One of the hardest parts of accepting my childhood trauma, was accepting the fact that I wasn’t protected. There were various enablers in my life, those who were in a position of trust or care and yet allowed this abuse to continue or even facilitated it.
Those who protect and defend abusers are often close to victims, either friends or family, which makes sense as statistics show us that most people who suffer abuse do so at the hands of those they already know and have regular, often unsupervised contact with, it’s rarely strangers in these circumstances.
But the question I’ve mused for so long, is why? Why do these people protect abusers? I think of someone hurting my own children and it fills me with incandescent rage. So why doesn’t it fill others with the same?
I’m no expert on this topic, but I can only assume narcissism is one cause, as narcissists tend to see their own children as extensions of themselves and not as individual beings. There is also evidence to say that enablers or abuse facilitators have also to some extent been groomed themselves by abusers. Often abusers form strong relationships with those they groom, normally in order to get access to their target, this can be a co- dependant friendship or a sexual relationship, depending on the circumstances. They confess secrets in order to win the trust of those they groom (a great way to demand that other ‘secrets’ be kept later on), all the time getting closer to their actually intended target. Sometimes I do think abusers just have blind luck though, for there are many desperate people out there looking for the kind of attention abusers give, and sometimes, these people have children themselves or access to children.
In my case abuse came from multiple sources. My mother’s partner was a source of abuse, another was his ‘good friend’. Coincidence that abusers are friends? I think not. Abusers tend to seek out other abusers as friends, it validates their urges and gives them more opportunities to act upon them. It also invalidates victims concerns, as there is often an echo chamber of enablers around repeating whatever narrative the abuser has planted. These are often statements like :
He/she doesn’t mean anything by it. They’re harmless. They’ve got daughters/sons. They wouldn’t hurt a fly. They’re just friendly. It’s just how they are.
All of these statements invalidate abuse concerns. Sometimes I think enablers say them more for their own peace of mind than the victim’s.
In my case I finally got up the courage to speak openly about it to my mother. She seemed angry and frustrated at first. Then sad. She said all the right things. She even said he would be gone. The relief I felt was immeasurable. Finally. Finally after all these years I wouldn’t have to live under threat anymore. It was like someone turned a light on. We headed home and I went straight to my room whilst she went to hers (where her partner was sitting). She closed the door and I really truly believed that she was giving him marching orders.
Alas. It didn’t happen. When the door finally opened she marched out down the hall as if nothing had happened. I left my room after a few seconds, walked past the open door to their room, glanced in, and there he was. Sat on the bed, smiling. I knew then she’d made her choice to stay with him. I went straight past the room down the hall, my heart racing and head reeling in disbelief. I found her in the kitchen.
‘Well?’ I said. ‘Well what?’ She replied. ‘He said nothing happened’
That statement was like a knife to the heart. I’d been through a lot by that point. But after that, I was a shadow. An empty, souless, lifeless shadow.
The power of words is immense. In one statement she’d single handedly invalidated my abuse and decided that it wasn’t a deal breaker in her relationship.
I’ve recovered from this. But I’ve never, ever, forgotten it.