If you are a survivor of abuse, an injustice was perpetrated on you. You did not deserve it, you did not contribute to it, and someone should have protected you. Not only are you justified in addressing your abuse, but it’s also the right thing to do for yourself – and the world. But…for many, your family members tell you, in words and actions, the opposite of these truths. People in your family don’t believe you, blame you, still fail to protect you, and/or want you to be quiet about the traumatic past that you’re working so hard to overcome. This dilemma is the reason I have begun to write my story: I have been living with hurtful family responses for over two decades.
Recently at a family memorial service, I had to see my mother for the first time since I ended most of our contact a few years ago. I was anxious. But something happened inside of me that day that told me I am growing stronger.
Walking down the street toward the church, I reminded myself that I held the moral high ground. My mother has ostracized me while openly supporting the brother who sexually abused me. She is now hurt and angry that I will not see her anymore. She has reportedly told our mutual friends and extended family that she doesn’t understand what I am upset about – despite all the times I explained myself to her. She apparently sees herself as the victim.
She is wrong. I am the person who has been victimized: first by my brother and then by my family’s response. Though I have often doubted myself over the years in the face of my family’s attitudes and treatment toward me, I get this now.
And so, confident in my right to be proud of myself, I walked into that church flanked by my supportive husband and daughter. I gave my mother a polite hug. I attended to my daughter’s needs, offered love and support to the family of the deceased, and stayed true to myself. Through it all, I held my head high. No matter how my family members treat me or what they think, I know the truth. My truth matters and yours does too.