by Christina Enevoldsen
I never expected to see my mother again. I hadn’t seen her in seven years, other than in a court room, where she sat on the opposing side. She was there in support of my ex-husband while he was being sentenced to fifteen years in prison for sexually abusing my daughter, Bethany.
When my parents sued me for publicly exposing my dad for sexually abusing me, we only had contact through our lawyers. Considering the ways my mother has betrayed my daughter and me, I didn’t ever expect to see or speak with her again.
But that changed when my mom reached out to my adult daughter, Bethany, in an effort to end their estrangement. Bethany has worked hard at healing from her incest and family betrayal and has created a happy and successful life for herself far apart from abusers.
After Bethany told my mom that she didn’t want contact from her, my mother kept pursuing. My mom’s messages and comments were a reminder of the abandonment, betrayal and disregard for Bethany’s feelings so Bethany happily accepted my offer to intervene.
My mom and I met at the food court at a mall—neutral territory. I was determined to be as gentle as possible so we could remain on the topic of my daughter. I wanted to walk away knowing I’d spoken as clearly as I could, with no excuses for her not understanding how much pain she was causing someone she claimed to love.
I started by telling her that I didn’t believe that she was intentionally hurting Bethany. I meant it as a way to build a bridge in the hope of true communication.
“Of course not! You know my heart,” was my mom’s response.
While I was still living in the abusive system with the beliefs that go with it, I would have been guilted back into “my place”. Part of “my place” was being careful not to offend; I had to speak and act in a way that acknowledged my inferior position.
In my old beliefs, I would have heard (and believed) my mom’s statement as, “You should know by now that I always act in your best interests. Think of all the nice things I’ve done for you. You need to appreciate me instead of questioning my actions or motives.”
But I don’t fall for those manipulations anymore.
Yes, I know my mom’s heart and the actions it has produced. She’s accused me of lying about my abuse, she’s accused my daughter of destroying the family, she’s defended two sexual abusers over her own flesh and blood. Yes, I know her heart.
I responded with, “Mom, you sued me!”
It’s clear to me now that she didn’t expect such a strong answer. Maybe she still expected me to be the “good”, compliant daughter that I used to be.
When that didn’t have the desired effect, she tried another tactic. “You’re so angry! I thought that you had healed more by now.”
She meant it as an accusation, as though there is something wrong with being angry. My mom doesn’t believe that healing and anger are compatible.
The opposite is actually true. I was passive about abuse for years. I considered it normal. I wasn’t angry about the way my parents treated me because I didn’t recognize anything wrong with it. Even if I had, I didn’t consider it wrong to do those things to me. Even if I thought I had some value, I didn’t believe that it was wrong for my own parents to do those things to me.
When I recognized the abuse for what it was, I finally became angry about it. The anger motivated me to create the boundaries that I needed to maintain a safe space. Even after our estrangement, their abuses continued to trickle toward me through gossip, letters, email, comments on my website and finally, the lawsuit.
Even so, I worked through that anger—at least enough to sit across from the woman who hurt me more than any other person I’ve ever known and still be civil and kind to her.
But then she attempted to manipulate me and put me back in “my place”. Yes, that made me angry. Contrary to what my mother believes, being angry about abuse is a reflection of my healing, not my lack of healing. Anger is a normal, healthy response to injustice.
Even the fact that she suggested that I should be over my anger by now is dismissive. Angry for what? My mother has never acknowledged that she’s done anything wrong to me. In her view, I was the one who abused them. What does she think I should be over?
Of course my abusive mother tried to shame me for being angry. Becoming angry about my abuse was my transition from being a victim to being empowered. It’s the voice that shouts, “Stop!” or “No!” It motivates me to take action and stand up for my rights. Anger was my shift into validating myself instead of the devaluing lies. Since I’ve owned my power, my mom’s ownership of me ended.
I’d love to hear your feelings and experiences about being angry about your abuse. Have you been judged for being angry? What do you feel when someone says, “You’re angry”? Please share your thoughts with me below and remember to subscribe to the comments so you don’t miss any of the discussion. You can post anonymously and emails are never shared publicly.
I’m Christina Enevoldsen and I’m the cofounder of Overcoming Sexual Abuse and the author of The Rescued Soul: The Writing Journey for the Healing of Incest and Family Betrayal. I’m a Strategic Interventionist and Certified Professional Life Coach with a specialty Life Story Certification. As a survivor of incest, sex trafficking and a 21-year long abusive marriage (now remarried to an emotionally healthy, loving and supportive man), I bring personal experience, empathy, and insight as well as professional training to help childhood sexual abuse survivors thrive.