A Split Response to Abusers

I have never found anyone who truly understood me. I have to explain the events of my life before I can even begin to explain who I am, where I have been, and who I hope to become.

I am a survivor! I am no longer a victim. I have survived unspeakable things and lived to tell about it. The problem with surviving is that survivors of sexual abuse and its after-effects survive in different ways. Many get to see their abusers punished and most never have to see them again. However, in the case of incest, you are always related to your abuser; they are always, in one way or another, a part of your life. My sister and I were molested by the same person, yet our experiences and our outcomes were extremely different.

Sharon grew to hate and resent our father. She even resented our mom because Sharon thought she had to have known what my father was doing. But I will say this here and now: abusers are very good at hiding their dirty deeds. My siblings, even Sharon who had been molested herself, never knew that I was being molested. I have never nor will I ever blame my mother for not knowing. I do however blame her for staying with my father once the incest came out.

Sharon would spend her life thinking our parents never did enough for her. It was like she wanted them to pay for what had happened to her, over and over again. She held them responsible for every bad decision she herself ever made. She turned into a very selfish person, always thinking of and putting herself before anyone else, even before her own children. She would have a life-long struggle with sexual indiscretions and extra-marital affairs. Sexual struggles affect most survivors of sexual abuse in one way or another.

Sharon was estranged from our family, for a long time, for a variety of reasons. Of course, that’s all changed now and I am the one estranged. It saddens me that we survived our childhood abuse as a family back then, yet now, decades later, we can’t hold it together.

I was angry with Sharon for a long time. I didn’t see how she couldn’t see past what our father had done and see him for the man he became. At the same time, she was angry with me and couldn’t understand how I was able to get past the abuse and still love our father. The truth is though that I went through a lot less than she did because I told on my father so quickly.

One night while lying in bed, contemplating the struggles in my own life, I realized that I don’t have a right to be mad at Sharon for her reaction to incest any more than she has a right to be mad at me. Every survivor’s story is different. Every survivor is affected differently. I remained mad at her for using my parents though. She wants to hate them but use them at the same time – you can’t have it both ways! It makes you a hypocrite.

However, I realized that her reactions were the normal ones. Most survivors do still hate their abusers. Most survivors still harbor resentment and bitterness and hurt, and while forgiveness may be possible for some, forgetting is never an option for anyone. I can’t be mad at my sister for having those feelings. However, whereas my sister exhibited behaviors early on, my behaviors came much later in life, or rather – my realization of them. My abuse affected me in ways that are rarely seen – I loved my abusers. Since I never dealt with the abuse, I spent decades wondering what was wrong with me – why was I so different from everyone else? It wasn’t until I was in my late thirties that I began to see the effects of sexual abuse on my life. I thought the abuse hadn’t really affected me, when in fact, it molded me. It’s what led to my need to be perfect, my need to not be seen, my low self-esteem, my need to be successful, all kinds of insecurities and OCD issues, my belief that sex equals love (I learned it didn’t the hard way), and it even made motherhood very difficult for me.

I often wonder what type of people my sister and I would be today if my mom had left my father, and for me, if my brother had been made to pay instead of protected and ultimately so revered in the family. With the way I was forced to stay with my abusers, as a “family”, I loved them for a long time. It is only now, these past few years that the hatred and resentment has set in for my brother and I don’t know what to do with that. I have an adult mind dealing with this, not that of a child. Since we are estranged, no one in my family knows that I have started dealing with my childhood, and I would be looked down upon for feeling the way I do now. The thing is -I believe it’s a normal feeling – I’m just feeling it 30 years later.

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