Sunday, April 01, 2012

What I Want and What I Fear

I've been thinking over how I feel about my abuser - the one who may have reformed. (On a good note: she didn't flirt with my Dad at all, a big change from her teenage behavior.) I think I've figured out some of my reasons, pro and con.


I don't remember the abuse

Repressed memories are real. I know, because my own memories are repressed. I know I was abused, I have court records to prove it, I just don't remember it. My one and only abuse memory is of her in the bathroom while I'm on the toilet, and she's touching my crotch.

If she were to admit what she did, she could answer a lot of questions. Fill in the holes in my memory. When did it start? (For her at least, I don't think she knew what her brother was doing to me.) What exactly did she do? Why didn't I tell - did she threaten me or just convince me?

Understanding Her

I have two very different theories about her brother. Both of them make sense to me, lead me to understand his behavior and sympathize with him. He's either a psychopath or he had Reactive Attachment Disorder. I'm not sure which of the two theories is true, but both would explain why he abused me, in a way I could understand.

I don't understand her. And I'd really like to. If she were willing to admit to the abuse, she could tell me her reasons. She could paint out the chain of logic that led to her abusing a child. And I'd finally be able to make her fit in my view of the world, make her make sense to me, just like I have with her brother.

Practice What I Preach

I believe there are no evil people, only evil actions. If you understand anyone's point of view, you'll know that everything they did made sense to them. They may have had limited or warped options. They may have been driven by a force they couldn't control. Psychological research makes it clear: No one choses to be evil. The people we call evil are just another kind of sick.

I know this viewpoint is likely to get me flak from other victims, the ones who've invested energy in anger, in wanting vengeance. And I feel I owe it to them to do the hard thing. To put my actions where my mouth is, and show that I'm willing to reconcile. Doesn't mean I have to, if she's not ready for it - my viewpoint doesn't require me to get myself hurt again. But if she is ready, I won't turn her away. I owe it to the other victims, who are going to think I've abandoned them when I chose to study offenders.


She might hurt me

What if she isn't better? What if she's better than she was before, but still abusive or in denial? What if I ask her why and she blames me for it?

She could tear me apart emotionally with a single wrong word. I keep telling myself I'm strong, I can self-advocate, I can defend myself - but I can't. Just like walking into school turns me into a 9 year old again, meeting her will turn me into a 4 year old emotionally. That's how trauma works. You tend to get frozen in time.

I can only meet with her if I know it's safe. If she's ready to admit that she abused me, admit that it was wrong, and be gentle. I need that assurance, or she'll hurt me again.

I might hurt her

She was a victim herself, of abuse far worse than what she did to me. She never had a pair of loving parents when she was a little girl. Her father tore her apart emotionally, trained her to seek out abuse and to perpetrate it herself. She didn't know what love really was.

I don't know how vulnerable she still is. If I say or do the wrong thing, she might retreat into the skills she used to survive - the distortion, the seductiveness, the abuse. Or she might fall apart in a new way. She seems to be finally healing. I don't want to mess that up.

Right after the funeral, I had a weird dream that twigged me to this fear. I was in an elevator, being harassed by some guy who had something to do with the phrase 'zombie eleven'. (It seemed to make sense at the time.) There was an elevator button 'zombie eleven', too. Suddenly, he reached for that button and I panicked, whipped out a knife and slit his throat. Then I was horrified at what I'd done, knowing it wasn't self-defense - sure he'd hurt me earlier, but at that moment, he was just reaching for an elevator button. And, as I thought over where I needed to be, it was precisely the button I needed. He'd been doing me a favour.

I can't be responsible for her

When I posted asking advice about this on a forum, someone mentioned that maybe I could help her heal. But it was my parents trying to help her and her brother heal that got me hurt in the first place, and all their work did nothing. Support certainly helps in healing, but by far the most important thing is to want to heal, and she didn't want it then.

If I let myself take responsibility for her healing, it'll tear me apart. I can't trust that I won't screw it up, and get herself and others hurt. (Maybe those children CPS took away?) I can't allow myself to feel responsible for anything she does, because if she hurts someone, I can't bear for it to be my fault. So I refuse to believe that I could be a deciding factor in her healing.

If I do this, I have to do it for me, not for her.


Blogger Atomic Geography said...

I'm glad you didn't rush into a response to your cousin, and gave youself some time to think it over. Your last line, "If I do this, I have to do it for me, not for her." is I think, the best advice anyone can give you.

I also don't think you owe other victims anything here. You are clearly struggling with this in a deeply honest and authentic way. A particular outcome or decsion is not what validates this. Your struggle is its own validation.

I will continue to hold you in my thoughts.

7:51 AM  

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