Exposing Your Abuser Part 2




Quotes + Episode Excerpt

There’s the bystanders, the enablers. The ones who have something to say about how far you’re taking it. Who accuse you of seeking revenge. Who want you to make peace. Who think you should move on. They  have lots of opinions about how you’re handling the story of your abuse. But keep in mind it’s not their story, it’s yours. And the funny thing about these bystanders who have so much to say about the wrong way you’re going about sharing your story is, they use their voice, the flex their muscles, in your direction, feeling so self justified that they are standing up for the right thing. And notice it’s not toward the abuser’s direction. It’s not about standing up the real harm. It’s playing it safe with someone who they perceive is harmless. Conflict with you isn’t dangerous. It doesn’t cost much of anything, if anything. But if they actually stood for real justice, if they used their voice to condemn  the abuser rather than condemning you, they just might have consequences. So those bystanders are scared. While they act morally enlightened, puffing their chest out, advising you on the right way to handle your life, keep that in mind. They don’t have half the courage you do.”


Be the first to know:

As an insider, you won’t miss any of my healing resources and latest updates.

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!

In the last episode, I shared the truths behind those internal and external pressures that keep us locked up with the secrets. I ended with my parents hearing about me speaking out and the certified letter from my mother demanding that I stop. We’ll continue with how I processed her threats, the subsequent lawsuit, and how you can better protect yourself from the social and legal consequences of exposing your abuser.
When I got the threatening letter from my mother, there were three voices inside my head. I heard the voice of little girl inside me who was very intimidated by both the threat of getting in trouble and of being rejected, and I was also aware of an older, maybe teenage version of me that felt good that my mother was paying attention to me. She’d heard what I was saying. She was taking the time to write to me. I was on her mind, and that made me really sad that I’d missed that love from my mother so much that her threat felt like a positive thing.
And as I read that letter, I also heard my adult self who felt empowered to stand up to the threats. With that adult self, I knew I needed to address those emotions that were coming from those younger versions of me.
The inner child’s perspective was based on the past, and in that trauma state, there’s no reasoning with her, and a lot of us try to do that with our fear. There are times when I recognize my fear and I say to myself,
“I’m moving forward. That’s all there is to it.” And there’s a place for that when it’s present based fears. But in something that’s triggered by old childhood wounds like this,
this is an opportunity to heal those wounds and undo the damage that was done in the first place. If I just said, “Get over it,” that’s like your child being terrified of monsters in a room at night and you just brush it off saying there’s no such thing as monsters and you turn off the light and close the door and leave her alone in her fear.
Your adult self, your parent self, is thinking rationally, but that’s not the inner child’s language. She needs connection, and you can say something like, “I sense how much this scares you and how much pain you’re in,” and you can ask her if she wants to tell you something because she needs to be heard.
So let her know that what she feels and says are important and that no matter what happened before or what’s happening now, you’ll always take care of her, and let her know that she’s not the one who has to face this situation. You as your adult self can handle it. She’s free to rest and to play.
So part of hearing the child within me was listening for her responses to the parts of this letter from my mom, and I dissected this letter to process the pain and the fear that I was feeling and to allow my adult self to speak to them just one by one, and so I re-read the letter, and it said, “I’m writing to inform you,” and the way my mom phrased that statement was so impersonal as if to emphasize her distance from me.
My mom had distanced herself from me all my life, and this was a painful reminder of that. It wasn’t an overt threat, but it felt threatening to my child self.
The fear of abandonment forced me to comply as a child, but I’m not forced to comply anymore. I’m a self-sufficient adult, and my parents’ rejection doesn’t mean death. At the time of this letter, I hadn’t had a relationship with them in years, so I knew I could live without them, and actually the separation from them brought me so much more happiness and fulfillment in life.
But it was good to acknowledge that fear that my inner child was feeling and to comfort her and to remind her of the truth.
The next line in the letter, “I’m writing to inform you that your malicious slander of your father has not gone unnoticed.”
And the little girl inside of me panicked when she heard that. Oh no, they caught me doing something bad. And it’s understandable that my child self would fear this because she’d lived by the abusive family rules where only certain family members were allowed to miss the mark.
They were excused and we covered up whatever they did, but anyone else was shamed. Malicious slander sounded so evil. And it was that same fear of being labeled bad and fearing not following the rules.
So it’s understandable that she would react that way because she was used to my parents having the only say what they said goes. And my child self needed the assurance that we don’t have to follow those rules anymore. I carried my dad’s shame for what he did to me long enough. And I wasn’t the one who had done anything wrong, he was.
My mom labeled what I said as malicious slander, but her calling it that didn’t mean anything. I didn’t do it maliciously and it’s not slander if it’s true.
The next line was, “You’ve built an entire world out of your fantasy.”
My mother’s claim that I was making this up was crushing to my inner child. She’d felt invisible to my mother her whole life and now she felt tossed aside with that same dismissive attitude. “Your abuse didn’t exist and neither do you.” And in my mind, I was a small child standing before my mother pleading for her protection and comfort, and though I want to make it clear,
I don’t remember ever doing that when I was a kid. I just envisioned that it was symbolic. Not being believed or acknowledged was dangerous then,
but I didn’t need my mom to believe me now. And this was important that I was aware of just how much pain this caused and how much fear I felt and to comfort myself in this.
And the next line was, “In dreaming up your sexual abuse, you have maligned your father’s character and deeply hurt his heart and mine.”
In my parents’ twisted world, they were the victims and I was their abuser, and the little girl in me felt guilty. To cope with the abuse, she took care of my parents’ feelings and she still felt responsible to fix their feelings. My inner child needed the assurance that she was safe and she didn’t need to fix anything. My parents being angry with her, or angry period, wasn’t dangerous. And that was a big one because a lot of my people pleading came from that and that was huge to address that.
In the next line, she said, “Your lies will surely catch up with you.”
As I heard this from my inner child’s perspective, it was like hearing, “It’s not only your dad and me who will act in opposition to you, but powers bigger than us will get you and you’ll be sorry you ever crossed us.” And that struck such a nerve and I realized that I’d always been afraid of that. I had this vague fear that God or some powerful force would punish me for talking about my abuse. I was always on guard, never knowing which direction that retribution was going to come from. And I’d pushed aside that fear and dismissed it as silly but as a child, my parents were gods to me. They were all powerful and they held my life in their hands. And when I recognized that, the illusion shattered. Not only were my mother and father not God or gods, they don’t represent God or love or right living or life or anything remotely godly. They didn’t have the power to pronounce judgment on me.
In the next line in the letter, “I want you to know that if you have any plans of writing a book, we will sue you and anyone who has anything to do with it. Your defamation of your father’s character will stop. You will not enjoy one penny from any book published about this gross lie.”
And obviously this was before I wrote my book but notice how in this letter she goes from trying to order me to stop and then using guilt and playing the victim to back to powering over again in her demands. And this is a common power and control pattern with abusers when they feel like they’re losing control.
In the next line, “and I should let you know that we filed some of your inflammatory statements about your father and me along with your threat against me with the Mesa Police Department.”
And when I first read that, I was a little girl again terrified of getting in trouble. Oh my gosh, now the police are involved. It was one thing to be sent to my room and another thing to be sent to jail. And I had to assure my child self again that I’d done nothing illegal or wrong. My dad was the criminal, not me. And though my mom claimed claimed that she and my dad reported me to the police, I don’t actually know if that’s true. There’s one thing that I had to keep reminding myself again and again. Abusers lie. And one of the biggest things that stood out to me about this letter is that it’s written by my mother. In fact, this is one of three letters that I received from my mother since our divorce. And if my dad was so innocent, why didn’t he make an effort to clear his name or confront me about the so-called lies about him? Why was my mother the only one protesting?
This threatening letter was a turning point in my healing. The way I worked through it with my child self and with my adult self brought me clarity and freedom. My parents meant to intimidate me into silence as though I was still that little girl that they could manipulate and control. But it made me more motivated than ever to speak out.
About a year later, my parents did sue me. They sued me for defamation of character and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
And I was at the point when I’d done a lot of work to eliminate any abusive relationships for my life. And then when the lawsuit came, it meant I couldn’t walk away from abusers this time. I not only had to read the painful lies my mother used as so-called discovery, I had to respond with the defense. I felt controlled and victimized all over again. Not knowing the outcome of the case, how long it would go on, how much money I’d have to spend. It was difficult to make plans or to be motivated to do anything else in my life. And it felt like I was a prisoner to evil all over again.
The longer the case dragged on, the weaker I felt. Initially, I’d felt so empowered speaking out and now I just wanted to curl up in a ball and hide from the world.
It’s normal to go from fear to boldness to fear to boldness. And it’s actually really part of the normal, healthy nervous system. When you get outside your comfort zone,
your nervous system says too much and then you run back to what feels comfortable so you can get regulated again in that calm state. And then from that regulated state,
when everything feels great, you can afford to take a risk again so you get out there and it’s really healthy to do this. So if you notice yourself getting bold one day and timid the next, that doesn’t mean you’re a coward and it doesn’t mean anything’s wrong. This is just what growth looks like.
And a mistake to make when you put yourself out there and then you get scared is in criticizing yourself because criticism puts you into that stress response of fight or flight and that’s the opposite of that nice calm state of being regulated. And so when you run back to safety, you can either allow yourself to just rest and be calm or you can criticize yourself and not allow that rest and calm. And if you do that, then you’ll be dysregulated so it’ll be that much harder to get out there and take more risks than to stand up for yourself.
The most painful day of the lawsuit was when I realized the force of my mother’s efforts to shut me up. And I felt like it was just the denying of my existence. The things that she wrote about me held so much disgust and as though she was finally giving voice to all the things I’d sensed she felt about me since I was a child. And I barely survived her then. And now instead of cold silence, it was brutal attacks. It just felt like total annihilation. And that’s what my mother seemed to want.
I’d love to be able to say that I walked with my inner child through all of this and it was fine. And the truth is many days and weeks, I was just showing up as my child self,
not my adult self. And it was though I’d forgotten that my adult self existed. A lot of times it was just the little girl in me being attacked by my parents. And sometimes I felt like I couldn’t breathe through another moment of it. And as suffocating as it felt, I knew I’d feel even worse if I gave in. I didn’t doubt that I’d continue to stand. I just wondered how I was going to find a way to continue.
But I had moments of clarity and that brought me a lot of strength. I’d been feeling so cheated by the injustice of all of this. I was only trying to do good and I thought I deserved a frickin break. And friends tried to encourage me with things like justice will prevail or truth will triumph. And that’s when the clarity came to me. Because part of what was wearing me out was the belief that this shouldn’t be happening. The sexual abuse during childhood was awful enough without heaping all of this on top of it. And the injustice was just really getting to me.
But the truth that I recognized was that’s not the world we live in. Innocent people are killed and raped and robbed every day.
And my parents stole my childhood from me and then invaded me again. If the world were just, I wouldn’t have been abused in the first place. History is full of people who stand up against evil and are destroyed for it. And the truth is, unfortunately, that good doesn’t always triumph over evil, and love doesn’t always win. And I think of those comforting platitudes being repeated,
and they give us a sense of control when we face tough things. Bargaining is a stage of grief, and I was desperately grasping for some sort of order. Do good and things will work out. Unconsciously, I’d made that deal with life. It was the same bargain I’d made with a lot of my abusers. I’ll be good, just don’t hurt me. And that deal never really worked well with abusers, and it doesn’t work well with life. I needed to let go of that childhood fantasy and accept the world as it is. Yes, I wasn’t owed anything for doing good, or being good. Facing that loss of control actually set me free. Letting go of the outcome was liberating. I wasn’t tied to the conditions that I’d been placing on my life. I didn’t need everything external to be okay, for me to be okay. And that new truth was one of the most empowering lessons of my whole healing journey.
Thankfully, after 14 months, the lawsuit ended favorably for me. My father died, and without his testimony, there was no case against me. I was ready to move on,
so I conceded to a few minor things that didn’t hinder me from telling my story or speaking my truth. The happy ending for me was pretty much getting to go on with speaking out as I had been before. but more importantly, it was the lessons I learned and the strength I gained in that. There will always be difficulties in standing up for the truth, but I would much rather face the pain of speaking out than the pain of staying silent.
If you’re considering exposing your abuser, whether that’s disclosing your abuse privately or speaking out publicly,
there are several things to keep in mind.
One is the little child inside of you will have feelings about it. She’ll likely feel fear, and that’s absolutely to be expected, and she might feel finally seen and heard, or she might feel shame, maybe all of those. Whatever she does feel, remember two things, that she’s a part of you, but you’re not that child. That’s not all that there is to you. You’re grown up and have had experiences, and you’re more capable of handling whatever may come. And you’re in the position to comfort her and tell her that she doesn’t have to face those things, any backlash that might come from telling the secret, that you’ll do that for her. And if there is backlash, whatever reaction you have to that, recognize that you’ll probably feel it from her perspective first. And that can make whatever you’re facing seem that much bigger, because if you’re facing it as a child, that’s terrifying and completely overwhelming. And so you can intentionally position yourself, so it’s your adult self who’s handling those things. Whenever she starts to feel afraid, you can imagine stepping in between her and the threat.
It might still seem big to you, but as an adult, you’re capable. Even if it doesn’t feel that way, you are. Another thing to remember is abuses about power and control. So when you’re dealing with the abusers, they aren’t likely to let you have the last word. They don’t think, well, you have your version of the story and I have mine, let’s just agree to disagree.
A few years after the lawsuit, I saw my mother one last time. I confronted her about the laws she included in the lawsuit discovery, and she justified it as just something she needed to do to win. No guilt or shame about it, she just seemed completely justified. So abusers will use whatever tools they have. They might play the victim one minute, like my parents did, and at one point, my dad said to my son, “I don’t know why she’d say those things about me. I love her.” And by the way, they often start the smear campaign preemptively, just in case you ever do expose them. It might even start in childhood. They might tell people what a liar you are, or that you’re unbalanced or crazy. And it’s to discredit you, so nobody takes what you say too seriously. And by the way, that shows that they know what they’re doing is wrong.
Both my parents alternated using those types of tactics on other people and then guilt on me, and then they’d switch to more overt power moves like the threats.
And I asked my lawyer, “How can we keep ourselves safe from these legal threats?” And there’s good news and bad news he shared about this. The bad news is that the things I would have thought would be fairly safe might not be. Like even if you don’t specifically use your abuser’s name, if someone could figure out who it is from the details you do give, you could be vulnerable to a lawsuit. Also, if you write a fictional story based on your life and change the names, if someone could figure out what actually happened, you could be vulnerable vulnerable to a lawsuit. If your abuser dies, someone could sue you in the name of the estate. And really, anyone can file a lawsuit for anything. But the good news is that’s very different from actually having a winnable case.
You can protect yourself by telling the truth and only speaking about the things that you’re certain of. You can do what I did and keep a record of any communication between you and the abusers. I kept the letters and emails that they wrote to me. And I also recorded my conversations with them.
Even though I didn’t get a confession from my dad, his week, I don’t remember that, was much different than adamantly denying the abuse took place.
Now, none of those things can protect you from being sued, but they could help you prevail if you are sued. Now, keep in mind, I’m not a lawyer, so it’s best to talk with a lawyer in your own jurisdiction to look into this more.
Okay, so we’ve talked about the internal things that keep you silent, the fear, the guilt, the false sense of loyalty. And we’ve talked about the abusers. Now, there’s bystanders or enablers, the ones who have something to say about how far you’re taking it, who accuse you of seeking revenge, who want you to make peace,
who think you should move on. And they have lots of opinions about how you’re handling the story of your abuse. But keep in mind that it’s not their story, it’s yours.
And the funny thing about these bystanders who have so much to say about the wrong way you’re going about sharing your story is that they are using their voice, they’re flexing their muscles in your direction, feeling so self-justified that they’re standing up for the right thing. And notice that it’s not toward the the abusers’ direction, it’s not about standing up to real harm, it’s playing it safe with someone who they perceive as harmless and conflict with you isn’t dangerous, it doesn’t cost much of anything, if anything. But if they actually stood up for real justice, if they used their voice to condemn the abuser rather than condemning you, that might come with consequences. So these bystanders are scared. And while they act morally enlightened, puffing their chest out and advising you on the right way to handle your life, just keep that in mind. They don’t have half the courage that you do.
I understand that it’s painful when the people who you care about turn against you.
And when you feel that pain or that fear, that’s an indication that the child within you needs that comfort and reassurance.
Well thanks for joining me today. I’m bringing you more on healing, boundaries, self -care and family dysfunction, so be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss any of it. 
Exposing Your Abuser Part 2

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.