There’s None So Blind

I’ve been thinking a bit more about the topic of abuse enablers. I’ve written about them before in a previous post but I feel there’s more to say, especially as my own experience of them is so varied. We know that statistically speaking, most abuse enablers have been groomed themselves to a degree. But I also wonder just how many are conveniently closing their eyes to abuse that they’re well aware of. I’ve spoken to a fair few childhood trauma survivors and many have a similar part to their story, in that someone close to them either enabled their abuser to continue harming them by directly facilitating it, or simply by default for doing absolutely nothing about it. I’m not sure which is worse.

I suffered several different types of abuse from around 10yrs old, not all from the same source. In each situation there was an enabler of some kind, which makes me think there’s as many people out there willing to close their eyes to abuse as there are actual abusers. A concerning thought.

In one situation, when I was about 13, a ‘good friend’ of my mother’s 3rd husband (and yes you’ll notice I can’t refer to him as my step father as hubby no#2 will always be my step father, a kind and generous man) opened his house and home to us. He had a wife and 3 beautiful daughters, the eldest only a few years younger than me. We spent time with them as a family, bbqs, trips, family parties, sleepovers… you get the picture.

Only things weren’t as happy a family image as appeared at first glance. This good friend, good dad, loving husband, provider, caring guy, was actually a paedophile who on occasion would take a belt to his precious daughters. More than once I woke during sleepovers with him in the bed next to me, trying to molest me in some way. It got to the point where I dreaded staying over there, and dreaded any time spent in their house. He wouldn’t exactly make a secret of it during the day either, a quick squeeze here or hug there and a quick grope. It was hideous. And worse than that he’d do it infront of other men, normally friends or family but not his wife, as if I were a trophy of his to show off. He would accompany these moments with statements such as ‘You know I’m only be friendly, you know I don’t mean anything by it, right?’ What a fuckin gent.

Ofcourse you could ask the question why did I keep going there. And the answer is complicated. Firstly I think I was quite conditioned to the advances of men by then, and I was still young. I was repulsed by it, but not frightened really. And secondly I found in his wife the role model I wanted to spend time with. She was kind, thoughtful, funny, caring. All the things I felt I lacked in a relationship with my own mother, who was so distant. I would watch her with her 3 girls, fussing over them and would feel utterly envious. I wanted a family back. The family home. Holidays. Normality. And I think I tried to find it there. The troubling thing about this scenario, was how indebted I felt to this family, so I guess I just tolerated any uncomfortable situations as best I could. This family were there when my own parents weren’t. With food, shelter, and company. They helped us move house when we’d been evicted (this was a running theme), drove to medical appointments when my own absent parents couldn’t be contacted, so the debt I felt to both him and her was vast. The main thing I’ve been thinking about is whether his wife was aware of her husband’s abuse and closed her eyes, or whether she was really that naive. I didn’t consider her a stupid woman. They had 3 daughters. I’ve often wondered if he ever molested them and whether I should try to make contact. And why, if she knew about his abusive nature, did she stay? He would often tell the story of how he’d met her, when she was just 16. So I guess she was groomed and conditioned too. She enabled her husband’s behaviour, simply by not confronting him about it. And she really did love him. I think for her the price was too high. If she stopped him she would lose her own family security, not to mention having to face the reality of what would come next.

As time went on I realised more and more that this family I wanted to be part of wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. The simple fact was that I missed the security I’d previously had. A home, a loving step father, safety. The moment my mother decided to leave my step father, my whole world fell apart. And now she’d moved on, moved on to a man who had monsters as friends. I wasn’t afraid of the dark from that point on, as I knew where the real monsters hid.

It turned out they’d been hiding in plain sight all along.

The Trauma Butterfly

Normal For Me, But Not Normal.

During the processing of my childhood trauma, I started to think about the specific events that may have caused me the most harm, as a way of ordering them and unpacking things. I found it really helpful to start with the worst ones then move down a list, taking the time to let myself respond in whatever way I needed to. There’s been situations I’ve avoided thinking about for a long time, and it surprised me which ones I felt had the biggest impact and which ones were further down the list.

The trouble with CPTSD is that it comes from trauma that is acumulative, so it goes without saying that my ‘normal’ wasn’t really normal. By around 11yrs old I had gotten so used to living in a household of varying types and degrees of abuse I didn’t even register it. My mother’s third husband, who I shared a home with from about 10yrs old was a piece of work let me tell you (they weren’t married until many years later). At any opportunity of my mother’s absence (of which there were many due to the criminal circles she moved in), he would do random things like masturbate in the living room so he was likely to be discovered, I’m sure just to play out some sick teenage fantasy he was living at the time. I had gotten so used to this type of situation I would roll my eyes and go back to whatever I was doing previously. In the early days of his relationship with my mother he would suggest we play games like poker. At 10yrs old I was naive enough to believe that late night games were just that. But things would quickly turn into something hideous. Poker into strip poker, that kind of thing. There would always be booze available, which I never drank, mainly because my own biological father was an alcoholic. It took me a while to realise that these game nights of his had an ulterior motive. I avoided them after that.

He would make crude statements about what he and my mother were doing sexually and the kind of things she liked. He also made a point of reminding me daily that the home we lived in was his, and that he would always have a key to EVERY door in the house. Once I woke to him leaning over me, pinning me to my own bed. When I tried to struggle he gave me a lovebite on my face, right on my cheek, knowing that I would have to go to school the next day with it, a mark of ownership displayed for all to see. It was clearly a power play. He wanted me to know he could do whatever he wanted, whenever it suited him. He laughed about it. I solved this with a simple barrel lock on my bedroom door, fuck you very much. The barrel lock was a habit I would continue for the next 5yrs.

I had gotten so used to this weird narrative. Normal school day, normal friends. Fucked up home life. I never really knew what I’d find when I came home. An empty flat, maybe. A bunch of strangers high in the living room, possibly. A wad of cash or pile of drugs on the counter, probably. All of this became so normal I didn’t even blink at it. Our home was clean, dry and warm, in a popular location with reasonably wealthy surroundings. There was even generally some kind of food in the fridge. Or atleast cash for a Nando’s. I stayed out whenever I wanted and came and went as I pleased.

There were a few incidents that made me question my normal. One was a school friend staying over who drank so much she had alcohol poisoning. I didn’t realise other kids didn’t have access to alcohol at home. My mother covered for her for a full weekend until she was ok enough to go home. What a great parenting moment. The other incident was a teen friend sniffing cocaine, whilst making a joke about drugs. Ironically she thought it would be funny to pretend the pile of white powder was cocaine, which as it turned out, it was. Again, I couldn’t believe she didn’t know what it was, I mean, everyone did, right?

Sound the klaxon please.

This was my normal. But it wasn’t, as it happened, actually normal.

If It Feels Wrong, It Probably Is

There’s a few things that bug me as a parent of young children, and one of those is how quickly we (as adults) dismiss their concerns for the simple fact that they’re children.

As a child of primary school age I was uncomfortable with several adults over the years, one of which was my own biological father. I didn’t like the way he hugged me. Kissed me. Carried me up the stairs. I’m sure if any adults around took notice they would’ve put it down to the fact that I no longer lived in the family home (my mother left my biological father when I was 3) and therefore was a little shy with my father during visits. But it wasn’t that. There was something off. Something that made me anxious. When he was close it felt, well, predatory. I didn’t like the way he kissed my cousins goodbye (all girls), and could see their discomfort too.

When I was about 8 I walked in to the kitchen at my father’s house during a holiday visit to find our local babysitter sitting up on the sideboard in barely a skirt. The conversation was about how he wouldn’t pay her for sex, that she should just do it for the pleasure. She was barely 15. I knew then that my feelings were right. I wasn’t imagining it. He was a predator. I said nothing and left the room. This babysitter would visit often, even if my father wasn’t going out. She wasn’t, as it turned out, the only teen my father had bedded.

He drank heavily for years, and the more he drank, as with many alcoholics, the bolder he became. He would talk about local girls with sexual reference. I remember how uncomfortable I felt when reading his thoughts he’d jot down in a notepad by his chair when he referenced how someone had changed from a girl to a woman (woman would be underlined). This person he was referring to would have been barely 11 or 12 at the time.

Although I never suffered physical or sexual abuse from my own father, I knew what a predatory male was because of him. I could spot them a mile off. Charming. Friendly. Funny. Helpful. Non threatening. Everything you need to get close to a vulnerable person, or child.

I would listen to him, drunk, as he told me stories about how my mother would come home with her stockings torn and how she clearly cheated on their marriage then left him. But he never mentioned the fact that he regarded her as his property, and on more than one occasion, had raped her. Rape within the confines of a relationship, is still rape.

My instincts about him were right. He could be kind, charming, funny, hell when he was sober he could be a great parent, he’d make up bedtime stories on the spot, say kind things and spend time doing the stuff kids love. But that other side was still there, and I knew it. I felt it, although much less once I got past the teen years.

The truth of it is, I’ll never know every side to my father, as he died of an overdose nearly 20yrs ago after years of mental health, physical & addiction problems.

But something I’ve always taken away from him, is the invaluable lesson that if something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.

Peace out.

The Trauma Butterfly.