This past week in the survivor community on Facebook, an abuse advocate was exposed as an abuser. It caused an uproar, with some siding with his victims and many (including other advocates) supporting him.
Like all abusers, this advocate has groomed this community to see him as a hero, not as the abuser he is. He has positioned himself to be the victim of this “smear campaign” and has garnered the sympathy of many.
I have no doubt of his guilt. I know one of this man’s victims and I’ve seen his vile emails and texts. I’ve also seen the same pattern in all of the women who have come forward. The publicity is reaching others who have been degraded by him and we are learning about more victims almost daily.
When I was sued by my parents for exposing the sexual abuse that was perpetrated on me by my father, my lawyer asked me a question: “How do you if know your memories of sexual abuse are real?”
He was defending me against charges of defamation of character and intentional infliction of emotional distress so that was a fair question.
Though I was solid in my history by then, that’s a question I asked myself frequently as I faced my past.
I didn’t always remember my abuse—at least not consciously. I repressed most of it until I was an adult. When the memories returned, they felt like dreams. It was like seeing them through a wall of water or heavy mist.
As much support and love as there is in the community of survivors that gather online, there is a topic that seems to divide us. I’ve rarely witnessed discussion topics that become as hostile as the issue of forgiveness.
It’s easy to understand why there would be so much disagreement considering that there are so many definitions of forgiveness. To some it means accepting the past. Others define forgiveness as letting go of negative emotions. To some, it coincides with reconciliation or feeling no ill will toward towards the abuser, while others believe it has nothing to do with a relationship the abuser.
Added to that, forgiveness is very often preached as necessary for other survivors. It’s one thing to say that forgiveness is important to you, but quite another to insist that it’s important for all survivors or to tell others what’s best for their own healing. That’s when forgiveness discussions turn into defenses against boundary violations and condescending remarks.
I never expected that I’d be reporting my sexual abuse. When I was nineteen, I finally shared the secret I’d kept all my life—my dad had sexually abused me for most of my childhood. My parents had recently divorced so the fear that my disclosure would end their marriage no longer applied.
My mom knew of another girl my dad had molested before my mom met him so she offered to go with me to report him. I told my mom that I didn’t want to take action out of vengeance. Looking back, the truth was much more complicated.
My dad had controlled so much of my life up to that point, even more than I realized. I was groomed for so long to protect him, even at my expense. Telling my mom about the abuse was one thing, but telling the police was another.
by Christina Enevoldsen
When I decided to report my dad, I didn’t even know if the abuse that had happened forty years ago could be prosecuted. I checked on the Arizona statute of limitations but because of how it’s worded, I still wasn’t sure. I also didn’t know if I remembered enough to make a case, especially since I didn’t have any physical evidence. Even though I was full of uncertainty, I decided to do as much as I could.
I was familiar with the process of reporting sexual abuse since I’d gone with my daughter to report her abuse. I left a message for the detective who handled my daughter’s case when we reported her dad. I held back the tears as I choked out the words. Then I hung up and waited.
I didn’t hear back for a couple weeks. It was agonizing. I felt forgotten, unheard and discounted. I discovered that I should have phoned the main number of that unit instead of calling the detective who worked on my daughter’s case.
When it came to my own dad, I didn’t feel that way. Even though both of our fathers had done the same things, I didn’t believe my dad deserved the same punishment.
Reporting my dad for the things he did to me seemed like reporting him for making me go to school or forcing me to eat my vegetables. I didn’t see a crime. I believed my dad was entitled to do whatever he wanted to me and that I deserved it. It wasn’t about who the abusers were; it was about who the victim was. It was horrifying to think of someone else being abused but it didn’t seem as wrong or as illegal to sexually abuse me.
Even if I had recognized that I was just as valuable as any other abuse survivor and deserving of protection…
New Year’s Day is traditionally a time for a fresh start. There are the usual resolutions and goals that everyone seems optimistic about—the eagerness to leave behind the old and to embrace the new and improved.
Until the recent few years, imagining or planning what I wanted to accomplish for the coming year seemed impossible. When I tried to envision a future for myself, it was dark and hidden. It felt presumptuous to say I could or would work toward a particular outcome.
The control I had over my life was limited to how I would adapt to the disaster I knew was coming. I’d be ready when the rug was pulled out from under me. I became an expert at “making the best of a bad situation” and “going with the flow.”
By the time I married Don almost ten years ago, I’d started to end some of my abusive relationships but I was still feeling and deciding and acting out of the beliefs that I had as an abuse victim. In the first few months of our marriage, we had a horrible fight that ended with me slamming the bedroom door and shouting, “I WON’T LET YOU BULLY ME!”
Several months ago, I settled a sixteen month long lawsuit with my parents (actually, my dad died before the case ended so only my mother was left). They sued me for defamation of character and intentional infliction of emotional distress. I’d publically exposed my childhood sexual abuse by my dad and they didn’t like that very much.
I like to think of myself as a crusader. The internal image of myself is a fierce-looking woman, charging on horseback toward oppressors, declaring the truth to those they hold bound and inspiring them to overthrow the tyrants’ rule. I don’t back down from standing for and with the oppressed.
I’ve eliminated abusers from my own life, but after the relief of not having a relationship with my mother for nearly six years, she was back in it. With the lawsuit, I didn’t have the choice of walking away. I not only had to read the painful lies my mother used as “discovery”, I had to respond with a defense. I felt controlled and victimized again.
by Yvonne Ellis I’d finally hit bottom. There was nowhere else to go. The reality I didn’t want to face was now in my face. I’d spent the best part of ten years running away from the pain of myRead more
by Christina Enevoldsen
I’d known my dad was getting close to the end. Ever since I’d really been facing my sexual abuse, I’d wondered how I’d deal with his impending death. There’s such a fantasy about deathbed reconciliations. Death makes us consider what’s really important in life—love and the people close to us.
After a six year estrangement, I didn’t follow the advice of well-meaning people to “let bygones be bygones” before it was too late. I couldn’t buy into the “he won’t be around forever” threat. It reminds me of a high-pressure sales pitch, “Hurry! This deal won’t last!!!” But what kind of an offer is that? The advertised version of the last moments with my dad would be bittersweet but fulfilling, but based on my dad’s history, that’s not what I’d really be buying.