Standing Up to Our Incest Family Part 1



Key ideas:

[00:00] – Introduction

[00:43] – A special message for survivors abandoned by their mother and for mothers who didn’t protect their children

[02:54] – Bethany shares the disconnection she felt growing up being sexually abused by her dad and abandoned by her mother

[05:13] – I share how the beliefs I learned from my childhood led to the dysfunctional ways of parenting

[09:05] – Bethany shares the biggest fear of the abuse being known and why she was finally able to disclose her abuse.

[10:12] – Bethany discloses her sexual abuse to me and shares how she felt to finally reveal the secret

[12:33] – Bethany and I each confront her father for sexually abusing her

[16:09] – How Bethany decided to heal and report her dad to the police

[18:40] – Bethany starts standing up to her dad’s control and begins distancing herself

[20:05] – What happened when we filed a police report and what the detective asked Bethany to do

[23:22] – Bethany records her dad’s confession

[25:18] – The detective notified Bethany that her dad had been arrested

[26:39] – Bethany’s grandmother reacts harshly to the news of Bethany reporting her dad



Bethany’s bio:

Bethany is the cofounder of Overcoming Sexual Abuse and is a successful business owner. She’s a wife and mother of two. She’s passionate about holistic health, gardening and beauty. 


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Episode transcript: 

Welcome to the Overcoming Sexual Abuse podcast where you get the tools and inspiration to help you overcome childhood sexual abuse. I’m your host, Christina Enevoldsen, certified coach, author and incest survivor, and I’m here to help you heal and live your very best life!

I’m joined by my daughter, Bethany, who is also the co-founder of Overcoming Sexual Abuse, and Bethany shares what it was like to grow up in an incest family and how that sabotaged our mother-daughter relationship. We talk about how we stood up to our incest family together and then started on the healing journey. 

This conversation with my daughter represents one point in time in our relationship, and the things we discuss here happened many years ago. We’ve had many, many raw and real tear field discussions about all of this. And the last thing I’d wanna do is to make these issues sound easy to work through. In fact, they were so hard that we couldn’t talk about them right away.

If you’ve been abandoned by your mother, this episode may cause your pain to resurface. It’s one of the most painful things a person can experience, and I encourage you to be there for yourself and to take care of yourself in whatever loving way you need.

Also, I share many of the ways my abuse contributed to the way I mothered Bethany, and the way that that left her unprotected from the sexual predator that was in our very own house. And in no way do I use that as an excuse. No matter the reasons, I’m Bethany’s mom dnd it was my responsibility to protect her, and I failed at that.

My hope for sharing the nuances of how my abuse impacted my parenting is to speak to parents about their own healing journey so they’re in the best possible position to parent from a healthy place.

If you are a parent whose child was abused, no matter how much you may have changed now, or are working on changing, that doesn’t necessarily resolve anything in your child’s heart.

Your child still needs to address the pain and anger of you failing to protect him or her. And they get to decide how that impacts your relationship.

This part of our story is not meant as a map for repairing that. However, I do have a free guide to walk you through how you can do that, how you can heal your part of the relationship. And I’ve asked my entire community of survivors for their input for this. And I share the things I learned, both as a mom walking through this myself, and from the perspective of a daughter who’s a mother betrayed me. So be sure to grab that.

Now we’re gonna jump into the conversation with Bethany. What was your childhood like? What was your abuse experience? How would you describe how it was for you growing up?

I saw it as normal because that’s all I ever knew. I didn’t think that my friends were necessarily getting sexually abused. I just, it was almost like that was the, those were the cards I was dealt. So I, um, I saw it as normal. There were other really happy aspects of my childhood, and it was sort of like compartmentalize. Yeah.

I think that’s a lot of how incest survivors feel is this is, you know, you, you’ve never grown up in another kind of family. So how would you know that there was any other options of what life was supposed to be like? Yeah.

Where was I that that could happen to you? 

I think all throughout my childhood, I never felt really connected to you. I felt held at a distance and I was a very cuddly child. And, um, I very specifically remember reaching out for that affection and being pushed away. And I felt kind of gross. And I think it set up the feelings of not being able to turn to you.

Maybe, I don’t know that it would’ve made a difference because I was so fearful about this secret coming out. Um, so I don’t know that it would’ve made a difference. Maybe, maybe it would’ve, or maybe it would’ve given more support. Um, but when I did eventually talk about the abuse, you were the first one that I came to. Yeah.

You know, I remember times in your childhood where you would wanna be close physically, and I didn’t encourage physical closeness ’cause my mom was distant from me, and my dad was the only one who was affectionate with me, who was also sexual with me. That closeness meant sexual, and so I didn’t wanna be sexual with you. And so, you know, I was trying to protect you from that. And I also, um, felt gross myself. And I didn’t want to contaminate you with my grossness with how dirty I felt. And of course that, you know, we’ve talked about that before. But knowing that didn’t, didn’t give you the mother that you needed the physical affection that you needed,

I would have to tell myself when you would fall down, uh, crying, having, you know, gotten hurt. And I would have to tell myself, go pick her up and comfort her. Nothing was natural. It was all very mechanical, and so you didn’t have the support that you needed. And another part of it is that I just felt like I was inferior as a human being, so I didn’t deserve to be a mom. And so I felt like you had this great relationship with your dad, which looking back now, it makes me sick to like, think of it that, you know, you and your dad had this, and I’m using air quotes, special relationship and, you know, I feared rejection. So I didn’t, um, you know, pursue you, um, pursue a relationship with you. I just abandoned you to him.

And it is, it breaks my heart now to think about it again. I mean, we’ve had so many conversations about, uh, your what happened with you and about how you were affected by what happened to me and that, but every time I talk about it, it, it’s, uh, not something that it doesn’t, it’s not easy to talk about.

And it’s one of the reasons why I do feel so passionate about healing from abuse, because I know I would’ve been a completely different mother had I healed before I had children. Thankfully, we were able to repair our relationship or actually form a relationship in the first place because we didn’t have have much of one.

So you were really alone with your abuser for most of your childhood.

So one of the things that I was so afraid of through my childhood was people finding out. And I knew that if that happened, my parents would get a divorce. And I don’t know if it was part of growing up in the church or, um, just my view of divorce, but it was presented to me that people who come from divorced families are dysfunctional. I didn’t wanna be dysfunctional.

I knew that if that secret came out that it would lead to divorce and I wanted to keep you guys together. Little did I know that we were already dysfunctional. We were already very dysfunctional.

Um, so, uh, once my parents got divorced, and that was when I was 19. Yeah. I had this aha moment where I was like, oh my gosh, I can tell I have been holding this secret in my entire life and I can finally tell.

At that point we were starting to form a relationship for the first time we were living together and we started to become friends. And I had a trust in you. I think it was a Saturday night. I sat you down and I told you, and we did a lot of crying. Yeah. That was, that was big for both of us. Yeah.Do you know what you were looking for when you told me?

I think I was just so excited that I could tell, like it was, it was like, um, I think I was looking for a release maybe, and I don’t even think I thought about it, what the repercussions of that was gonna be or what was gonna happen next.

It took a lot of courage though. You said you didn’t think about it, but, um, but you didn’t really have any idea of what, like you said, the repercussions would be.

I think your reaction to me telling you was so right. It was very validating and I felt so believed, and it was like a whole other world was opened up to me. It was like, oh my gosh, this secret we’ve been keeping from each other. Mm-hmm.

We can talk about now, now it went from my dad and I having this bond that was based on the secrecy to us having this bond over our, um, shared experience.

Yeah, that’s a good way to put it.

After that experience of telling you, I remember I told my youth pastor at church, I told a few friends, it just became something that I was just like, I’m not shutting up. Like once that once that dam was broken, it just burst. Yeah.

It might’ve been the next night that, remember my dad came over and we talked about it. He was saying like, oh yeah, that happened. You know, what can we do about it? You know, like, not, what can we do about it? Let’s, uh, sweep this under the rug. Right. You know? Um, yeah. That happened. Um, and he blamed it on his childhood. Right. And, uh, because he was abused by his own parents, and it felt like he never took responsibility for abusing me. Uh, because the entire conversation switched to, to an excuse, which I understand that happens with a lot of people, but it’s not an excuse to abuse somebody else.

That he, he made himself out to be the victim. Right. And he wanted us to feel sorry for him, and he didn’t want any consequences for what he had chosen to do.

And I think that worked for a while, feeling sorry for him because it was something that was new to me. Like I didn’t know that he was abused by his parents. And I just, I think it was like, oh, and it was a lot to unpack. I think I did feel, you know, I was still under his spell and I did think I still need to protect my dad. I just needed to tell for my own good. And I really didn’t have anybody question whether or not that was true. Yeah. Everyone, like my dad admitted to it. Um, everyone around me was just like, it was just sort of this new fact, like, oh yeah, that’s, that’s what happened. Yeah. That was a really validating experience.

I had my own separate conversation confronting him because when I confronted him about it, I called him after you disclosed to me and told him what you had told me. And he said, “Yeah, so?”  I was so furious that he would admit to it, but just dismiss it, that that was something that he didn’t expect that he would have any consequences for or should have any, he didn’t seem to feel guilty or remorseful. He just, um, seemed arrogant and defiant. 

So I, I wanted to report him to the police. But I even then, and I tell this to parents and partners of survivors, that it, it’s not about your feelings. It’s not about what you want to happen to the perpetrator. Um, if the is an adult and they don’t want to pursue, uh, reporting it, then that is their choice. Their choice was taken away through the abuse. So they need to be the ones to take back their power through having their own choice.

So what, what was it that then eventually you decided to heal? How did that happen?

So I was, uh, about 24 at the time, and I had scheduled a pap smear. It was the first pap smear I’d ever had. And I started having these feelings of fear. Um, I was afraid that they were going to, uh, take a look at me and, uh, see what my female anatomy looked like and realized I was so messed up that I had to have been terribly abused and, uh, that I was just disfigured. And it, it made me realize that I had so much more to deal with. 

That you were still living with the effects. Yeah. That you, you’ve told me before that, that it being so apparent that the abuse was still affecting your life, even if, if you weren’t disfigured, that you were afraid of being disfigured, which was an effect of the abuse.

Right. And I think it was this, this major moment in my life where I was like, oh my gosh, this is, there’s gonna be a lot to unpack here. There’s going to be, there’s gonna be a lot that I need to deal with. And it wasn’t, but a week later that I had made the decision that I needed to report my dad.

I don’t think I knew what to do. Like what was, what the answer was for, uh, a path to healing. I think I just knew that that was the first step that I needed to take. Um, and it’s not the first step for everybody, but that was, um, that is the first thing that I did.

What was the process like for you? Where, where did you start? So I started, first thing I did was I called you, I remember the relief in your voice, like you are just so happy. Like it was this thing that you’ve been waiting for for a long time. Uh, Yes. You know, I knew it was your choice whether or not to face the past, but it was heartbreaking to see the effects and know that something could be done.

How did that affect your healing? Because it, it wasn’t the greatest experience.

I think the initial reporting was a breaking of ties with my dad. He still had so much control over my life and I was really pushing back, um, in the years prior to that. And, uh, he did not like that. He did not like that one bit. And it really caused a lot of strain in the relationship. He wanted to control my finances where I lived, all of these little aspects of my life. And, um, He really acted like he owned you. Yeah. And he, he was entitled to dictate. Yeah. So when I pushed back, um, that caused a strain.

So I wasn’t talking to him very often at the time, because if I did not have that big break in the relationship, it might’ve been easy for him to come back and say, “But I love you. You’re, you’re my daughter. And, um, and you always will be. And I didn’t mean to hurt you.” And I knew that I couldn’t be hearing those things if I were going to move forward in my own healing. So to stop protecting him and start really standing up for you. For sure.

So we went through the reporting process. We scheduled a trip to go to Arizona, um, because we were both living in L.A. at the time. Yeah. But the abuse took place in Arizona, so that’s where it needed to be reported. When we went out to Phoenix, we used to do this, um, this thing, we would lock lock arms, Thelma and Louise. 

Thelma and Louise. And we would just, like, here we’re, we’re going for it off the cliff together. So I can’t tell you how many times we locked arms and looked at each other on the way on that drive to Phoenix, just like we’re doing it. And we listened to a lot of Shania Twain that Yes, we did. Yeah. A lot, lot of singing and just, woo, we’re going for it. Um, but, I’d, I’d rather die standing than live on my knees. Yes, Yes.

We were just both so empowered because it wasn’t just somebody who was my abuser, it was somebody who was also abusive to you. Yeah. So being a part of that I think was like, we both got to say no to an abuser. Yes.

So we went to the police department there and they asked us all sorts of questions, deep prodding questions, all sorts of details about the abuse that, um, that I had never spoken out loud.

But I remember the female detective being so great. Mm. I think I just really respected her. Mm. And it was great, it was so great to have somebody initially in that process that was so, that I felt really, really had an, an emotional connection to this. Like, I felt like she was really fighting for us. Yeah. She seemed very passionate and compassionate. Yeah.

And that was at a, a special unit for family violence. Right. And so they were trained how to take statements from victims of family violence.

So they interviewed me and then they interviewed you. And to clarify, they interviewed me because he had confessed to me. Right. 

Then they asked you to do something that was pretty difficult. mm-hmm. In a lot of cases where there is no physical evidence is they need to get some sort of confession. They asked me to call him and, um, that it would be recorded and that I would lead him in confessing. This was while you were still at the police department? Yeah. Yeah.

We called and he did not answer the phone, so I left a message. Um, it was really disappointing when he didn’t answer. Um, probably, probably good because I had a little bit of time to prepare. Um, and they ended up sending me home with a recording device that you can attach to your phone. And, um, so I was able to, uh, receive this call anywhere.

And so the next day, um, I was in the middle of doing my makeup and he called and I, um, ran to the phone, was trying to get it, get the recording device ready, frantically. Um, I think I answered the phone first and then hit record.

Um, and then just started talking with him, trying to pretend like everything was normal. And I ended up telling him that I was going to counseling and that part of my therapy was confronting my abuser. So I started going through, I basically told him, this is what I need from you. And, um, I went through details of things and I said, do you remember this? And, um, some things he would say yes. Some things he would say, I don’t remember, but, you know, I’m sure that happened. Mm-hmm.

Um, and it was just, there were several things that I was able to do that with until I just couldn’t remember anymore. Or until I felt like, oh, if I ask him anymore, he’s gonna catch onto what I’m doing. Yeah. So I got off the phone with him and it was just a victory and it as the best acting I’ve ever done in my life.

So that must have been, it was a Friday, right? It was right around lunchtime. But the, that detective that you were working with was off that day. Right. So we had to wait all weekend to know if that was enough. Absolute torture. And meanwhile, we weren’t allowed to say anything to any family members because if, if your dad was tipped off, then that could be dangerous both for him and for the arresting officers, especially because he had a gun collection. Mm-hmm.

And then, yeah, Tuesday evening they called you to say that he had been arrested. Mm-hmm. He was arrested at his business. Yes. And it was such relief.

It was a day or two after he was arrested and his mugshot, um, was posted online and it was only posted for a few days, but we got a screenshot of that and printed it out. And I just kept looking at it and looking at it because it was the first time I ever saw him as somebody who wasn’t so powerful. I always felt like he could get away with anything, that there was no, um, accountability for him that he would just always get away with whatever he got away with. You know? It just, I always saw him as so powerful.

Well, he always did. Yeah. He always got away with everything. Yeah. He and everybody always believed him. Mm-hmm. And so that was just amazing to me to see him looking like, you know, he wasn’t so powerful.

Yeah. So when my dad was arrested, um, I spoke to my grandmother on the phone. This is my, your mom. Yeah. And the first thing she said to me is, you wicked, wicked girl. You have destroyed our family.

And then I don’t remember anything after that. I remember you overheard, I was sitting right next to you. Yes. So she heard and she grabbed the phone and started saying something. I don’t even remember what you said. I just remember being in such shock. Yeah, it was, it was, you kind of froze.

And so I grabbed the phone and I said, do you believe that her dad sexually abused her? ’cause she believed it. All you know as from as far back as you’d told her, and she knew about it. Mm-hmm. So was always supportive of me. Yeah. Never questioned it.

So when I grabbed the phone and I asked her if she believed you, then she said, I don’t know. Like it was okay. It was okay for her to believe it, as long as there was no sides to take, no consequences, no pain to fake. It was just life was gonna go on and everybody was gonna be happy. Nothing at stake. Yeah. Nothing at stake. That’s a great way to put it.

And now that there were some consequences, she didn’t like that. Mm-hmm. And suddenly she did not believe me anymore.

Thanks for joining us today. In the next episode, we’ll continue with the court case, more family betrayal and the painful and yet empowering effects that had on our healing journey. And remember the free resource I mentioned in the beginning, A Mother’s Guide to Making Amends.

I encourage you to get this because I share not only how to relate to your child, but how you can relate to yourself, because those are very different approaches to each, and they really can’t work without considering both. To download that for free. Go to the show notes page at

When you download that, be sure to accept my invitation to subscribe to my emails, and I’ll send you lots and lots of healing tips and resources. You’re gonna love it.

I’m bringing you more on healing boundaries, self-care, family dysfunction, so be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss any of it.


Standing Up to Our Incest Family Part 1

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