by Christina Enevoldsen with Bethany
If only I’d have known these family holiday survival tips years ago. When I remember holidays with my family, I think of stress. The image that comes to mind is everyone else laughing and having a great time, while I was miserable. I don’t remember many holidays as a child, but as an adult, holidays used to be times of emotional abuse from my parents, mostly my dad, and from my ex-husband.
While we were married, the usual pattern for my ex was to work up my emotions right before we arrived at my parents’ house. He’d feign a misunderstanding or falsely accuse me of something or criticize me–whatever would upset me. By the time we arrived, I’d be on the verge of tears or I’d be angry. Then my parents would correct my bad attitude and all three of them would join against me for ruining the special day.
One of the deepest sources of pain for sexual abuse survivors is the lack of support from family members, especially from parents. Over and over again, survivors of abuse have expressed the feeling that as destructive as sexual abuse is, it’s the abandonment and betrayal of their parents that hurt the most.
Conversely, when a child is believed and supported in childhood, the effects of the abuse are significantly diminished. Many parents don’t learn about the abuse until their child is grown, but understanding and support remain important even for adult survivors.
We asked survivors to share their stories and feelings about their abuse and the rejection of their parents. This is a collection of their thoughts, from their hearts, in their own words.
A few months ago, I got word from a family member that my paternal grandmother was found unconscious in the middle of the night and rushed to the hospital. She had suffered a brain hemorrhage and was on a ventilator as her heart rate began to slow. The doctors weren’t optimistic that anything could be done.
I didn’t know her well. I spent a summer visiting my father’s parents when I was ten but the rest of my relationship with them was quick phone calls throughout my childhood. As my grandma got older, she began to forget who I was, so our relationship dwindled in my teens.
Years ago, my dad told me that both of his parents had sexually abused him. When he was eight years old, they took him into their bedroom and taught him to have sex with his mother while my grandfather watched. What they did to him made me sick and angry with my grandparents.
by Patty Hite, Jennifer Stuck & Christina Enevoldsen
Patty: Thirty years ago, when I started to heal from sexual, physical, and verbal abuse, there were no support groups for survivors. No one talked openly about abuse, especially not about sexual abuse.
I tried to talk to my friends. Though they felt compassion, they thought the best solution was to forget it and try to move on.
I lived in a very small farming town of 750 people. Seeing a therapist or doctor who understood the effects of abuse was not an option.
Bethany: Father’s Day feels so empty to me–like one of those holidays like Flag Day or Secretary’s Day. Why should I pay attention to those? I don’t have a flag, a secretary or a father. My dad is in prison for sexually abusing me for most of my childhood.
Father’s Day for me has always been about going through the motions. Why should I honor a man who doesn’t deserve honor? He contributed a seed, but after that everything he for me was destructive.
Christina: I remember writing Father’s Day cards that really gushed about what a great dad I had, but it was always what I thought I should have felt about him. I felt guilty for not being more sincere. I thought something was wrong with me for not feeling closer or more loving. I tried to work myself up to appreciation and admiration but writing those cards always felt hollow and like a lie.
by Christina Enevoldsen & Darlene Ouimet Christina: The other day, I was felt unsettled about some things and, as usual, I poured out my heart to my husband. He’s a good listener, so as I processed my feelings I realized
by Christina Enevoldsen, Bethany, Patty Hite & Jennifer Stuck Christina: When I talk about my childhood sexual abuse, I see it as an opportunity to validate my inner child. As I reveal the horror of what happened to her, I’m
by Christina Enevoldsen & Bethany Childhood sexual abuse often leaves the survivor vulnerable to more abuse and afraid of being victimized again. In this ten minute audio discussion, Christina Enevoldsen and Bethany share how they turn their violations in adulthood
by Christina Enevoldsen & Bethany My daughter, Bethany, and I were both sexually abused by our fathers and were strongly opposed by our family when we dared to seek justice for her abuse. We’re sharing how we came to terms
by Christina Enevoldsen, Chris Kuhn & Ron Schulz Many survivors of childhood sexual abuse believe their family to be supportive and nurturing—until they talk about their abuse. They are surprised to be rejected, ignored, ostracized or even threatened with violence.