Peace and Protection From Abuse

Apr 2nd, 2012 | By | Category: All Posts, Christina's Blog

by Christina Enevoldsen

The sun was falling behind the trees, the wind was gusting and the child desperately sought refuge, though not from the elements. The same man who had hurt her before in ways she couldn’t understand was getting closer. The girl spotted movement in one of the houses. A woman was inside, cheerful watering the dozen or so plants that hung at her window. The small fists banged on the door, “Let me in…Help me, PLEEEEASE!” Getting no reply, she ran to the window, frantically motioning for the woman’s attention. Seemingly oblivious to the sobbing child’s face pressed outside the glass, the woman continued humming to herself.

With nowhere else to go, the little girl tried to hide, willing herself to be invisible, hoping the danger would pass if she stayed quiet and still. But as she crouched in her makeshift refuge, the man was beside her, hovering, reaching down…

My mother wouldn’t tolerate anything that was disturbing. If her peace was threatened, she had a way of locking it out with something stronger and colder than bars and gates. Over the years, I made several attempts to ask for help, for protection, for comfort, for guidance from my mom. I told her things that would have unsettled her if she’d actually heard me. She either walked out of the room or if she stayed, she remained unmoved, vacant. She loved her peace.

I wanted peace too. I wanted to be able to sleep securely in my bed instead of being violated by my dad before the sun came up. I wanted relief from my role as a sexual toy to my father and his friends. I wanted freedom from the vague but constant feeling of being hunted. But my mom wanted peace, so there wasn’t any peace for me.

I pursued peace all of my life and I thought I knew the way to get it. Surviving the abusive system meant that I learned “my place”. I believed that placating abusers was the way to achieve peace. There were rules to follow and as long as I was “good”, I’d be safe: Keep quiet; don’t expect better; don’t question anything; don’t resist. Conflict was life threatening and there was no standing against it. Abusers always win, which meant more punishment if I didn’t cooperate. I adapted by becoming very sensitive to other people’s moods so I could fix them before something bad happened. It’s no wonder I grew up a people pleaser.

Like my mother, I learned to keep my head down and keep the peace. I didn’t question the rightness or wrongness of that system—I just accepted it. I tried to live in peace by being peaceful, but that didn’t work. I was victimized more, not less. There was no pleasing abusers. In all my efforts, in all my experience with a lifetime of abusers, not one of them ever stopped hurting me because I finally “won them over” by being good enough. Whatever I did, they always found ways to criticize me so they could punish me with more abuse. I wanted peace, but they wanted power.

Believing I lacked any ability to impact my environment, the only “safe space” was the false safety I created within my head. I dismissed potential danger; I ignored possible threats. My mantra was “It will be okay”. For all my efforts, peace eluded me.

Escaping into my head was the only place I could go when I was a child. But the abuse and the abusers were in my head too, manifested through the lies I believed about myself. To really have peace, I had to fight. I had to wrestle with the truth within myself.

The truth is that I’m not a child anymore, whose only hope of survival is to gain acceptance. I’m a capable adult and I won’t die if I oppose someone. Their displeasure won’t kill me and their rejection won’t harm me. I don’t have to go along with things I don’t like and I don’t have to be quiet. When I stopped fearing the consequences of conflict, I learned to oppose abuse.

Years ago, I thought the most frightening thing in the world would be to stand up to abusers. But the willingness to stand toe to toe with an abuser isn’t where I needed the most courage. I showed the most courage when I started to stand up to the lies within me—when I began to challenge the false messages I learned from the abuse. When I was finally able to confront what really happened to me and really understood the truth, confronting abuse outside of me became much less difficult.

The old role of “peacekeeper” sometimes tries to pull me back in. In a moment of panic, I feel like the same little girl who had no impact, whose only defense was to submit and hope “it” wouldn’t be too bad. But I’m not that helpless, frightened little girl anymore.

When abusers go unchallenged, when victims go unheard, there is no peace. I’ve declared war on the abusive systems of the world. As I’ve stood for the truth, truth has caused conflict in my relationship with others, but I don’t try to control that anymore. I don’t need others to affirm the truth for me to believe it. I don’t have to have “peace” with others to have peace within myself. Yes, I’ve made some enemies but I can finally sleep peacefully.

Now that you’ve heard my experience and thoughts about this, I’d love to hear yours. Please comment below and don’t forget to subscribe to the comments so you can continue to partake in the discussion.

Related Posts:
Forgetting About Abuse: Who Does That Really Serve?
Standing Up For Myself: Reclaiming My Self-Worth
Domestic Violence: The Signs I Missed
Dating After Sexual Abuse: Who Was I Attracting?
Straight Talk to Parents About Protecting Children From Sexual Abuse

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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27 comments
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  1. This is my story too.

  2. This is such a common theme for me as well and I applaud your courage. I also need to remember to applaud myself when I tentatively begin to display the same courage to face the tangle of lies, confusion and emotions that taking on the distorted identity that abusers have put upon me.

  3. Debra, I’m sorry this is your story. I hope you’re healing too.

    Netty,
    I agree that recognizing those victories is so important. I used to be so critical of myself and never gave myself credit for anything. Now I applaud myself often and it feels good!
    Christina

  4. I can relate to your story Christina.
    I also have made some enemies along the way in breaking the silence but yet i feel more at peace. I do not need anyone to validate the truth for me but myself. I used to never listen to what i thought, i would only listen to what other people thought. I never validated myself because no one in my life up until a few years ago ever validated anything I had to say. These new positive people sparked a huge fire within me and it smashed lots of distortions within myself so I could no longer stay silent. Ive lost all relationships i the family, I have no family left but they were never the definition of family, they abused me and when I spoke those who werent the abusers sided with him anyway and would never validate the truth. But it is true, I sexually abused by my father and I am not afraid to say it anymore, I emotionally abused by mother and neglected at times when I needed help. I was threatened daily and manipulated into believing this is how parents treat their children. I am so happy though that I found the truth within me, even gathered courage to report it. I no longer am silent, actually I speak very loudly about it even if some people do not like this.

    Sometimes though the fear I lived with for my lifetime (im only 26 but for 22years i put up with this way of living) so that fear creeps up within me some days that i have to reassure myself i am in a safe place now, no one can harm me and if they try I am strong enough to know they are wrong and I can protect myself. I wake from my sleep in panic attacks until I remember where I am. The damage that has been done is huge but I have come so far that those negative voices that were planted within my head are been fought against stronly every day and my voice is becomming the more powerful one. This is how I am fighting for my peace xx

  5. * i meant i was emotionally abused and neglected BY my mother.. mistake in my text above

  6. Mairead,
    That’s wonderful that you’re finding protection in the truth too. Abuse is perpetrated and the abusive system is perpetuated through lies. Without the lies, it can’t continue. The truth is so liberating! I’m so glad that you have supportive people in your life who have validated you and that you’re validating yourself now too. Awesome!
    Thanks for sharing your experience.
    Christina

  7. Christina, Thanks so much sharing,
    I too always tried to make peace and i thought i was doing the right thing by not saying anything. I looked at my self as a sacrifice for the peace of the family. I was abused by my two older brothers.
    now, I’m working on processing the abuse and learning how to cope with it.
    However, this week my brother is coming over to my house, i wish i could prevent it, but i cant and i never said anything to him until 2 weeks ago, now i’m scared….should i threaten him not to talk to me about the abuse? will that make me more at risk? i don’t think he will respect a word i say anyways…

  8. Nicole,
    I thought my silence was “for the good of the family” too. Now I see what a sick system I was protecting and that it’s not something that should be preserved. What’s so sacred about a group of people who destroy the most vulnerable of them?

    Anyway, I’m sorry you are in that position with your brother. I found that people started respecting my boundaries when I started really believing that I had a right to set those limits–when I truly believed that I was worth protecting and that I was the one who had to do the protecting. I hope you know you deserve to be treated better.
    Christina

  9. Hi Cristina I too was abused by my grandfather and another ternage girl from the ages of 5 to late teens. I was coping ok up until a couple of years ago where I sought help from a psychologist. And though it helped it didn’t help as much as I thought. I have thought of suicide many times and I do cut myself also but not as much these days. Some days it’s such a convoluted mess if emotions that it’s hard to make sense of things. Not sure what else there is to do The psychologist says I must learn to support myself which I try to do everyday but sometimes I feel I need a bit more. Thank you for sharing your story as it shows that you can lead successful lives even after such devastating experiences.

  10. Carerina,
    I’m glad you have hope for leading a successful life. I agree that self support is vital. Believing I was okay on my own and really could do this went against all the false messages of abuse. The abusers in my life wanted me to depend on them so they could continue to control and abuse me. They did that by constantly tearing me down so I was left with zero self-confidence. But all of that was lies and now that I know that, I’m free from dependence on anyone. The truth is all of us really can heal. Thanks for sharing your experience!
    Christina

  11. It won’t kill you physically to stand up to abusers but, if every single person in your family is either a) an abuser or b) an accepting victim (like my brother Tom is), then you’ll be emotionally and sometimes physically isolated from them. They do it to you either on purpose (like when my Aunt Rosemary threatened to beat the shit out of me – when I was an adult she did this) or b/c they refuse to stand up to it; i.e., my brother Tom. And he’s even physically TRAINED to stand up to abuse. Physical abuse. And he will, but he refuses to stand up to any verbal abuse of another family member. He just sits there and says nothing, and he’s the one who blabbed to A. Rosemary, saying I was calling our mom an abuser.
    The truth sends them into demonic actions. Like that makes any cotton pickin sense.
    So, except for coming here and going to Emerging From Broken, I’m literally emotionally isolated from my family just b/c I said I’m not going to put up with the crap.
    I don’t know whether to like that I stopped letting it happen or not, b/c the price I paid was isolation from every one of my brothers and sisters. Emotional isolation and, with some, physical isolation. They stopped seeing or talking to me.

  12. Hi Its Clare
    I feel as Im certainly getting over what happened even though I still want to see him behind bars Plus Im getting over other fears like facing the police. One day he will get whats coming to him Im trying to believe that well being positive is harder because Ive lost my first flat Then I thought I was moving in to my new flat and things again have gone flat so Positive Im not.
    From Clare

  13. Vicki B.,

    I relate a lot to what you said. I haven’t been in contact with my birth family in ten years because I, too, refuse to put up with the abuse anymore. I believe nobody should ever, ever have to tolerate abuse just to be part of a family. That’s just wrong in my book.

    I attempted to confront my birth family over the abuse a few years after I went no-contact. I knew they would retaliate, and they did try, though nothing came of it, but they tried for the better part of a year to make my life Hell.

    I have no regrets – in fact I felt like a huge burden got lifted because I no longer am playing the expected role of secret-keeper, and I did what I could to warn others that they are not safe; that they choose to do nothing with the information is out of my control. I do, however, wish I’d taken this step while under the care of a counselor to have a strong support resource in place, and I wish I’d talked to an attorney ahead of time so I’d have known what my rights were and not been intimidated by their actions.

    Even if I hadn’t gone this route as an attempt to heal and get closure, I still would have experienced emotional abuse (IMHO, an entire family system shutting out someone for standing up to abuse is in itself more abuse) and isolation because I refuse to tolerate their behavior anymore and will not go back. If I did go back, you’d better believe things would be worse, because it would be yet one more thing for them to hold over my head and berate me. No thanks.

    But, exactly what did I give up? People who have always treated me as “less than,” who blamed me as being the reason for their problems (even though I’m the youngest/last born), who ridiculed me, had to belittle and insult my feelings, needs, and accomplishments… and really never loved me as I practically begged for their acceptance, or for them to even like me. When I saw how *little* I lost, in combination with finding the support I needed, I was able to start letting go.

    I learned along the way that we can create our own families. I have a husband and two children as a foundation, and I have others in my life who have filled in roles of being the brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, etc., that I never had.

    When my birth father was diagnosed with cancer three years ago, the therapist I saw at the time remarked, “I think you’re ready to become an orphan.” She was right… even if my birth parents are still alive, I don’t need them anymore, they are no longer my parents in the real sense of the word, and I do not need anyone else to fill those shoes. I have a heavenly Father and Mother, and I find as I continue to heal, they have fulfilled a lot of emotional and spiritual needs my birth parents never did. I’m sure more layers may surface that I will need to process and heal from when my birth parents leave this world, but for now, I’ve said my goodbyes.

  14. I appreciate this post! I have been documenting my working through abuse and the ramifications over the last few years. It’s nice to know that I’m not alone.

  15. I also appreciate and applaud this post. My first abuser was my father. Thank GOD it did not last long – a stroke took him from us when I was 9. I still loved him – there was no violence in my situation with him, only emotional blackmail. I don’t know what would have happened had he not passed away when I was 9.

    My second abuser was my older brother – and again, no violence involved, just manipulation of my emotions and my burgeoning sexuality. I thank GOD I started my period late – otherwise I might have gotten pregnant by my brother (shuddering). My sister (also an abuse victim via my father) walked in on us and immediately told my mother. She is no longer with us (health issues) but I am thankful for her “running and telling”.

    I don’t have a good handle on how this might have affected me, ultimately. I have a wonderful relationship now – with a man I’ve been married to for 21 years – and while I read the struggles of others who have experienced abuse, I have not yet manifested those kinds of after-effects. One more blessing? I’m just not sure. The story needs to be told – or does it? Everyone involved in my story – except for me – is dead and gone. What would it serve to tell my story now? I have a wonderful, loving husband and a good life – I’m not sure I WANT to remember / handle / bring to the surface anything that might be left of the time when I was abused.

    I prefer to stay in my happy and relatively healthy reality NOW, not dwell on the painful parts of my past. Is that wrong?

  16. This brings up a lot for me. i just am angry at my mom right now… and hurt.

  17. same as my story.!

    I love this part in particular ” When abusers go unchallenged, when victims go unheard, there is no peace “

  18. I was wondering if I cold have permission to post this story on my web site.

    Toni McKinley
    Crowns of Hope Director

  19. Vicki,
    I agree that it can be very isolating to stand up and speak out the truth. There is definitely a cost. It hurt to realize that my family only tolerated me as long as I went along with things, but on the other hand, I’m glad to know the truth about where they stand. My life is so much better not surrounded by lie-lovers. It allowed more room for much healthier people and that’s so enriching to my life.
    Christina

  20. Clare, I hope things are starting to get better for you. Hugs to you!
    Christina

  21. PS,
    I love your question (and answer), “What exactly did I give up?” That’s exactly the conclusion I came to. Those people weren’t “family” to me the way family is supposed to be. I’d clung to an illusion. It took a lot of grieving to realize how much better off I was without the people who required me to earn the so-called love they dished out. Thanks for sharing!
    Christina

  22. Wounded in the Past,
    Thank you for sharing your story. Emotional blackmail and manipulation is just as damaging as violence. In my case, it made me think for a long time that it wasn’t as bad or that I could have said no or gotten away, which made me feel guilty. It’s a horrible thing to have your own emotions used against you.
    Christina

  23. Hi Toni,
    Thanks for wanting to share this! Our copyright permissions allow others to share up to three paragraphs of any page on this site and must be accompanied by either the author of the post and Overcoming Sexual Abuse or the URL to the page it came from. Whole articles, blogs or pages cannot be reposted. Let me know if you have any questions.
    Christina

  24. Hi, amazing turn of events two weeks a go when my aunt spills the beans of having a series of court visits, turns out a niece of my uncle in law is claiming he sexually abused her. My memories flew back creating an unwelcome burst of stress and anxiety. I tried to tell my aunt when I was 8/9 years old but she had him stand over me and by his side she cried ‘tell him what you told me’ I am now dealing with a divided family. I have to speak to a police officer on thurs to see if it’s time to face what occurred all those years ago. My family have always ignored my story. Now that he had been convicted and awaiting a trial it’s finally no longer my word against his .
    I was just begining to love myself and to train myself to put me before everyone. I’m scared, I’ve already lost my family but it feels like I’m the one locking them out forever. I wish I had stood up to my uncle in law and stopped him, where am I going to get the strength to do it now? Wish me luck x

  25. Christina –I don’t know how I have just come upon this information. Just searching the internet and all of a sudden, there you are.
    You know that we were good “church” friends with your parents. I am in shock over this information.
    But, truth be told, I have been in shock over much information that has come our way since leaving LWBC.
    In reality, I cannot believe you have made this horrific stuff up. I see the generational curses fall down through each generation on many evils, including this one. The “trail” this sexual abuse has left is pretty good evidence.
    I am glad you have “escaped the trap” and you and Don are hopefully living a good life in California.

  26. Peggy,
    I can understand being shocked about this. Honestly, I didn’t want to believe it either and worked most of my life trying to separate myself from it. This is definitely something that’s been going on for many generations in my family–on both sides. I’ve heard family stories, but didn’t understand their significance until I started facing the truth. I hate that it passed to my children, but Bethany and David are working to face their own issues so they are equipped to protect their children.

    It’s great to hear from you. Thanks for your support!

    Hugs,
    Christina

  27. I hope you are ok now.

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