I might be “ruining his name” in the family. I still struggle to accept the pain and dis-trust I feel towards the ones I love and went years realizing that it was in my own “acceptance” of my step-father’s behavior that caused me negative feelings. Now that I am finally starting to accept ME and what has happened to me, have I started to feel whole and worthwhile again. This blog gets right to the heart of the matter. That accepting a false belief, although forced on me by someone I loved and trusted, was not helping me or the abuser. In fact, it was making ME, the victim, feel worthless and unlovable. Only by facing the truth and not accepting a lie do we let go of our false beliefs and give ourselves the power to say “no” in all areas of our lives that cause us pain.

  56. Stacy,

    Yes! Facing the truth and not accepting the lies, was such a key into finding me and my value. And once I had value, I started to care about what happens to me, and who is in my life.

    We all deserve so much more than what we give to ourselves and finding that truth can change our lives. To sit and carry on conversations with my abusers made me feel that I agreed with their behavior. I was telling them it’s ok that you did what you did to me. Well, no more. That lie does not rule in my world any longer and I’m so glad that you are understanding that truth too. You deserve so much more!!

    Thank you for sharing, Patty

  57. Yes, we all played pretend and tried to act normally – but did we have a choice? Who had the power – the abuser and if I had said anything when I was young my family would have done what they’ve done now to me – ostracised me – essentially they don’t want to have anything to do with me (pretending it is me that wants nothing to do with them) simply because I don’t want to stay quiet about it – and if we had acted angry or not sat down at the dinner table with our abuse what would they have done – it is not simply about valuing ourselves it is also about finally being an adult and having power to say no more and not being forced for survival to pretend – and age has nothing with being an adult its in being an adult emotionally.

  58. Lena,

    It is so true that as children we don’t have much of a choice. It wasn’t until I became an adult and cared about me, that I thought how wrong it was to sit with my abuser and pretend that nothing happened. It was important for me to validate myself at this point in my life. Putting the blame on my abusers was important for me and my healing.

    There are many children who do speak up and are helped and protected. I just felt that it wouldn’t happen for me. The important thing is that it’s not too late. Although it’s taken me a long time to get to this point in my life, that I care more about myself than others, it’s still been beneficial for me. it was a piece of the puzzle that was missing. Speaking out, but also taking a stand.

    Thank you for sharing, Patty

  59. I’ve been looking for a site like this for a long time, and nearly created one myself -so glad to see that there’s somewhere we can go to share our stories. I was raised by a letcherous father, a mother who turned her head, (until an older sister told, and she was no longer molested, but I was), and both parents also beat mercilessly, cussed and cursed us, made us feel like worms -worthless by any standards, and although I was born with many talents and gifts, was told constantly that I had nothing that someone else didn’t have “better’.

    I was permanently disabled in a domestic violence incident at 29 years old, and am now 53, having raised my 3 sons in pain each day, and abject poverty, since I was disabled so young. I’ve been abused pretty much my entire life, even though I don’t allow anyone to get away with it. I’m glad this site is here so that we can all share our pains and triumphs and help others to grow out of and away from their abusive situations and abusers.

  60. Nancy,

    I’m so sorry it has taken a while to comment to your post, but the website was down. And yes, I agree it’s wonderful to have a place to share our stories and information from our healing journey. I’m sorry that you were put thru such hardships. I’m so thankful for this site as well as the facebook site. Knowing that I am not the only one who has suffered and hearing about restoration to so many survivors gives me hope of knowing that I don’t have to continue to suffer from the abuse that has tormented me most of my life.

  61. I cannot thank you enough for this article. I am your sister. First abused by my biological father and then by my step father. Now a 27 year old mother of two…divorced…as I married a man just like them. I have shouted from the roof tops what happened and my family continues to blame and humiliate me. Until this week I did not fully grasp that it is ok for me to be angry. And this really drove it home.

  62. Ashley,

    I’m so glad that this has helped you see your value. it took me a long time to realize that I had the right to be angry and I’m so glad that you “get it.” I hope that knowledge will continue to spark a flame in you to stand up for your rights and fight for freedom to be yourself. ((hug)) Patty

  63. Reading this article leaves me feeling two different things.

    It makes me feel extremely hopeful and happy that one day I will find the strength to cut off all ties with my abusers.
    But then it also reminds me that…I haven’t done it yet. And I still don’t feel the need to…which is the most twisted part.

    Its strange. I know that they are toxic. I know that I will never find healing or love or approval from them. No matter how happy or successful i’ll ever be, the only person who will ever notice that is me. Not them.
    I feel completely powerless and brainwashed. Why would I love an abuser? It does not makes sense. Sometimes I feel that confronting my abuser will give me a small portion of my power back, regardless of their reaction. Sometimes I wonder if cutting them out of my life will provide me a greater sense of power.

    Its so hard to let go. I know I’m worth more…and I have every right to spend my time however I want to. I have just started learning about boundaries…

    I will do it one day I know.

  64. Thank you for your article. I was abused by a brother and my father also abused two of my sisters & another brother. When I became an adult I wanted for a relationship with my father, one I didn’t have when I was a child. I spent many years visiting him and his new wife in Florida. I did this while one of my sisters & the brother he abused refused to have any contact with him. My other sister always kept in contact with him although she didn’t visit him as much as I did. When he and his wife became ill I was shocked to learn the executor of their will was my sister who had had no contact with him. When his wife became upset with her they then made the brother he abused the executor. I was furious at first but then realized finally it was his way of buying their silence and love. I didn’t attend either of their funerals because my abuser was present at both. He actually was given the honor of doing the eulogy for my father although my other five siblings knew what he had done to me and several other people. My one sister (who had continued contact with my father even though he abused her) even let my abuser stay at her home. She did this knowing this brother had also abused both of her son’s during a summer visit to his place. I have refused to have any contact with her since my father’s funeral nor have I had any contact with my abuser for 20+ years. I chose to go to Switzerland the week of my father’s funeral and have never regretted the decision. It is interesting that those who chose to have contact with my father even though he abused them have little or no contact with our mother who they have always seemed to blame more than the abuser.

  65. When I was 13 my sisters fiancé molested me. I never had the courage to say anything. He went on to marry her and I have spent a lifetime interacting with this creep. I love my sister and their kids so dearly. I cannot say anything because it would tear them apart. It’s not a bomb I am willing to drop in their lives. At the time it happened it unravelled me and I have never really recovered. It just feels like an impossible situation.

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