Often, we hear of men who molest young girls and women and receive too little jail time or often, no penalty at all for their crimes. Tonight, on television was a story of a mother who was the co-abuser to her daughter of seven years old. The reason for her decision, she wanted to “prove her love” to her husband. The ultimate sacrifice, in her mind would surely win over his commitment and perhaps allow some sense of normalcy to their lives. Normalcy stemmed from incest, an interesting and obviously distorted reasoning, an excuse to commitment the ultimate betrayal.
These stories are not new to me, having read hundreds of thousands of emails over the years depicting torturous and unbelievable acts of abuse. However, it always takes a moment longer for me to come to terms with mothers who turn on their own children, in order to gain the “love” of a man in their life. They themselves, abuse victims in the hell that is intimate partner violence. Part of me feels torn by the understanding that they face their own fear and pain and yet, I cannot condone the line that is crossed from victim to abuser. There were so many levels to this particular case, but what I was struck by was an issue that screams true for so many women; needing a man in order to feel validated, worthy, loved. Often, women (and men) who are survivors of abuse will do find themselves doing things and allowing things to be done without questioning the impact of their decision. There is a laundry list of reason why such things happen, but one very important factor is conditioning.
If you are told that you are useless and unworthy each and every day of your life, parts of you, if not all of you will begin to believe it. There is truth behind the saying “thoughts are things” in that what you believe you become. If you are a vulnerable child your choice and sense of reality outside of your caregivers is drastically reduced and the name and expectations placed upon you will be your burden until you are old enough or fortunate enough to learn otherwise. For all of us, I believe this means being our own teachers.
A few years ago, I found myself in a relationship with a man twenty years my elder. I didn’t realize at that time, that a large part of my connection to him was based on my relationship with my father. An odd and somewhat disconcerting realization. However, one that looking back and being a survivor of incest, makes a lot of sense to me now. To make a long story short, I allowed myself to stay in this relationship and undergo behavior that I now see as abusive on many levels.
I fell in love with this man, and allowed him to control me in order to gain his affection and approval, much like I did with my father. The difference here is that I was no longer the abused child of four years old, instead a grown woman making adult choices. The catch? On many levels, in the decisions that I made in that relationship (and others like it), my inner child, the one who learned what love was from her father, was still seeking love in the same way from men who could not give her what she needed. Self-worth, validation, self-respect, a true sense of self are all things that we must find in ourselves and that cannot be resolved by others.
I see myself as fortunate to have gotten out of that relationship before marriage or children. I can only imagine how much more complicated life would have been had my life changed even slightly to the left of where it is today. I see my mother and sister in my own experience, yet they were not as fortunate. My sister passed away several years ago and my mother spent thirty years with an abusive husband. I see the choices that they made. I try not to judge them and yet, sometimes I do, still.
I wish for all women and men to see their worth and never make choices that will endanger themselves or their children. We must break the cycle now before it is too late.