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