Forgetting About Abuse: Who Does That Really Serve?

Oct 30th, 2011 | By | Category: All Posts, Christina's Blog

by Christina Enevoldsen

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to fulfill it.” George Santayana

Recently, I warned a close family friend that his children weren’t safe around my dad, who molested me for most of my childhood. The friend was silent for a moment. He’s known about my abuse for years; he doesn’t doubt the identity of my abuser. But he won’t agree to keep his children away from my dad. In fact, he responded by telling me I should move on from my anger and offense—that I should put the abuse in the past.

What did my healing have to do with my dad still being dangerous? If I forgot my abuse, would that make my dad safe around children? There is no relationship between how I’m handling the effects of my abuse and the condition of my abuser.

The friend sounded very concerned for my well-being. He believes that forgetting would neutralize my feelings so I’m not haunted by “bad memories”.

Repressing my memories did serve me when I was a child. There wasn’t any way to escape my childhood sexual abuse except to forget. But I continued to repress the memories of my abuse for years. The past followed me wherever I went and in whatever I did. There were ghosts of the abuse in every relationship I had. I couldn’t run from them fast enough. When the memories threatened me, I tried to escape through food, sex, entertainment and all kinds of destructive distractions. During my “forgetting years”, I was exposed to many, many abusers and I exposed my children to several abusers.

When I allowed the past to surface and faced it, it stopped haunting me. When I acknowledged my feelings and expressed them, they ceased to be painful reminders. Now, I can remember the abuse without feeling threatened. It was only when I remembered that I started to heal and began to protect myself more effectively. Forgetting didn’t serve me.

Is my family friend so concerned about me or is he more concerned about himself? Did he want to forget? If he acknowledged my abuse, is he afraid it would require a different course of action? Perhaps standing up to an abuser? Saying “no” to someone he is close to? Does my abuse remind him of unresolved pain from his past? Did he want me to forget because my memories are too similar to his own?

This man may be more comfortable forgetting what happened, but forgetting doesn’t serve him and it especially doesn’t serve his children.  The only ones who are served by forgetting are the abusers. 

This man may be more comfortable forgetting what happened, but forgetting doesn’t serve him and especially not his children. The only ones who are served by forgetting are the abusers.

Forgetting about the abuse sounds like such sage advice—such wise words. But they are a fairy tale. They are meant to protect us from facing the unpleasant and uncomfortable reality. Fantasies are for children who don’t have any choices, but adults, and especially parents, don’t have the luxury of remaining in the fantasy. It’s up to adults to face the ugly truths about abuse and about abusers.

Since my dad never acknowledged abusing me, never admitted he was wrong and still accuses me of lying, I believe he is still dangerous. Since he continues to verbally and emotionally abuse family members, I believe he still has the characteristics of a sexual abuser too. Since he defended and protected the man who admitted to sexually abusing my daughter, he still acts like a sexual predator.

Even if I hadn’t observed any of those things, a sexual abuser doesn’t deserve a second chance with children—any children. And more importantly, no child deserves to be the sexual predator’s second chance. Yet many people believe that the abuser is somehow entitled not to be treated any differently than a non-abuser. What about a child’s rights to be protected? Why are abuser’s rights more important?

Some say that if the abuser “gets help”, he or she should be granted another chance. Or if they’ve served their prison time, they should be spared further “punishment” of separation. Some claim that holding the past over his or her head is cruel. But what’s really cruel is to experiment on a child—to test the success of treatment or “rehabilitation” on a helpless, vulnerable child.

I didn’t always believe this way. Once, I was one of those people who thought that the past was the past. I didn’t want to judge; I didn’t want to be unfair. I saw the man I loved as the victim of unfair treatment. He had molested a girl, but he asked for forgiveness, so I thought I should treat him as though it never happened. In essence, I forgot. So I married that man and he sexually abused our daughter for years because I had “forgotten” about it.

I will NEVER forget again. In fact, I’m vigilant about remembering. It’s not to rehash the pain—but to protect myself and others from the continuation of pain. I won’t forget that I was abused. I won’t forget who the abusers are. I’ll do everything in my power to remember the things I’ve learned so the cycle of abuse stops. I won’t let myself be abused anymore and I won’t stay silent about other’s abuse. I will NOT forget!

Does this resonate with you? Please join in by leaving your thoughts and feelings about this topic and don’t forget to subscribe to the comments.

Related Posts:
Forget About It!
Straight Talk To Parents About Protecting Their Children From Abuse
What About Forgiveness?
The Truth About Blame
Life-Saving Anger

Christina Enevoldsen is cofounder of Overcoming Sexual Abuse, an online resource for male and female abuse survivors looking for practical answers and tools for healing. Christina’s passions are writing and speaking about her own journey of healing from abuse and inspiring people toward wholeness. She and her husband live in Los Angeles and share three children and four grandchildren.

[read Christina's story here]

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52 comments
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  1. So true! “This man may be more comfortable forgetting what happened, but forgetting doesn’t serve him and especially not his children. The only ones who are served by forgetting are the abusers.” This is brilliant! We are taught so often to forgive and forget, but it doesn’t do anything good. Forgetting is a denial of all issues we NEED to face. Forgetting lets abuse continue.

  2. Bethany, exactly! I’m so tired of that kind of thing being passed around as “wisdom”. It’s foolish to forget!

  3. This is an amazing blog Christina. I really don’t have a thing to add. It’s so powerful and so true. I wish this could be in a coffee table reader for everyone to see.

  4. This topic always flabbergasts me. I mean, if we had been sexually assaulted by a random stranger, no one would ever suggest we should hang out with them or let our children get to know them – EVER, EVER. So, why does someone being family, or “trusted” friend, give them permission to violate us and possibly subject others??? That makes no, no, no sense at all. I mean, shouldn’t family treat us better than strangers…you know, because they love us or something?? Great blog…I know we’ve not always seen eye to eye on some topics…but this is so important and something many people struggle with…over and over again…especially at (ugh) holiday times.

  5. wow christina,
    i hear the old nugget it is the past so why do you drag it up all the time, all the time. and like i reply when it is in the past it will stay there but whilst people continue to treat children as possessionsnothing will ever change.
    my mother throws my basic needs in my face and when i say well thats what parents are menat to do arent they, she dont really know what to say. because to her all that she gave to raise us means we owe her, we owe her not to critise and say im sorry thats not how i saw it or rememeber it. i ahvent been really able to face the sexual abuse yet, i know it has happened but the details are still to painful to vome foreward. which makes it hard for them to tell me to forget it as i have little recollection anyways, it just haunts me from behind its wall. stopping me from being free as i wait for the wall to crumble, gosh silence is a two edged sword. protects yet cuts very deep into our phsyche when used to hold in the truth

  6. Jennifer,
    Thanks! I really wish more people knew the truth about this, too. Enablers are just as afraid of abusers as the victims are and they tend to look the other way to protect themselves. In fact, they’d rather the abuser keep abusing the victim rather than turn on them. Fear keeps the abusive system working and the only way I know to get out of that system is through facing things and healing. I truly believe that if the world is to change, it will be through healed survivors. Thanks for your comment!
    Christina

  7. Wendi,
    So true! “…if we had been sexually assaulted by a random stranger, no one would ever suggest we should hang out with them or let our children get to know them – EVER, EVER. So, why does someone being family, or “trusted” friend, give them permission to violate us and possibly subject others???” That’s such a great question that I wish more people would ask! Thanks for pointing that out.
    Christina

    Carol,
    I agree! I’ll leave the past alone when it leaves me alone. Nobody has the right to tell us what to do or how to handle our pain–not even our parents and especially not our parents if they are the main source of the pain. I thought I was the one who was most fearful about digging into my past, but my parents were/are so much more terrified than I ever was. Thank you for sharing that.
    Christina

  8. We cant change the one who abuse until they admit what they are.we that have been abused feel so broken … never feeling healed ..i don’t any way… but to know a man is an abuser and let him be with children..only lights the fire. i think..poor kids will it ever end?

  9. ..i tried to forget the abuse too, i escaped by doing drugs and alcohol and it never helped me forget, i exposed myself more to unhealthy and abusive people. and the abuser became more powerful because i never dealt with the abuse and the abuser became more proud and evil..while i became more vulnerable..people who tell me to forget and let go and leave all my pains to God now that i am dealing with this now ,will never get it that i really need to deal with the process, all the pains and angers i have ,if not, then it is again FORGETTING…which will give the abuser…. again, more advantage and not heal me ,which i am tryng to do in my own ways.. i am tryng to deal with all the pains and angers which is really painful now because i am no longer NUMB….
    G

  10. Deb, I hope that one day you can feel whole instead of broken because it is possible, even as destructive as abuse is.

  11. My older sister and I were abused by my father. I dont remember much from my childhood which confuses me sometimes. Did the abuse really happen? Or in my pretending that I was asleep, I was dreaming it up?
    I knew I was going to have kids. AND, I KNEW THAT HE WOULD NEVER SEE MY KIDS. Unfortunately, my sister is still in contact with him. She has two girls and a boy. She falls under the catagory of forgiveness and second chances. I’m afraid to find out what the effects on her children are.

  12. Christina,
    Thank you, thank you, thank you for posting this blog! It was because of my family’s “forgetting” and enabling that caused me to be abused, and then abused again by the same man, and then again by the same man! And allowed him to go on the moleste no one knows how many other children, including the 2 little girls he went to prison for hurting. They were 7 and 9. My family didn’t want to believe someone in their family could do something like that, so they just pushed it out of their minds and ignore all warning signs. Don’t you EVER forget! You remember for all of us! You are an inspiration!

  13. Hi Christina,

    Thank you for starting this blog. What you say above resonates so strongly with me, it creates waves of pain and numbness. There are times I am the one helping others, because it’s us survivors who only truly understand and can reach out to educate. Then, there are times, I’m the scared little girl hiding from my father or the young mother cringing under my husband, or the terrified woman in front of the angry judge who cannot believe what I’m saying about such a “nice man” can be true.
    Lately, I’ve been getting more motivation to speak up and find it takes a lot of strength and determination because the more I have to talk about it, the more I remember it. I hope so much I can help even one person who is seeking to heal. It aches all over that so, so many are in this sisterhood and brotherhood of silence and fear or so long.
    I also tried to warn others. I try to tell them my ex is dangerous around young ones when I saw a friend send his young boy with him. He just glared at me and told me almost the identical thing you were told. It was me who needed to “get over” the abuse. I will say something about forgiveness…..I am trying really hard to have it for ME. Forgetting what abusers have done is foolish because that is what has allowed me to do it again and again, thinking I just needed to be more trusting. If some have the strength to forgive, that is wonderful, but cautiousness requires us not to forget. NOT when it endangers me and my children or others!
    Listen to your gut, is what I try to tell people now. If there is some weird or bad feeling about someone….RUN!!!
    If we have family that others are pushing on us to “forget”, perhaps they also are not safe to be around. And, I’ve realized we have to be honest, even if we are not popular. Perhaps some will be mad at us if need be, to protect the little ones who may be in danger. If possible, keep an eye out and if other little ones seem to be in danger, it should be reported. It’s hard because we usually are such people pleasers and do ANYTHING to keep someone from being angry at us. Can’t do that anymore.
    The bad part of reporting abusers, though, is that it doesn’t always help because abusers know so well how to dodge the system and what to say and how to make the one reporting it or the victim sound crazy. I know. Keep talking, keep educating, keep telling. Some WILL listen. Some will listen. Some will listen and it’s worth every effort to save the ones who do.
    Thank you for giving us a place to open up, Christine and all of you. Thank you for letting us feel safe sharing our agony.
    I want to be free….maybe it will never happen…but as long as I can keep from letting these constant flashbacks stop me from giving up….As long as I can stick around to be a help to others….there is hope.

  14. The most dangerous pedophile or abuser is the ones who get those who know the horrid details and cooperate by their silence.It took me 38 years to figure this out and that’s when I started talking and stopped blaming myself for what he did to me. This is one of the most important blogs I have read. Thanks.

  15. Fantastic Blog Christina. I love it. It has so much basic, down to the bare wood, truths in it. I can forgive my abusers all I want, but it doesn’t change the fact that they are abusers. I love it!! Patty.

  16. G,
    Oh, I forgot about that one, “leave all your pains to God.” That was another way of telling me to put the past behind me. I think most of the time, people who told me that really wanted me to feel better and didn’t know what else to say. But that never helped me.

    That’s so good that you’re facing your past too, instead of numbing yourself. It’s so painful, especially after a lifetime of numbing. I’ve learned to comfort and nurture myself instead of numbing, but I’ve gone back and forth between numbing and nurturing as I become more comfortable with it. What a process all of this is! Thanks for sharing.
    Christina

    Brandy,
    I went in and out of that denial for a long time. One day, I KNEW it happened and the next day, I was thinking I made it all up. The denial gave me a much needed break from the awful truth while I slowly accepted what I already knew. I’m so glad you’re planning to keep your children safe. I hope your sister’s children find a way to heal.
    Christina

  17. Andrea,
    That’s so horrible that your family didn’t protect you in favor of protecting themselves. It’s so invalidating to be told to forget about the abuse or for others to consider our abuse so insignificant as to turn the other way and forget it themselves. It’s so amazing after being treated so badly by those who should love us the most, that we can still press on. We’re amazing! And I’ll NEVER forget that either! Thanks for your comment.
    Christina

  18. Abigail,
    Wow, that’s so true about it being so hard to go against the grain because we’re so used to surviving the system through people-pleasing! I was so trained that I needed everyone else’s approval in hopes of not being hurt anymore. That just kept the abusers in power. The abusive system kept me in so much fear and without any real hope of getting out, that I didn’t think any higher than that. Surviving was the best I could hope for. HA! But I eventually questioned living that way and as I’ve been getting a real life back, I’m less and less afraid of the consequences for standing up against abusers and the abusive system. Most of the things I was afraid of losing, I lost. But it’s turned out to be a huge blessing to lose those things (mostly relationships). And even if it does cost something more dear to me, children are worth protecting and truth is worth standing for. Thanks for standing for the truth!
    Christina

  19. Ward,
    That self-blame is one of the most destructive parts of abuse and there are so many layers to it. I’ve noticed it popping up in so many ways. I was so used to accepting the blame for whatever went wrong, not just my original abuse. I took on the responsibility of taking care of everyone else’s emotions, so if anyone was unhappy, it was my fault. Coming out of that has been so freeing. Yay for your freedom too! Thanks for your comment.
    Christina

    Patty,
    Yes, that was such a revelation to me–that I was separate from my abusers. Because of the violations of boundaries of the abuse and because of such dysfunctional family relationships, I really didn’t know where I started and stopped. My SELF flowed into them. I identified with their feelings and circumstances more than I did my own. What people to be connected to! I remember how disloyal I felt to actually talk about my abuse. I felt the pain of it as though I was betraying myself. How glad I am to finally be connected to myself and disconnected from my parents. Thanks for sharing!
    Christina

  20. It has only been recently that I have been able to read any posts as I just cant cannot believe the things that people will do. My own family always used the ‘get over it’, ‘forget it’ and sentences I am sure we have all heard. I have fought so hard to make sure that no-one forgets but in the process have been isolated as a ‘nutter’. I to have seen people test with their own children and short of begging them I am helpless and it is that feeling that I just work through no matter how many times I tell myself there is nothing I can do. In my situation my abuser didn’t go to court because my brother (also an abuser) stated that nothing happened purely to protect himself and thus the prosecution believed they could not convict the case and he was let off. Amazingly people have seen that as I must be lying and therefore he is now ‘a great man’. I think til the day I die I will never be able to understand these people and only now have I begun to realise just how abusers continue to abuse. Having recently heard that my family had a ‘party’ to celebrate me being out of the picture I can only image the pure evil levels persons will go to protect themselves from a subject they just cannot for a second deal with.

    Might I just apologise for my angry tones but my court battle has only just been lost.

  21. This sounds so very familiar. Had we not taken the “advice” of friends and family back in the late seventies, “Go on with life”, “Sweep it under the carpet”, and the all famous “Forget about it”, maybe we could have had a life that we have some memory of…

    I am so sad that this happened to you and to your daughter, but please know that you have done all that you can in warning this person about your abuser. Please take care of yourself.

    Susa

  22. FANTASTICALLY written and thought out ans processed Christina! Even though you claim it was raw, feisty, and quick, it is excellent! I appreciated the quote at the beginning to, and the following paragraph I think hits some of it right on the nail for sure:

    “Is my family friend so concerned about me or is he more concerned about himself? Did he want to forget? If he acknowledged my abuse, is he afraid it would require a different course of action? Perhaps standing up to an abuser? Saying “no” to someone he is close to? Does my abuse remind him of unresolved pain from his past? Did he want me to forget because my memories are too similar to his own?”

    This is what I beleive occurred in our family situation…. noone wants to be the one to stand and believe and therfore lose their attachments that support their lifestyles and own denial and avoidance. Naturally, this makes the journey of a survivor/victim more alone. However, all that I have had to give up and walk away from, is worth it for the stand for truth, reality, protection of my children, and no longer being silenced. Someone once recently told me I was brazen…. maybe so, have reason to be, and the strength in it is I won’t be silent anymore.

    Thank you for this post, I will be sharing this one for sure! <3

  23. Becky,
    Please do not apologize for expressing your feelings. I can sympathize with everything you say because all those same things happened to me, even having my own brother side with my abuser. The secon time I was in the courts with an ex (yes I did it twice), he actually stood up and yelled “YIPPEE!!!” when the judge announced our divorce.

    He was very, very good at making it look as he said he would: “like it was self defense” on HIS part. What a joke, but many fell for it.

    What is important is that we know we are not as crazy as they would like to make us feel we are and as much as they pretend we are.

    You are on your way to a better place, though, because you know the truth. You know who you are. You are the one who can celebrate being away from them.

    –Abigail

  24. This is such an important topic Christina!
    If we learn to bust through those “rabbit trails” (a way of going down a different path to avoid talking about the subject on the table) the way that you have in this post, the world will start to get stronger. What would your “not forgetting the past” or even “getting over the past”, have to do with if kids were safe or not around your dad? That is crazy! Those comments were certainly not about him thinking about the safety of his kids! I love the way that you expose that kind of crazy in this blog post!
    Very well said! Love this post!
    Hugs, Darlene

  25. Becky,
    What a horrible thing that they would celebrate that you aren’t in the family anymore! Incest is so awful and then the way the family covers it up makes it even more awful. It’s understandable that you would be angry and that’s completely healthy and normal. I’m glad you’re able to acknowledge and express your anger. You’re welcome to do it here. Those are the things to be angry about! Thank you for sharing.
    Christina

    Lisa,
    It’s so great that you’re standing for the truth too! I completely agree that some things are worth standing for, no matter what. I lost my parents and brother, but when I look back, I see that those relationships weren’t worth much. My parents only “loved” me as long as I went along with things. What kind of love is that? So giving up my family wasn’t very much of a sacrifice, though I didn’t realize it when I started standing.
    Christina

  26. This resonated so much with me!! I can’t believe how many times it’s pushed under the rug or I see men who are taken away from their families unreasonably while the ones who abused me go free and have no punishment! I wish this subject was more open and tv and stuff wouldn’t make it something to joke about!

  27. Darlene,
    Thanks! I agree that it IS such a crazy thought!!! That’s abuse/dysfunctional family logic! I used to think that way and it seemed to make so much sense back then. Reading your blog has helped me bust through some of those lies. Thanks for telling the truth!
    Hugs, Christina

  28. I live next to my son’s abuser. My son is an adult and lives with me. My Father would tell me that he felt bad for the man. I hate my Father and always will. He never protected me from the neighbor that abused me and his claims of feeling sorry for never realizing that the abuse was going on fell on disgusted and disbelieving ears. He had no problem accepting alcohol from our next door neighbor. The neglect and abuse was in our family. It wasn’t sexual but it was mental and emotional. The echos from my past resound with all the bad habits of keeping secrets and “only saying nice things,” as well as avoiding people and isolating and trying to keep people happy. One of the biggest promoters of my mental illness symptoms is the repercussions from the abuse. Trust is not something that I am willing to give in my life. It damages my efforts to seek help and ruins my effective self advocacy and communication skills.
    To see the man that destroyed my son’s confidence and inspired anger and fear in his life renews all the abuse that happened in my own. It didn’t just affect one person’s life. It affected a family. The chaos that abusers wreak makes waves that become bigger and far reaching long after the betrayal has been committed. And to see my family members act as if nothing happened makes me physically sick. I made a choice to help my Mother through her choice of taking care of my Father through dementia. At the same time I made boundaries and told her of my limitations. I refuse to help my Father. It would make me angrier than I already am and I am not willing to damage myself for the sake of someone who never protected me.
    In fact this article has made me aware that I bought into the myth that my Father was a good parent. I am so sick of the continuing lies and deceit that have become the norm.

  29. Christina,

    When I read your “Forgetting About Abuse” I felt like you had spoken to me personally! All of my life I have been told by relatives, “You need to forgive him (my Father who had sexually, physically, and mentally abused me from the time I was three—-at least that’s when I remember the first incident as clear as day)and that I should still have a relationship with my Father and Mother (my Mother let my Dad sexually abuse me all those years – while she emotionally, mentally and physically abused me). I was 27 years old and my husband insisted I go to counseling because my husband KNEW things weren’t right with me…..within being in the counselor’s room for 15 minutes she came right out and asked me if I was sexually abused!!!! It floored me that someone who just spent the first 15 minutes with me (and I NEVER mentioned abuse) GUESSED and was correct! I had thought I could put the past behind me and live my life….now I’m 41 and I’m a mess….the past still terrifies me. I’m dealing with severe depression, anxiety, and would just love to live in total social isolation! But, I’m trying to go on……I’m a wife, mother, aunt, worker, and friend to others……but somehow I don’t even know who I am anymore! This last year has been tough because I feel like I’m in deep mourning over the little girl that I never could be….does that make any sense? 41 years old and just now mourning my childhood and mourning all the time I’ve let the past control and hurt me! I just want to say THANK YOU for waking up to the fact of what was going on in your home and being a MOTHER and getting your daughter out of that nightmare situation!!!! It takes a lot of courage and you did it!! YOU share on this site things that touch my heart!!!

    Thank you,
    Sherry

    sherryeridenhour@gmail.com

  30. What saddens me most about this particular attitude of this man (and so often so many others) is that he has willingly put his own children at risk. And how will he explain this someday when one child comes to him and asks him why he did not protect her when he KNEW the dangers. This is why I chose to speak out because those in my family and around my abuser have a right to protect their own children. If I remained silent, they would have no way of knowing that they needed to keep their children from him. That’s not right. Thank you for speaking out. It can be so hard to do sometimes but it’s the right thing to do!

    Blessings,
    Mel

  31. I’m amazed that a child abuser has a friend. I’m amazed that a person would want to be friends with a child abuser.
    Your father should be in prison. Statutes of limitations for crimes of sexual abuse against children should be abolished, in my opinion.
    It makes sense that a person who would be friends with a child molester is not normal. Only a sick person would allow their children to be around your father. Perhaps the loyal friend is a child molester as well; birds of a feather tend to flock together.

  32. Christina Dear,
    I am SO with you. I have warned my brother to keep his daughter away from our stepfather,
    and while my brother believes I think I was abused,
    he doesn’t want to look at the ugliness. He won’t leave his daughter alone with my
    abuser, but he won’t acknowledge anything happened either.
    When it comes to children, however, I have no tolerance for parents who choose to
    look the other way to avoid facing the unthinkable. It’s very frustrating.
    Good for you for staying diligent!! Hugs, rachel

  33. Naomi,
    I’ve noticed that they joke about sexual abuse on TV a lot too. It’s not taken seriously most of the time, though I’ve seen a few times that it was handled well. The more of us who talk about it and who become healthy, the better the chance that it will be portrayed and spoken of more accurately and respectfully. It keeps getting back to us. If we want to see change, we’ve got to be the ones to make it. :)
    Christina

    Bipolar Bear,
    This is so true, “The chaos that abusers wreak makes waves that become bigger and far reaching long after the betrayal has been committed.” The effects not only last a lifetime, but often they’re passed on to the next generation(s) until they are dealt with.

    I can relate to still thinking you had a good dad until recently. I compartmentalized everything and thought I had basically good parents until a few years ago. Looking back, it’s hard to believe how much I excused away or dismissed. Well, I’m just glad I see the truth now and I’m free to live my life on my terms now instead of theirs. I’m glad you’re doing that, too! Good for you for getting angry and setting your boundaries! Thanks for sharing.
    Christina

  34. Sherry,
    Your story sound very similar to mine. I can really relate to being in mourning for the little girl you never got to be and for your lost adulthood engulfed by the effects of abuse. My grieving has been in stages and layers. It’s been fruitful though. As I’ve expressed the pain from the loss, I’ve also made room for new possibilities. I’m getting to know the real me and I’m experiencing the joy, the fun and the wonder that I missed when I was a kid. Healing is hard, hard work, but it pays off. I’m glad you’re giving yourself the opportunity to heal. You deserve it.
    Christina

    Mel,
    That breaks my heart too. Knowing that even one second with an abuser can effect the rest of a child’s life is really a tough reality to face. I hope that my friend sees the truth before anything happens to his kids. Whatever he decides, I’m going to keep talking about it. He might not protect his kids, but other parents will hear what we’re saying. That gives me hope.
    Christina

  35. Cassandra,
    I think the statute of limitations should be eliminated too. I also agree that abusers hang with other abusers. That was sure true of my ex-husband and my dad. My dad is still so loyal to my ex, even though my ex confessed to molesting my daughter. How could a person be so sick to side with a child molester rather than his own granddaughter? I understand intellectually, but not emotionally and I don’t want to understand it that way. In the case of the friend I wrote about, he’s not an abuser, but he was abused and is still living under that system of intimidation. The fear keeps him from seeing. I still have hope for him, though. Thanks for commenting!
    Christina

    Rachel,
    Tragically, I was one of those parents who didn’t see the truth. More than anything, I wish I could shake my self from the past and shout, “WAKE UP!!!” in time to protect my daughter. A lot of my writing is fueled by a passion to spare other children what my daughter and I went through and to spare parents the agony of waking up one day to discover they weren’t diligent enough. Thanks for sharing.
    Christina

  36. Thank you for this. There is an amazing book by Carolyn Forche called “Against Forgetting,” the 30 page introduction totally changed my life. It is not about rape specifically but it is about the cultural tendency to want to gloss over trauma, and how really, there is no way to do this. It is a very special book and what you wrote reminds me of this. Thank you!

  37. Kylie,
    I haven’t heard of that book, but it sounds interesting. Thanks for sharing!
    Christina

  38. I stood for the protection of a child that became the 4th generation in a chain of abuse. Went to court to seek custody of a granddaughter (with a learning disability as well), spent >$35K and 5 years while the extended family stayed silent. As the step-grandmother in the equation, I took the unpopular stand to protect the child without the ‘curse’ of the coercion or emotional shackles to protect anyone in the legacy of abuse.

    More than ten years later, with an abuser in prison – the family that remained silent have chosen to leave that wall between us in place. Truth and defending children on one side and the dysfunctional, “don’t mention it’ shame on the other. It seems lonelier on my side of the wall from time to time, but it’s a place free of the enabling mentality that makes my skin crawl – so I am the lucky one.

    Becky, being on the side of truth and the loving, compassionate defense of children from known abusers is worth the separation from those who find the truth too painful to deal with head on. You are the one showing the strength and even though it hurts, the bravery that is greatly admired by those looking for inspiration. The wall built by the family does not keep you out, it encircles them and traps them in the cycle of abuse – you are on the survivors side of the wall, with all the others here who are glad you’ve joined the journey to healing.

  39. Sherry, I read your feedback with a sense you were telling my story, although I wasn’t abused by my biological family ( I was in a residential care home and abused by those who were supposed to be caring for me and others who, in a family context would be called siblings). Other than that, I feel I’m exactly where you are! 41 years old and only just starting to mourn for the little girl I will never know because she couldn’t be what she was meant to be, in a complete mental mess, unable to function in any of my roles and anxiety levels so high that I jump out of my skin at the drop of a pin.

    I’m only just realising the impact the abuse and neglect has had on my whole life and every aspect of it, and I’m so angry that it has defined me so completely that I don’t know who I am or who I could have been. So many blogs on this site have helped me start the process of waking up and acknowledging what has happened and that process is so painful. It seems like I am remembering something new every day and working through how each of these memories has shaped my beliefs about myself, how I feel and behave because of them. I feel like I’m riding a roller coaster in slow motion, moving through highs and lows.

    I’m also scared because I don’t ‘know’ my abusers – I could be in the same room with one of them and not know it. My name is so distinctive (two in the UK, one in the US and I’m related to all three), that they probably would know and that scares the hell out of me to the point I want to change my name and disappear to the opposite side of the world. But I won’t! I have let my abusers control me for far too long already and, although I’m not yet in a position where I can choose not to feel, behave or think in certain ways, I am in a place where I will not consciously let their actions define my choices ever again!

    That’s progress! I couldn’t possibly list everyone’s blogs and comments which have helped me make that step, but I can single out Christine for giving us a place to heal, a place to share, a place to feel understood and validated. Thank you Christine, from the bottom of my heart and thank you to all of you who are brave enough to share and help us all on this painful journey, for giving us hope that it will lead us to a better place.

  40. wow what a conversation.
    reading some of the posts made me think about forgetting and why we do it? is it better to have memories that are hidden or those that reply over and over again. me i went with forgetting at 43 im still trying to get what i forgot back so ican move onwards in my self proclaimed quest. how can i speak out in a professional arean when i have some much there waiting to derail me. how can i go forward without remembering what i have spent my whole life hiding from, so as not to hurt those who hurt me and therefore cause more pain. yet my husband and child suffer because of those who hurt me and i forgot what they did. the details are missing little little peices of my jigsaw. i hate that i was forced to forget so i could survive, yet anytime i get close to the issues i know are there in the shadows hiding behind my walls and coping skills. mmmm it really starting to hurt that i cannot get on with my palns as the past continues to hold me in its grip. even to feel a panic attack is rare because i have gotten so used to block the triggers whitout dealing with why i am being triggered. the social conditioning i have been undergoing so i fit into society has made it harder in the long term to access the parts i need to let go off as the conditioning says ooo you cannot be that way now or you cannot take this out on this person because your rage is for someone else. i dont care im angry and i vent and it not right those closest get it in the neck but who else can i vent on . oooo this is just flowing and i know it because im stressed inother areas and my defences get lowered and i get a peek but as soon as the stress levels even out up go the walls and the snippets of insight left only confuse me more

  41. I applaud that you have a blog dedicated to this subject. There are so many women who have endured this and have been expected to keep quiet about it to keep the family together. I was physically abused and sexually molested by my own brother. My father was a falling down alcoholic who stumbled into the house every night. I was just a child, but I finally begged my mother not to leave me alone with my brother. She couldn’t deal with it and promptly got in her car to leave me alone with him once again. Once again he dragged me out of my bedroom, beat me, and held me down to his favorite thing. He would allow spit to drip from his mouth and then just when I thought it would fall on me he would suck it up again. Oh, but sometimes, he couldn’t catch it in and it would fall on me. As I grew older, it became sexaul molestation. My brother would grab my bottom or hold me down, put his face between my crotch, and tell me that I smelled bad. This evolved into him opening the locked bathroom door when I was showering to watch me and putting his fingers between my legs when I was sleeping. He finally attempted to have me stroke his erection when he tried to tell me that me had caught his penis in his zipper and I needed to help him with the pain. I was maybe eleven years old at the time and didn’t even know what what was happening to him physically. After that, I begged my mother once again to stop him and she just could not even hear it or deal with it. To her, no matter what I said, it just wasn’t happening because she didn’t want it to happen. In the meantime, I was becoming an adolescent and acting out in ways to show I wasn’t going to accept the miserable childhood that I was handed. I was not healthy for me, but it felt so good to be my own person and not a constant victim of those who were supposed to love me most. My first marriage was, of course, a disaster. It pretty much ended when he locked me in a room and threatened to burn the house down with me in it. I had known him all through high school and truly believed he had such a good heart in him. When I told my mother about my marital problems, she immediately said, “Divorce Him.” I did and moved back home into that hell hole. I proceeded to get two jobs and maintain close to a 4.0 grade point average at a reputable college. I now understand that this was just part of my mother’s sick plan. She had wanted so many times to divorce my dad but could not find the courage to do it. Once I moved back home, I was constantly denigrated by both my mother and father for what a failure I was. At one point my mother told me to leave and she would take my son. I realized that was the sick point of it all. Oh how naive I was. She never wanted me. She wanted my son. This is the important part. I persevered; I have a Master’s Degree; I have my son and I have a happy marriage for sixteen years now. My problem is that I still have flashbacks and I am still expected to pretend that nothing happened. I speak to my mother every few weeks, my father almost never, and my brother about twice a year. We all pretend that we are a happy normal family. I am 40 years old. I have been the good littlle daughter and sister for far too long. I mean them no animosity at this point, but for my own well-being, I honestly want nothing more to do with them. After almost a year, we are getting ready to meet for Thanksgiving and I am feeling the stress. I honestly know that if there is a confrontation, thst it will be turned back on me. I was once told by a therapist, and I haven’t had much luck with them, that I must confront them. Easy for him to say. One day I went to an appt. and found that he had left his job and was long gone. The messed up leading the same. How can I trust his advice.

  42. SkunkAtThePicnic,
    Love your screen name! How appropriate that is when we stand up to the abusive system. Your comment: ” It seems lonelier on my side of the wall from time to time, but it’s a place free of the enabling mentality that makes my skin crawl – so I am the lucky one.” I feel that way too. I’ve grieved over the original abuse–both mine and my daughter’s–and I’ve grieved that I wasn’t important enough to them to protect or work things out with. I’ve grieved for the loss of family, even if I never felt a part of them. BUT I’m SO thankful to see the truth about them and about me and there is nothing they could ever say or do that would make me want to be a part of them anymore. I love truth; they hate it and we don’t have anything in common. Thanks for standing for the truth!
    Hugs, Christina

    Hurt Again,
    Thank you so much for your comment. Even through the highs and lows and all the pain, you’re persevering and that’s so inspiring!
    Christina

  43. Carol,
    Learning to express my anger in healthy ways that didn’t hurt others has been a challenge for me too. I haven’t been physically abusive or verbally abusive, but I’ve had sudden outbursts of throwing (soft) objects against walls, which was very disturbing to my husband and daughter. It scared them that it was unexpected, which wasn’t considerate of them. I needed the freedom to express myself so I began to warn them if I felt the need to do something like that so they didn’t have the fear that it could happen at any moment. Also, talking about my anger as I’m feeling it helps so much. I feel heard and seen, which was so lacking in my childhood.
    Christina

    Stevemp210,
    Thank you for sharing your experience. My mom was a “burying her head in the sand” type too and I know how painful that kind of abandonment is.

    I don’t know your family, but I know how abusive systems work and I agree with you that if you were to confront your family, they’d likely turn it all on you. I know confrontation has been helpful for some survivors, but I don’t think it’s necessary and I don’t think it should be entered into lightly. I’m glad you’re trusting your own judgment about this. I never confronted my dad to his face because I don’t have anything to gain from that. I’ve written him a letter expressing my feelings and posted it here and that was all I needed. I don’t want to waste another second of my life in his company and I don’t need anything from him. Good for you for doing what’s best for you!
    Christina

  44. One of my favorite Pearl Jam songs has a line “make yourself a pact, not to shut doors on the past/
    just for today,… I am free”. There is enormous wisdom that line. People, both those who have been abused and those who haven’t, would rather forget their own guilt and discomfort than deal with it. And encouraging us to forget makes them think they’re moving in that direction. And that’s how kids get hurt.

  45. Melanie,
    Thank you for that quote. It is overwhelming to have not just my own agony and pain to deal with but also the horror of the feeling that so many people will either ignore it, not want to talk about it, tell me they are so sorry but really I should just forget it (cause they want to), and even those who know what it is like but are powerless to help bring justice to the perpetrators.
    Even though there has still been no justice brought in my case against the men who roam still free to continue abusing others, it helps so much to keep being reminded that I’m not alone and that there is nothing wrong in my continuing to seek justice even though it has been many years.
    Some days it feels to much to bear and hopeless and that all our efforts and not going to stop this “secret” crime. And, knowing that so many others suffer is numbing because I can feel it all….their pain….my pain…., and I don’t know if I can make it even another day.
    But other days, when I read things that come to my mail from those of you who understand it all so well, and know that we all band together in a way, in a huge sisterhood and brotherhood, that we can remember that if even “just for today…I am free”, it is enough to help me, and hopefully all of you, make it through this moment and day, and remember that we can help others with our .
    Thank you again, Melanie, so much. And thanks to all of you, for the support and for not giving up. Please keep going. We can be free and keep being there for one another.
    Awareness is finally happening more and more….(like I just heard in the news about the vigils, talks and fund raising surrounding what is happening in Pennsylvania) and that gives hope.
    HUGS to you all.–Abigail

  46. i am just starting to remember… i have put my past behind and somehow suppressed my memories, i even helped my dad for years financially. now i’m starting to finally wake up to the fact that this man is responsible for my broken childhood, for my self-destructive behavior. abuse from him and neglect from my mother turned me from an innocent little girl into a monster.
    for years i tried to forget about it, i blamed myself for being bad, i overcame my desire to hurt others and myself and thought that i “grew out of it”. but i never really did – even though i stopped hurting others i kept hurting myself with every relationship i took. finally, i think, i’m waking up… and so are my memories..
    for a moment I wanted to forget them again and move on, pretend that my dad is a good man who loves me… but i think you are totally right Christina, there is no better cure that just facing it and dealing with it as an adult. I want to have a normal life and i want to have my own family – these are all new feelings that i hadn’t had before. i finally have a decent man with whom i wish to have a kid. I don’t want to mess it up. it’s time to face my demons and not let them take over me again.
    I just wrote my dad a message saying ” I’VE REMEMBERED WHAT HAPPENED TO ME WHEN I WAS A CHILD. I HOPE YOU WILL TOO, FATHER. YOU NEED TO ACKNOWLEDGE IT AND LIVE WITH IT – AS I HAVE TO LIVE WITH IT.”
    This is the promise I’m making to myself: if I have a kid, my father won’t be allowed to be around. It will be hard to explain others my sudden change – I’m 29 years old! but it’s time to do what’s right. I’m not doing it to punish my father, I’m doing it for myself and my future family.

  47. Natasha,
    Wow, that’s fantastic the way you’re facing this. I know how I felt when my memories were surfacing and I was nowhere near ready to make the kind of bold moves and resolutions that you are making. Good for you!
    Christina

  48. Thank you for your honesty. Your story has helped me make sense of mine.

  49. Awesom truth!! Thank You…
    The Truth sets us free….always!
    Predators hide in lies…
    They lay in wait, when people are silent
    I will NOT be silent!!
    They are the criminal, not me
    or my son…
    Love……..

  50. Hi,
    I am also a survivor of being molested by my father, I related to the 2 ladies that said they are in their 40′s, I have been in therapy off and on for 24 years of my life, I am 44 years old and I now feel worse than I ever have. I struggle with, (hard to treat) Major Depressive Disorder, PTSD, and severe anxiety. I also isolate myself which leaves me with very few friends at all. My first suicide attempt I was only 15 years old, there have been many other attempts through the years and the last one was almost my last day on earth but they were able to save me barely…the pain is only getting worse than it ever has been, I spend weeks at a time in bed, I feel so guilty and ashamed because I do this. I tried to hide that from family, if they were coming over I would get dressed and put make up on and then sit and talk like I was just as normal as them.

    My first relationship turned marriage, I told him about what happened to me, at first he was sympathetic, but as our relationship grew he started abusing me physically and it didn’t happen all of the time. When we did get into fights I would always shut down, I still do to this day, that would anger him and sometimes I would get hit, he used to lock me in the house when we fought so I wouldn’t run, well it happened again while my sister was visiting, her and I went into my bedroom and I had her pretend to talk to me while I was escaping through the bedroom window. We tried to make a go of it one more time because of our kids, they were babies and I was only 20 at the time, then one day it hit me like a ton of bricks, something I had stored away in my mind, all of a sudden I remember one of our fights and he got so upset and told me that I could go back to my dads and turn tricks for him and his biker friends, when that memory came I realized that it was over, I couldn’t stand him anymore. I am now just realizing that I was getting into this relationship at 16, because I wanted to escape what was happening at home, so in a way the abuse followed me. He had made me tell my mother when she came to visit us, cause he said I was so &/&(@/ up. So with all the strength I had I mustered up and told my mom what happened, her and my father divorced when I was 10, well guess what her answer was?? Not gonna believe this one, she said ” I had a feeling and if I didn’t have god in my life I could go over there and kill him” and that was that, never spoke of again, I was only 5 years old when it started, she left us at my fathers while she galavanted around the US following this guy or that guy, sometimes we would visit her, but she had very bad luck with men, we flipped back and forth, we were very neglected as kids, locked in our room a lot and good ole fashion corporal punishment!! When we got older we roamed the streets, and luckily we didn’t get hurt, I am so angry with my mom right now, and her disgusting husband I have been pretending to like just to be able to visit her. He has manipulated and controlled her life and I can’t watch it anymore, her husband has been smoking pot with one of my brothers step kids since she was 13, he has been grooming her for years now (that’s from my therapist) the girl is now 23 years old hooked on pot, she is at their house first thing in the morning after she goes to work and she is there every single night getting stoned out of their minds while my mom checks out on her computer when she gets off work, so I am seeing this sickness being played over again, I couldn’t see it as a child but now I see it full circle slapping me right in the face, two weeks ago I decided to sever ties with them, I do not take their texts or phone calls, they don’t know what’s going on yet but they will soon. My mom is always putting her husband first and she pushes him on me, I can’t even talk to her on the phone without her telling him what I say as I say it and he tells her what to say back ( does anyone think that’s a bit odd), about a month ago I went and stayed with them for a week and they didn’t have anywhere for me to sleep so I slept in their bed with my mom, when I get home she calls and lets me know that I left a hair product their and her husband would send it to me, well I got the box, called to say thank you and you won’t believe what he said, he said,”I was gonna send you a lock of my hair so you will remember my smell from sleeping on my side of the bed” I was so disgusted with it and it didn’t bother my mom one bit. I’m done with them now.

    I’ve tried everything over the years, therapy, groups for sexually abused women, forgiveness of him, nothing works anymore and I’m no better off then I was then, in fact I’m worse. I will never understand and I feel as though I have been given a life sentence.

  51. Thank God you wrote this article to share. I am in the process of figuring out who I am after being abused by many people in my family. I am in a relationship and still unable to trust that he would not be a sexual predator type. I have my eyes and ears wide open. I will not forget it ever again. I have been writing things down because Im afraid of how easily I chose to forget those things. I have been choked up for my entire life about it. My abuser tried to apologize to me one day, of course he didnt say for what. My sister told me im making up repressed memories. I know now that I have to distance myself from them. My grandmother also sexually abused me and then I spent my entire childhood being discredited by her, because I used to tell people what was bothering me, and she took all the effort to tell them I was a problematic child who lies and my dad believed her.
    This article also reminds me, my dad was abused as a child and has some characteristics of a sexual abuser and it makes me feel even more uneasy. I lost 75 pounds after my abuser died.
    I didnt know why suddenly I felt safe enough to do it.
    I was also in a relationship with a sexual predator for 4 years, and got out of it.
    I am so so scared that the person in my life right now is the same.
    I know how to listen to my inner voice just a little more.
    I also hope he’s not an abuser but how can you really know for sure?

  52. Natasha, I am afraid I will have to acknowledge some of the abuse my dad did to me.
    I am so glad I packed on weight which made me pretty much sexually disguesting to my dad and brother. They are both violent people with abusive personalities.
    I am disgusted even thinking of the things that I have had to witness and the things that have happened to me.
    The one thing I know for sure is that my body is smart enough to remind me something isnt right, and it has stored physical memories. I am seeing a therapist for somatic experiencing, which started happening to me like crazy the past 2 years. I have been raging and feeing very intense sensations and emotions wihen certain parts of my body are moving. Core exercises help me a lot to get in touch with the gut feeling that I so badly need to tap into, that I have shut off for the whole of my life.
    I am really sad and feel like I cannot reclaim myself, also worried about being in relationships with guys like this.
    My boyfriend is an alcoholic. He is manipulative and lies.
    I know this but didnt want to leave the guy while hes drunk out of his mind for some reason.

    I know he drank because his mother is a sexual predator. I told him this, and he said he knows. I met this person who has a similar history of abuse and I can’t remain in the situation but I want to help myself first. I know if I ever married this guy I would not want my children near his mother, also the alcohol has to stop.
    I feel stupid writing those things down because it seems pretty clear I should probably get away from that situation…but I am confused and don’t want to lose him if he actually is the person he says.
    I thank God for being able to remember things and voice them now after so long…just dont know how to trust myself with men. I put myself in countless dangerous situations with abusive men… I want to treat myself better because I know I can.

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