Maybe, just maybe, they believe his story over mine

I am the fortunate ‘owner’ of four incredibly loving parents: a father, a mother, a stepfather and a stepmother. As a gift for my PhD, each of them wrote me a personal letter. The letters were bundled in one book (a modern-family-milestone I honestly didn’t expect them to reach ever). They wrote such loving things for me and about me!

Stepmom:
“On our first holiday together, I had to call in your help talking to the French police. We spent three rainy days in a wet tent, colouring and playing stupid boardgames, until we finally gave up and headed back home.”

Dad:
“You went through primary school and the first years of high school with ease. I was extra alert during the divorce, as I didn’t want you to suffer from it.”

Stepdad:
“Shortly after I met your mother you left for Thailand. What a surprise! I postponed moving in with your mother until you came back.”

Mom:
“What kind of mother sends her sixteen-year-old off to Thailand on her own? But you were determined to go. I’ve felt like a perverted mother, especially when you ran into problems we had not foreseen.”

I’m very much touched by my parents’ loving words, and even more so by their joined efforts. Nonetheless something is bothering me. All four wrote about the ups and downs of my life so far, yet none of their letters contains a single reference to the sexual abuse I suffered at the age of twelve. Nothing. Not even in hidden terms. I avoid talking about the abuse and I’d rather my parents don’t think about it too much, but the absence of even the slightest hint toward what happened to me hurts. I mean, I’m talking about the most difficult time of my life here, and they know that.

Maybe they intentionally wrote about positive things only, as their letters were a gift to mark a celebratory event. Maybe they thought I wouldn’t want to read about the difficult times. Maybe it simply reflects their own avoidant coping mechanisms. But I’m afraid it doesn’t.

I’m afraid my parents don’t believe me. I never literally asked my parents whether or not they believe what I told them about the abuse. They never literally said they do or do not believe me, either. I do feel they believed me at first, when I hadn’t yet told them who the perpetrator was. Because he wasn’t an anonymous predator in the bushes, or a long-deceased priest, or a vaguely acquainted sports trainer. I was abused by a close friend of my parents; my stepmother’s ex-husband. My parents liked him. They struggle to wrap their head around the fact that their dear friend abused their daughter. Which, of course, I understand. But it still hurts. It hurts that maybe, just maybe, they choose to believe his story over mine.

I know there’s only one grown-up way to cope with this uncertainty. I’m determined to face my fears. I’ll woman up and ask my parents whether they believe me or him. It’s the grown-up thing to do, and the only way forward. I’m brave and strong, and I know I can do this. But I’m scared too. What if they’ll admit to not believing me? In case your Christmas holidays have already started and you have time on your hands, please do keep your fingers crossed for me. I’ll keep you posted on my progress…

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9 thoughts on “Maybe, just maybe, they believe his story over mine

  1. Hey, Ana.

    I don’t know and can’t say what is going through your parents’ minds, and how much of your story they have come to accept by now. I do however know that their response is not unusual. I live surrounded by people who don’t realize that I live and breathe my trauma (the loss of my baby daughter) every moment of every day. They don’t want to upset me, remind me. They think when I’m happy that it doesn’t mean that I’m also sad at the same time. They don’t want to ruin my moments of joy. So they don’t mention her, and by staying silent, they deny a crucial part of my identity. Yet they know it happened, there is nothing to disbelieve.

    I think it’s a good idea to tell them how you feel about this. If they realize their reactions are making you think they don’t believe you, they might change course. But it is also hard to step outside cultural norms, and that’s what they would be doing in this case.

    I found Dutch culture especially complicated when it comes to sharing pain. When I would mention even potentially painful things – like the fact that I come from a country that had seen war – people would cringe and close the topic. Pain was considered personal, private, maybe even a little bit shameful. The thing to do is to go home, deal with it, then come back strong. Strength, the universal solution. It’s supposed to get you through sickness even. Admit to weakness, and people look away. It might be hard for people to ask you about your point of weakness, with all the cultural barriers in place.

    Do keep writing. Your thoughts are fascinating. I hope you find some healing in the process.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so much for your reply, Ana. I’m very sorry you lost your daughter. I can’t imagine the unspeakable pain of loosing a child. Your words touch me (“I live surrounded by people who don’t realise that I live and breathe my trauma every moment of every day. They think when I’m happy that it doesn’t mean that I’m also sad at the same time”). I’m going to try talk to my parents, your words to explain how I feel will hopefully make it more understandable for them. I wish they will be able to explain their feelings to me as well.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I hope they will listen to you, their beloved daughter. It is relatable what Neuro said about pain suppression being a cultural practice. I just wrote about my rape incident today and still after almost twelve years I feel uneasy about my parents finding out. I want to protect them, you know? That may be how your parents feel and don’t want to let the sexual abuse stigma affect your psyche or your future. Anyway, I just hope they will listen to what your heart needs to say.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for reading and for your kind words, Gospel Isosceles. It means a lot. I know exactly what you mean by wanting to protect your parents. Even though I’m dedicatedly trying to be open, they still are unaware of my blog. I wish you all the best and thanks again! Ana

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  3. Best of luck to you. I think you listed the number one reason why victims of sexual assault don’t come forward: They fear no one will believe them. Our society is riddled with people who are of the “blame the victim” camp. It’s got to stop. I believe you and I hope your parents will too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your kind words, Pink. I’m always astounded by how wide-spread the victim-blaming seems to be. I mean, I know no-one who would literally say that all this was my fault. It’s the unspoken (and maybe unaware) victim blaming that hurts, and I guess that’s why it’s so hard to change. All my best for you, Ana

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