It has become clear to me that the insidious, covert types of abuse that occur within highly dysfunctional families with narcissistic emotionally abusive parents, can cause considerable damage, but takes a lot longer to decipher and come to understand.
The shame and guilt of scapegoating, the covert forms of incest and emotional and mental abuse of a step father who is within a ‘circle of pervert friends’ that abuses his children, can be very hard to comes to term with and due to it being covert and less obvious can cause more denial within the family, than the more overt and obvious forms of child abuse.
It’s only when you stand back and consider it from a totally un-emotional point of view, that you can see the clear picture. This is what I have had to do about my own parents. It is only through the last 8 months of therapy, I began to understand exactly why and what had gone on within my own family.
As far back as I can remember my mother was withdrawn, depressed and neglectful, but different when around other adults, and maintained an image different to o reality. I cared for my siblings a lot. At 11, my baby sibling slept in my bedroom, I would tend to her if she woke in the night, give her the first bottle in the morning before I went to school. The last thing I had to do every morning before I left to get the school bus, was wake my mother with her cigarettes and ashtray and if I forgot, there would be hell to play. I looked after my siblings like they were my own. If any of them got hurt, I was to blame. I loved my siblings so much, they were like my own children when they were young. We were out playing all day, staying out the way of our mother, who would complain about their noise, want to sleep and read all day.
As a child, myself and one of my siblings were sexually abused by one of our parent’s friends. I had been encouraged often to visit this friend who lived near us. I was sexually abused by him for 3 years. When I finally had the courage to tell our parents – because I was devastated to find out my sibling was being abused too as I caught him molesting her – they blamed me. I was 12. They said I should have told them earlier and then it wouldn’t have happened to my sibling. I got blamed. They didn’t ask me what abuse had occurred, so they never found out I had been forced to watch hardcore porn at 9, molested, forced to do sexual things. My therapist said to me maybe they knew what was happening, so that’s why they didn’t ask.
They never showed any concern, just told me shut my mouth and never phone Childline – the child abuse hotline that had not long been set up. A few years later, my step father was seen by myself talking with that abuser like they were still friends. (Mt step father also wanted to remain friends with another family where abused had occurred within our family). My mother also saw this, dragged me away from the window and told me to shut my mouth and say nothing.
This is not the normal reaction of parents who find out their children have been abused. The normal reaction is to be very angry, want to go and rip the abusers head off, report them to the police and show the abused children much love and care. None of these normal reactions occurred. This profoundly affected me.
I carried the devastating guilt, shame and blame enforced upon me for what had happened to my sibling for 3 decades and I still have nightmares about it frequently. The worst part about it is, that sibling denies her father ever did anything wrong, although she always had been his preferred child. She appeared to like his in-appropriate behaviour, as is also common within dysfunctional families. The levels of denial and scapegoating abuse is deep and has gone on within our family for decades.
I have only recently through therapy come to realise the full extent of all this abuse and how a child is singled out for scapegoating for several reasons, (i) to create someone to blame, and (ii) – to keep the family secrets from ever getting out and (iii) to make no-one believe the scapegoated one, discredit them, call them an attention seeker, drama queen, liar and encourage other family members to join in.
No empathy is ever shown to the scapegoated child, no matter what abuse they might have endured, and this is exactly what has happened. Even now family members completely ignore the abuse I have endured throughout my life, choosing only to be in denial, side with their abuser parents and continue the scapegoating abuse the parents started and try to stop the family secrets being exposed.
They have been so conditioned into showing me no empathy, they truly believe I don’t deserve any, even after a court hearing where a violent psychopath who raped, beat and tortured me for several years, threatened me with hurting my family etc, went to prison. Still no compassion, no empathy from family. Just as they were taught. Text book narcissistic behaviours and traits within a dysfunctional family.
As a teenager I endured lots of covert incest from one caregiver, all enabled by the other caregiver who did nothing to stop it. Far too much talk about sex, discussing my body and my friends bodies, to the point where one of my friend’s refused to come to our house any longer due to my ‘weird’ step father and had told her parents and they refused to let her come to my house. I was mortified, highly embarrassed and although I didn’t understand why all this ‘weird stuff’ was going on – I instinctively knew it was wrong.
More incidents of abuse included my parents telling me it was okay to walk around in my underwear – as that was no different to a bikini – which of course it is, and was highly inappropriate. The step father walked in on me too many times as I was getting undressed, I learned to wedge my bedroom door shut. He also liked to take baths with my female siblings until they were around 5 or 6. It used to really gross me out. This is highly inappropriate behaviour, I know that now. I don’t remember if he did that with me, I seem to have blocked out many memories of between 4-7.
Even around the time I was about 7 or 8, I do remember I used to hang a jangly thing on the end of my bedroom door handle so I would wake up if someone came in my room at night. I didn’t feel safe, even then. You can imagine what my therapist thought of that, children that age don’t feel they are unsafe unless they have good reason to.
Later on I was also scapegoated for the failure of my parent’s business and bankruptcy. I was always made to feel unwelcome, like I was tolerated, rather than cared about, used. Even my friends pointed out how I was being used by them for money etc. I lived 100 miles away from them and tried to visit them every month. They never visited me, phoned me. I was the black sheep of the family. I wasted so much time trying to get them to love me, giving them money, trying to part of the family, protecting my siblings.
I’ve had many lengthy periods of time not speaking to them, either individually or collectively. Now, I have no contact with any of them and won’t again. My step father is dead. I went to the funeral for my siblings to support them. Not for me, or for him. I wasn’t upset he was dead. I found out recently he had started physically abusing my siblings, hitting them, one incidence was described as him grabbing a sibling by the hair and hurling her across the room. This doesn’t surprise me. When this physical abuse was happening, my mother and step father separated. When he died, I wasn’t upset he was dead. I was upset for my siblings. They are related to that caregiver and I am not. I now wish I hadn’t gone to the funeral, but at least I know in my heart why I did it. I also choose not to mention any names to still protect my siblings a little. I don’t have to, because I know they need to come out of denial, accept the reality of our childhoods, the abuse, who caused t and why. I still hope they will, but this will be a journey they will need to experience without me, as I have a right to say enough is enough. I’ve always been there for you, always tried to help you, protected you. But now I need to focus on me.
There are many more incidents of abuse, way too many to list here. But they all add to one thing, abuse. And a lot of it.
With the help of my therapist, the enormity of all this abuse, the core level damage as a result and the start of what would cause all further abuse I endured and disorders like PTSD I now struggle with – all come back to my caregivers. I have put the blame firmly with them, just as my therapist had told me I need to. Just as my husband and friends also say I need to, I refuse to hold any shame or guilt or blame anymore.
I have removed the toxic relationships and have taken back my power. I have removed the abusive power at its source and many people around me who love me are very pleased, including my therapist who said it is the first healthy boundary I have implemented. I feel free of the toxic and destructive chains.
It is a very liberating and freeing step to take. I have done a lot of work towards my recovery from decades of abuse. I still have a lot more work to do. But, I am moving in the right direction.