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