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