Memoir: Processing Abuse

People have said that they felt more compassion and forgiveness for their parents after becoming a parent, but I guess I’m an anomaly. I felt more compassion for my dysfunctional parents when I was a child. I unconsciously tried to take care of them/heal them, because I could see their child-like need for help and validation. But now that I’m an adult with my own child, I feel more resentment than compassion about the abuse that I survived.

My older siblings have completely forgiven them because of their Christian faith, but my parents were both devout, church-attending Christians during the worst years of abuse in our family. My parents are elderly now, my mother is in treatment for cancer and my father lives alone because of her illness. They both were abused as children and they suffer with regrets about our violent history together. I love them and feel sorry for them at times but I think it’s different from compassion. Maybe I feel a sense of superiority as survivor as if it gives me the right to judge their mistakes.

My childhood was violent and controlled but I was never raped. I think my memories weren’t repressed because I could still handle the degree of trauma (molestation and witnessing extreme violence), but I think that other sexual abuse survivors had to repress their memories in order to continue to function. It’s taken me my entire life to process the experience; I can’t imagine how difficult it must be for repeatedly sex trafficked children.

I read Jaycee Lee Dugard’s memoir, “A Stolen Life, a Memoir” and it was very difficult for me to read. I can’t recommend it because it’s almost too much to know and absorb. The torture that this innocent woman endured as a kidnapped child is horrific, the truth that monsters exist as pedophiles, traffickers and killers is haunting. I don’t want to know the exact details, my brain can’t endure knowing it’s a reality. Denial is a protective mechanism: don’t look, don’t investigate, remain safe in not knowing.

People go to horror movies or ride roller coasters because they enjoy being scared, they like the thrilling adrenaline rush. Maybe it’s a relief to them to re-enter the “real world” of safety after exiting the fictionalized horror. But I can’t watch horror, it’s not harmless entertainment to me. I perceive it as a stylized form of programming created to desensitize the audience to violence; as well as rebrand it as innocent amusement, thrills and excitement.

Horror and violent, nihilistic films trigger my adrenalin and original trauma. I witnessed unpredictable violent rage when I was a child, when my brain was still developing, when I still believed in Santa Claus. The possibility of dying was already implanted in my mind, we didn’t know if we would survive the night when my father was raging. We faced life or death moments so often that it was commonplace not shocking. That fight or flight response is still in my brain’s processing system for better or worse. There was no alternative “real world” to return to, our home wasn’t a shelter, all we had was each other.


    1. Thank you Christopher. Sometimes I feel down about it, but I also think it’s part of the “Hero’s journey” ~J. Campbell that artists survive tragedy or trauma and rearrange it into art.🌸 I appreciate your empathy.

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