The Topic of Abuse Enablers

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.

All Types Of Abuse Count

I used to look back and count myself lucky that worse hadn’t happened to me. I now know it’s a way of minimising my trauma.

I spent so long dismissing my childhood as a traumatic experience that when I stopped and thought about it, I mean really thought about it, I was so overwhelmed I could barely function.

I believed abusers were people who beat their children, or raped them. I had no idea that actually there are many types of abuse.

The four main types of abuse from neglect are Physical, Emotional, Educational and Medical. I got 4 out of 4. Lucky lucky me.

I didn’t consider the physical neglect as the worse case scenario so I just dismissed it, after all, there were people out there that routinely beat their kids half to death, right? So I was quietly grateful that I’d never had to endure that. In a way I still am.

But all types of abuse are relevant. They all have an impact on children, especially when the perpetrators are primary caregivers. Caregivers. A word with great explanation. Someone who gives care. It’s almost laughable at times. If it wasn’t so sad.

I look at my own children and routinely wonder How The Actual Fuck could anyone treat their children with anything other than love and care. It’s beyond me. Clearly that level of shit parenting is above my paygrade.

Let’s talk dissociation

If memory serves me correctly, I would’ve been around 10 when I first experienced dissociation. I was at a relatives house, people were talking, and the most bizarre thing started to happen. The voices started to become louder and the words repetitive . This continued until the words were repeating in an echo that was deafening. Just as I thought I might scream, the sound faded off, the room faded out, and I was no longer present.

I don’t know where I went even to this day. But I wasn’t there anymore.

At some point I was aware that I was back. The sound was normal, the room looked normal, but I felt tired.

These episodes continued for years.

I never told a single human being. I never asked for help. Children of trauma can find it difficult to ask for or even accept help, especially when primary caregivers are a source of abuse. Now I look back and I understand that my experience was likely a direct result of my trauma, my brain had decided that dissociation was a good strategy.

Luckily for me it didn’t last into my adulthood, but there were some really dodgy moments I can tell you.

I simply thought I was going mad.

Do you see your parents much?

I spent over 20yrs ignoring the first chapters of my life. Choosing to forget them. When strangers casually ask about my parents, I tell them they’re dead and buried. They then apologise with “I’m so sorry, I didn’t know” and look sheepish for the next 10seconds before I awkwardly change the subject.

But it’s a lie. One is dead and buried, the other estranged, but somehow I can rarely be assed to discuss it. I’m exhausted by the thought of it.

The truth is it’s a relief I don’t have to talk about them.

I mean, what would I say? Where would I even start?

‘Well my father was an addict, suffered from depression and had a questionable moral compass’

*Cue awkward silence*

And I wish my mother was dead.

*Cue even longer silence*

So generally, I lie. I make out that I’m sad about not having them around, but really, I’m not. I’m relieved. Relieved that I don’t have to deal with their poor life choices. Relieved I don’t have to make small talk with them. Relieved that I never have to avoid leaving my kids with them. Not having them in my life makes my life easier. I’ve already grieved them both, even though my mother is still alive. I’ve grieved what could have been.

It took me 20yrs to finally realise that I needed to be the kind of parent that my own parents could never, I now know, have been.

Welcome To The Wormhole

So I’ve finally decided it’s time to catalogue the spiral of abuse that lead to my childhood trauma in the hope that someone out there, looking for answers just as I was, may be brave enough to seek the help they need. I’m fast approaching 40 and it’s now or never.

I’ll be as honest and open as I can about it, there may be gaps in the story if I feel it may be in the best interest of those involved. I’ll omit names and places where possible, but stick to an accurate picture of events wherever I can. I’ll do my best to give an accurate description of events as I experienced them, but of course there’s always 3 sides to every tale, yours, theirs and the truth.

Sharp warning. Some situations may not be for the feint hearted.

Forgive Yourself For The Things You Did In Survival Mode

For years after my childhood officially ended and I was thrown full force into emerging adulthood, I blamed myself for many of the poor decisions I’d made. The relationships I’d ruined. The family I’d pushed aside. The opportunities I’d thrown away. But the truth of it is, I had no idea I was even traumatised. Survivors of complex trauma don’t always know they’re traumatised. Mainly because complex trauma is hard to link to one event, it’s normally accumulative, an everyday way of life that in some twisted form becomes their normal.
The problem with this accumulate effect, is that living in this survival mode also becomes normal, its hard to recognize and even harder to accept. I’ll delve into the complex state of survival mode in a later post, but for now I’ll just explain what that meant for me.
Decision making was very hard. I could procrastinate about even simple tasks for a lengthy period of time then decide to just get them all done at once, which is neither kind to myself, or productive as most tasks or decisions would be half assed. My friends and family would call me ‘spontaneous’ or ‘brave’, but really it was just my poor coping strategies that would lead to life altering decisions. Now when people comment that I’ve always been ‘So wise for my age’ or an ‘Old spirit’ , I just respond with ‘Thanks, it was the trauma’.
My point is, the decisions we make under stress or as a result of living in a constant state of stress or under threat for a period of time MUST be forgiven in order to move forward. The first person we need to forgive, is ourselves.