Voices from the Bedroom: When Speaking Your Truth, You Must Heal Your Need to Hear the Truth

This is part four of a four-part series. To read the other articles, see links at the bottom of this page…

If you cannot get rid of the family skeleton,

you may as well make it dance.

~George Bernard Shaw

The perpetrator will most likely deny everything, but the strongest refusal to accept the truth may come from the mother who didn’t protect the child.

Marilyn Van Derbur’s father admitted that he sexually abused her when she spoke with him alone, but her mother denied the abuse and told Marilyn, “I don’t believe you. It’s in your fantasy.”

There are books which suggest that a survivor, who has encountered total denial from the abuser or the mother, should tell them that they have repressed the memory of what they did. I don’t recommend this. There is some evidence that people who commit serious crimes do completely block it out, but no person can assume this is what has happened in any given case of a perpetrator denying their acts.

Shock will likely be one of the first reactions to the crime being exposed. Shock is commonly followed by a refusal to listen with an open mind. Most abusers hope that the secret will never be remembered, much less spoken of, so telling the abuser (or the mother who protected an abuser) that they might have mentally dissociated from what they did, will only bring more vehement denial.

Once the accusation has been denied, the accused will most certainly continue in this frame of mind and will most likely not accept that they could have mentally dissociated from their crimes, and most people don’t know about, or fully understand dissociation.

While it is possible that abusers have mentally blocked their behavior, I think most cases of denial by guilty people simply involves good acting. Their denial may even be so deep-seated (especially if decades have passed), they might have convinced themselves by now that they did nothing wrong.

If the perpetrator or anyone who protected him or her vehemently deny the abuse, and if the confrontation turns ugly, then the discussion is no longer helpful and it is best to walk away.

The truth that makes men free is, for the most part, the truth which men prefer not to hear.

~Herbert Agar

The predominance of survivors who have spoken up, have expressed that all they wanted to hear is their abuser or their mother admit to what happened, and then be sincerely sorry for it. Court cases and ugly family disputes could be avoided if the abusers found the humility to rectify the past with human openness and a heartfelt apology. Hearing the truth is so important and comforting that it can even help a survivor to immediately begin to work on forgiveness.

Yet, the sad truth is that even if the survivor speaks their truth with love and openness, remorse from the perpetrator (or anyone who protected the abuser) usually never comes.

When Marilyn Van Derbur confronted her father, he told her that if he knew how badly it would affect her, he never would have raped her. He then joined the False Memory Syndrome Foundation and donated a lot of money to them.

 I love you, and because I love you, I would rather be hated for telling you the truth than be liked for telling you lies.

~ Pietro Aretino

Most child sexual abusers are psychologically incapable of an apology, and the mothers who defend the abuser only know how to function by keeping the secret buried.

Therefore, the only healthy path for the survivor is to heal the need for truth.

Biological family members are still stuck in the old habits, patterns, and conditioning that caused the dysfunction in the first place. People who confront their perpetrators or family members with accusations of abuse need to remove any high expectation of anyone confronted with the abuse.

Expecting a good result, or being hurt by a bad outcome of abuse disclosure, is like expecting a person bound to a wheelchair to suddenly be able to walk, or like blaming the blind for not being able to see.

I have learned a simple truth. My family will not change, therefore my expectations of them needed to change. It is usually our desire of how families should treat one another that causes us to grieve, and our negative reaction to their bad behavior is what prolongs our suffering.

Those who find the courage to disclose what has happened to them, often learn there can be psychological punishment from family members who liked it much better when the truth was hidden.

When an adult survivor reveals for the first time that they were sexually abused as a child, it is the child within them, who is expressing the pain. This means the adult person will go through a tremendous amount of fear, anxiety, self-doubt, and guilt –because it is the inner child going through all of these emotions.

When family members, or the abuser, lash out against the inner child, the adult survivor can put on a symbolic suit of armor, take their inner child by the hand, and shield that child from any threats, intimidation, lies, and guilt.

My entire story, which includes my process of overpowering the family backlash after speaking my truth, will be available in my soon-to-be published book.

To read part one, click here. To read part two, click here. To read part three, click here.

_______________________________________________________

Source Notes:

Repressed Memories: a Journey to Recovery from Sexual Abuse, Renee Frdedrickson, Ph.D, Fireside Simon and Schuster, 1992, page 206

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13 Responses to Voices from the Bedroom: When Speaking Your Truth, You Must Heal Your Need to Hear the Truth

  1. cashaw30 says:

    I so relate to the article you wrote. The dissociation, denial, the superficial affection and “love”, the pretending and masking pain and anguish and guilt. All of this is within my dysfunctional family. I really like this blog. I’ve read a lot and relate so much. I recently confronted my “Parents” about the sexual abuse my father did to me and the fact my mother new and forgave “him” and turned her back on me. Dissociation and denial is a huge factor in these cases. My father actually said “maybe we are in denial” then my mother said “I am not paying your car payment and I guess you never want to see or speak to us again”. I said, “yes, I never want to see or speak to you again”. Thankfully, I have my brother and sister in law who see my parents for narc/sociopaths they are and are 100% supportive. It is unbelievable to think two people who created a human being cannot love but only abuse that child for so many years. Truly unbelievable.

    • Alethea says:

      Cashaw, thank you for your comment. Power to you for speaking up to them! Did you feel pretty good afterwards, or did you go through a lot of pain?

  2. Kevin F. says:

    Great article, Alethea. Thank you for this. All survivors face this process of difficult revelation to family and relatives. My experience is that most of them don’t want to know (even 40 years on). Others pretend to listen out of some sense of ‘duty’, while a small number (maybe one third) will actually accept it. It’s important to know that any truthful revelations about the past will change your current relationships with family, relatives and friends.

  3. little nel says:

    “Court cases and ugly family disputes could be avoided if the abusers found the humility to rectify the past…etc.”

    In my family everyone fought and never resolved anything. So why should I expect them to react any different to my disclosures about the sexual abuse?

    I remember that I went privately to all my family members and made amends for specific things that I had done to hurt them. They did not know how to react.

    My abusive father’s reaction was as expected, “I’ve done nothing wrong, so I don’t need to make amends to you for anything.”

    I did not ask him for anything, so his reaction was extreme in my estimation. I guess that he felt like I was expecting him to take responsibility for something.

    All he wanted to do was unload all his problems on me after that. I ended our visit and wished him well. His parting words were, ” I don’t love you or care about you, so I don’t ever want to hear from you again as long as I live.”

    I told him that I would honor his wishes but if he had a change of heart that he could call me. Then I gave him a good-by kiss and hug and watched him drive off.

    It was a relief to watch him drive off.

    • Why Not? says:

      little nel:

      It takes a lot of courage, growth and letting go of all expectations to make amends for ‘our own harmful behaviors’ to those we have suffered abuse.

      Your father’s, as with many of our family member’s, response of total rejection is the ultimate fear and dread of so many survivors, I have learned. The way you handled it, it seems to me, is an example of one of the most important benefits of learning to face the truth. The ability to remain standing firmly in our own truth – with integrity, dignity and our own values and humanity in tact – in the face of total rejection of our value to those we so long to be “reconciled” with on a much higher plane – I would call, “Outstanding Character” and/or “Divine Nature.”

      Your comments and replies to me, throughout this series, are much appreciated.

    • Alethea says:

      How very deeply painful that must have been Little Nel, for your father to say that. He sounds a little like a sociopath.

      • Why Not? says:

        What Alethea said.

        Honestly, I felt deeply saddened for you when I read your story, little nel. I could “see” you standing in the drive.

        You deserve to hear that your feelings mattered then and now.

        I have a tendency to hate seeing myself as “pitiful” – and my “grief” process is eating my lunch right now. Transferring that onto you and your experience wasn’t fair.

        (I still admire you for what you did and how you seemingly handled it with resolve in honoring who you chose to be, no matter what he did or said.)

        I told him that I would honor his wishes but if he had a change of heart that he could call me. Then I gave him a good-by kiss and hug and watched him drive off.

        It was a relief to watch him drive off.

        • Why Not? says:

          little nel – what I was trying to say in that last comment was this:

          I failed to acknowledge, first and foremost, your FEELINGS and how difficult your father’s response had to have been. Instead, I rushed to “fix” that pain I felt for you – was identifying with – to tell you how much I admired your courage, strength and character – in staying present, forgiving and resolved – which is where I so want to be – past the shame, anger, grieving and feeling of “un-resolve.”

          The “work” you’ve done is an inspiration – like seeing the footprints of one on a path to their “Wholeness.”

          (It’s only been a few weeks ago that I had a huge epiphany – of never wanting to BE the adult woman of ‘that little girl and her history.’)

          Here I am – learning to be the Adult Woman – to that little girl – history and all – and finally learning how to speak the language of truth to myself and others – including acknowledging how much our FEELINGS did and do matter.

          Please, bare with me as I am emerging. I value your presence on this blog and your comments. You, your feelings and your experiences really do matter to me.

          • Alethea says:

            If I could hit a “like” button on this comment, I would!

            • little nel says:

              Thank you, Alethea and Why Not?

              There was a time when I could not feel pain or joy because of numbness.

              Today, I am thankful that I can feel pain because it also means that I can feel great joy.

              I have great joy reading your comments and your thoughts about our “Adult Women” taking care of our little girls. It’s a great comfort to know that we have the capacity to do this for ourselves.

              Yes, Alethea, I also believe that my father was a sociopath.

              • Why Not? says:

                There was a time when I could not feel pain or joy because of numbness.

                Today, I am thankful that I can feel pain because it also means that I can feel great joy.

                …uh hum… that just moved me to tears. It’s.a.good.thing.little.nel.

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