As a self confessed nerd, I love a good statistic. Recently I’ve seen some shocking ones. According to the ONS, 51% of people abused as a child go on to suffer domestic abuse as an adult, over a third of those abused by a family member go on to be abused by a partner, this is more common in women who were abused as children.
Other statistics tell us that over 30% of children abused, will go on to be abusers as adults. Frightening.
It’s got me thinking about where my childhood abuse came from. It’s easy to point the finger at my parents as the obvious source, but really, did it start with them? Did they wake up one day and decide ‘you know what, fuck it, I’m going to be the worst kind of human being’ . Of course they didn’t. Their behaviour stems from their own experiences of abuse. Very different experiences, but abuse none the less.
My father’s history of abuse is somewhat of a mystery. He has surviving siblings, none of which have, or indeed likely ever will, talk about their childhood. I know the children in the family were split at one point (my father included). I know times were tough. I know that my Grandfather died, leaving his wife to raise 5 children. But no one ever seemed sad about this. Indeed my grandmother never talked about her husband when we were kids. Neither did my father. I can never remember any of my aunts or uncles taking flowers to their father’s grave in the family plot in the village, even though we all went to church together on a Sunday. I never really questioned it until my adulthood. Could this man have been a monster. It seems likely. The details I’ll probably never know. But the silence in the family is deafening. How can not a single one of my aunts or uncles talk about their father? Especially if they lost him earlier than expected. My father grew to be an addict with narcissistic tendencies and had an attraction to young girls. I draw my own conclusions on how his father treated him and what behaviour he may have witnessed.
My mother’s childhood, by all accounts, was a tragedy of epic proportions. One of 7, she was pushed through the foster care system when all the children were removed from the care of their biological mother. I’m sure most people have heard tales of the standards of care in the uk foster system in the 60’s. Not great. Eventually she ended up on permanent foster with a couple that I came to call Gran & Grandad. And here is where the story gets worse for her. During this foster placement she was repeatedly abused by her foster father, who’s sexual preference, it seems, like my father, was young vulnerable girls.
Knowing the tragic upbringing of both of my parents offers little comfort to me. As a human being I can empathise with their past. But as a daughter,and a mother, I can neither understand their behaviour fully or forget it, although I have come to largely accept it. Their past does raise more questions than answers for me though.
As kids we would often go and stay with my mother’s foster parents. Our Gran and Grandad. We would eat penny sweets from Woolworths (when they were still a penny!) , have dinner, play in the communal garden of the bungalow, and often, stay over. There were times when we would sleep on camp beds in the spare room and hear my Gran pacing around at night (I always presumed she was a poor sleeper). There were other times, when we shared my Gran’s bed at her request. These times would coincide with my Grandad already being a third through a bottle of Bell’s whiskey on our arrival. At the time I guessed she didn’t want to share her bed with a snoring husband on these occasions. The truth is far more sinister. I now believe, knowing what I know about his penchant for young girls, that she put us in her bed to protect us from him.
This leads me back to those who protect and enable abusers (see previous post for more about this). Gran had married a paedophile. They remained married until his death. It begs the question just how many children had he had access to? For me it also begs the question of why my own mother would allow us to go and stay with them. If my Gran couldn’t protect my mother, why would my mother believe she could protect us? Maybe she was living in complete denial. I’ll probably never know.
My point after all of this, is that the cycle of abuse is strong. It runs through generations like wildfire, consuming all. Is it coincidence that BOTH of my parents suffered abuse and went on to be abusers themselves? Doubt it.
I saw a statement last week that resonated so strongly with me it almost brought a tear.
“It ran in my family, until it ran into me”
Too fucking right it did.