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 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.
by Christina Enevoldsen
When I started writing publicly about my healing from sexual abuse, I did it to validate my own history and journey and to inspire hope in other survivors. It’s been wonderfully empowering to record my triumphs and to share the process with thousands of fellow journeyers.
However, being so public about such intimate feelings and experiences has been costly. For the most part, I count it a bargain compared with the expense of silence, but that resolve isn’t always very convenient or comfortable.
One of the recent costs for being so vocal is a lawsuit from my parents. They are suing me for defamation of character and emotional distress. Through their case, they want to shut down OSA and silence my voice.
In the minds of my parents, they are the victims; I am the abuser.
I was twenty-two. I’d been married five years when I confessed to my husband that I’d been having an affair. While he decided if he wanted to stay with me, I went to stay with my parents.
The day I arrived to my parents’ house, I sat in one corner of their living room while my mom and dad sat in the opposite corner. The living room was mostly used as a pass through to get from the front door to the rest of the house. But on this day, I wasn’t allowed entrance to the rest of the house quite yet. I don’t remember anything specific that they said, but the message was, “How could you turn out so bad when you came from such a good family?”
My lifetime of abuse gave me the feeling of being the constant target of a nameless, faceless bully. Unable to conceal my terror or prevent whimpers from escaping, every sign of protest fed his lust for more suffering. He was never satisfied; the more he saw the pain he inflicted, the greater his appetite for more.
My hope for relief seemed to be in pretending I didn’t notice. I desperately wanted to be someone who could say, “Is that all you got?”
I couldn’t have conceived of chasing off my attacker or of defending myself. The only thing I could imagine was coping better by developing tougher skin.
It’s not a mystery to me where I learned to cope. While I was growing up being sexually abused by my dad and emotionally abused by both my parents, I had no voice, no impact. There was no escape from the bullies in my own home and it was unthinkable for my child self to say, “Mom and Dad, the way you treat me really hurts me and I deserve to be valued and respected. If you don’t change, I’m moving out on my own.”
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.
I didn’t actually plan to confront my dad. I didn’t think it would do me any good.
I wrote this several years ago:
“My dad has displayed his selfishness for as long as I’ve known him. I’m not under some delusion that he’ll suddenly develop a conscience and confess how he hurt me. He covered up the abuse when it happened without regard for how that would hurt me. He’s still doing that now. Holding out hope for some kind of healthy, compassionate response from him would keep me under his control and I’ve spent too many years there. I’ve moved on without involving him. He’s the one who would have destroyed me; he’s not the one to repair me.”
Before my phone discussion with my dad, I hadn’t talked with him in four years. I hadn’t expected to ever talk with him again. I’d been healing just fine without him and since my dad and mom walked away from me before specific memories of the sexual abuse surfaced, I didn’t think I’d have the opportunity to stand up to him anyway.
by Christina Enevoldsen When I discovered that my husband was sexually abusing my daughter, I went to what I thought was the highest authority—our pastor. In our church, if something wasn’t Christian, it wasn’t to be trusted. Secular authorities like