Why didn't I tell anyone?

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JustKathy

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Why didn't I tell anyone?
« on: August 04, 2021, 01:11:30 PM »
All through high school things were so bad with my Nmother that there were times when I thought about ending my life, yet I never reached out to anyone. I’m pretty sure my grandmother suspected something was wrong but I never said a word to her. I also had an aunt (my Nmother’s sister) who definitely sensed something was wrong but I kept my mouth shut.

At one point I had chronic bronchitis and my mother refused to take me to the doctor claiming it was my punishment “for kissing boys.” My aunt was a medical researcher who worked in a hospital. One day she came by to visit and “discovered” some samples of prescription cough syrup in her purse. At the time I was naïve enough to think that it was a random discovery, but now I realize that she was trying to help me. This Aunt took me with her on vacation twice during my summer break from school. I had plenty of opportunities to confide in her but never did. Nmother must have felt very confident that I wouldn’t tell or she never would have let me be alone with my Aunt for two whole months.

When things became unbearable I finally did tell my high school guidance counselor, who didn’t believe me. But my aunt would have believed me and so would my grandmother. I can’t for the life of me figure out why I didn’t open my mouth and tell them.

I’m sure I’m not the one one who kept their Nparent's abuse a secret. But why don’t we tell? My Nmother never directly threatened me, but I just knew to keep my mouth shut around other family members. Do our instincts tell us it won't end well? Is it an unspoken "family code" of sorts to keep their secrets? I told my friends and I told my guidance counselor, but I didn’t dare tell any relatives. To this day no one in my extended family knows what really happened to me, and probably never will.

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Hepatica

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Re: Why didn't I tell anyone?
« Reply #1 on: August 04, 2021, 01:26:43 PM »
This is a really good question. I remember, even when I was in my mid-twenties I had an aunt approach me and bring up how hard it must have been for me growing up with my parents. I had an opportunity to finally open and speak about it and I stared at her and couldn't speak about it.

Some of my thoughts are that we are wired by our disordered parents from birth to be afraid of them AND depend on them. I think we are literally terrified by those two things. I mean, from an early age, we believe we cannot live without them, because basically we couldn't. They feed us. They provided the basics of living. And it's like we keep that unconscious dependence somewhere in our brains.

Now that I am on my own and have done well enough on my own, I still wonder about the reticence I have, and how society in general has about speaking about childhood pain and trauma.

My suspicion is this fear of betraying them hits us at our very core, our survival instincts but because we were in a family that was disordered, that particular survival instinct, still has a loyalty to the original parents.

« Last Edit: August 04, 2021, 01:28:44 PM by Hepatica »
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moglow

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Re: Why didn't I tell anyone?
« Reply #2 on: August 04, 2021, 02:01:58 PM »
Same. My personal belief is/was a combination of what you said: knowing it would not end well, thinking no one would believe or support me, presumed family code of silence etc. None of our extended family ever acknowledged the abuse, but some family members have -once we were adults- admitted they were aware. There was nothing they could do and honestly were probably intimidated by mother's known rages enough to not openly intervene, although they did offer distraction during family gatherings. Kind of intervened but not.

I didn't talk about it anywhere, to anyone. I was ashamed and believed her rantings about how useless I was, that I deserved it and no one could believe a word I said.  I was also suicidal for years. I distinctly remember mother [at least] once telling me she'd make me regret I'd ever been born. I "laughed" inside, realizing she was way behind me on that one. I found out much later that at least one teacher knew, saw the bruises and did what she could where she could [PE teacher-didn't dock my grade when I wouldn't dress/change clothes for class]. Back then you didn't say anything. Some friends' parents included me with their own kids, rather than overlooking me, possibly as a means of escape for me even if only temporary. But at the same time I was somewhat ostracized because my parents were divorced and that was a BIG no-no in small town life. Odd position for a kid/kids to be put in and no way out really.

Honestly I don't know why that woman had children, other than as slaves/caregivers later in life. Given everything, she ought to be grateful any of us have/had any contact once we left her house. We managed to survive her and on a very basic level confirmed my beliefs that there are angels among us - looking back I know that several people stepped up and into that situation when I [or she] had thought there was no way they could have known we needed that intervention. It may simply have been far more obvious than we knew.
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EtherOrchid

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Re: Why didn't I tell anyone?
« Reply #3 on: August 04, 2021, 02:30:36 PM »
In my case, everyone knew and no one cared.  My family despised my narc mother and decided to view me as just an extension of her. In their minds, we were two peas in a pod, both selfish, lazy moochers. No one was ever coming to my rescue. My father, who left weeks after I was born, admitted it was just easier to see me as a spoiled brat than admit he saved himself and left me in hell. When I was hospitalized after a suicide attempt, my family took it as evidence that I was a drama queen, faking for attention.  Of course, this just played into my narc mother's hand, making it seem like it was us against the world. After I went NC the few people I tried to tell took her side. They insisted it couldn't have been that bad, she must have done the best she could and I should have some kind of relationship with my abuser since I only get one mother.

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GentleSoul

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Re: Why didn't I tell anyone?
« Reply #4 on: August 04, 2021, 02:46:06 PM »
My dad left myself and siblings with a violent uPD mum when we were very young.  I remember him telling us he had to leave because of her raging, violence and general nastiness.

As that young child I remember listening to him and thinking how awful it must be for him and no wonder he left.

It was many many years later, a counsellor said to me how appalling that he saved himself and left us little kids with this violent, abusive woman.

It had never occurred to me.   

Several more years later I was chatting to a pal who was a Social Worker who was shocked at what I was just so casually chatting about to her as if it was normal. She said nowadays, the Courts would have removed us kids from the house. 

Yes, our "father" left us to be screamed at, raged at and physically assaulted.  What a pathetic weak man.

So I do relate to what you share, Kathy.

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Maxtrem

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Re: Why didn't I tell anyone?
« Reply #5 on: August 04, 2021, 03:46:01 PM »
There would be the shame that prevents from denouncing. The shame of our journey, the shame of having been abandoned, of having experienced abuse... A shame that abusers internalize in their victims, that it is their fault that there is abuse, that we are not worth anything. That the abuse was deserved, that it wasn't that bad, that the born manipulative abuser parent is going to get away with it and that we are going to have to live with that shame!

Personally I suspect that if I had turned in my uBPDm she would have easily gotten away with lying and manipulating the facts and truth. A child or teenager doesn't stand a chance against this especially if the abuse is psychological and behind closed doors. It's one word against another...

I had wondered about this for a long time and after reading a book recently, I realize that it was shame. A shame that has always been ingrained to the point where I don't even know it anymore.

It is probably the shame of my story that makes me not talk about it to anyone close to me today, not even to my girlfriend. The only people who know my story are my psychologist and my doctor and I imagine that the only reason I told them is because they are bound by professional secrecy.


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moglow

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Re: Why didn't I tell anyone?
« Reply #6 on: August 04, 2021, 03:52:00 PM »
Wow - The shame indeed, Maxtrem. Hard to reconcile that now even considering those who raised us. Shame was such a part of us, and it seems that message was driven home repeatedly. I've just in the past few years really been willing to talk about it with anyone in "real life". Actually had a very rare conversation about the abuse earlier this week with my older brother. It's been the forbidden topic from way back, ingrained in us too.
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Andeza

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Re: Why didn't I tell anyone?
« Reply #7 on: August 04, 2021, 04:43:05 PM »
I didn't say anything because... I thought all families were that way. I thought it was normal. I wondered how the heck other children coped so well and thought that the fact I struggled meant that I was somehow underperforming in my role. But, I lived under a rock and didn't really get to see what normal looked like. I was in college before I realized that my childhood and especially teenage years were not okay, but still didn't put the word abusive on it until I came OoTF at 28. Then it all made sense, and then I started talking about it with DH, and friends, and a few of his family. I have not attempted to bring it up with any of my FOO. I see no healing to be had there.

uBPDm made the abuse seem normal by keeping me away from other children my age, and especially their families. She would imply that there was something wrong with the parents of the children I played with. Say that they made her feel "uncomfortable" or some similar nonsense. So then of course I would look at them with suspicion and think they must be odd people. And so, those friendships only lasted a season.
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JustKathy

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Re: Why didn't I tell anyone?
« Reply #8 on: August 04, 2021, 06:14:41 PM »
uBPDm made the abuse seem normal by keeping me away from other children my age, and especially their families. She would imply that there was something wrong with the parents of the children I played with. Say that they made her feel "uncomfortable" or some similar nonsense. So then of course I would look at them with suspicion and think they must be odd people. And so, those friendships only lasted a season.

This is a really good observation, Andeza. My Nmother did this too. She kept me as isolated as she could. I had friends in high school but I wasn't allowed to go to their houses and/or meet their parents. Nmother was a member of the PTA and would come home from the meetings with gossip about the other parents, that one mother was a drug addict, one father was violent, and other things to make me fear them. Like you, my friendships didn't last long and would usually change with the school year.

I'm also saddened to read how many of us had a relative who knew we were being tormented but did nothing. When I was younger I was thankful for the one aunt who was looking out for me, but my feelings have since turned to anger. She did things to help me behind Nmother's back but didn't step up and intervene, even when she knew I was being denied medical care. It's maddening to think that she chose to leave a child in danger rather than risk angering a narcissist.

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moglow

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Re: Why didn't I tell anyone?
« Reply #9 on: August 04, 2021, 06:21:11 PM »
"It's maddening to think that she chose to leave a child in danger rather than risk angering a narcissist" ... KNOWING how dangerous those parents were. That's what's been hardest for me, my older cousins [closer to mother's age than mine] admitting they knew, and there we were. Left alone in it with no recourse, no champions.
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Call Me Cordelia

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Re: Why didn't I tell anyone?
« Reply #10 on: August 04, 2021, 06:36:31 PM »
I didn’t tell because I believed there was no help to be had. When I asked for help with bullies at school, I got, “Well, you kind of ask for it…” from teachers. If they weren’t going to be on my side against other kids, when they were there and saw what happened, they weren’t going to be on my side against my parents. I simply saw evidence for what my father told me, that the world would always be against me and I just had to suck it up.

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JustKathy

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Re: Why didn't I tell anyone?
« Reply #11 on: August 04, 2021, 06:40:43 PM »
I remember, even when I was in my mid-twenties I had an aunt approach me and bring up how hard it must have been for me growing up with my parents. I had an opportunity to finally open and speak about it and I stared at her and couldn't speak about it.

This too! When I was 20 my grandmother held a family reunion. She lived on the opposite coast as did most of my extended family. I was under the silent treatment at the time and Nmother wouldn't allow me to travel with the FOO, so my grandmother paid for my plane ticket and I travelled alone, staying at my grandmother's house. I was actually pretty shocked that my mother was so public with the silent treatment. It was the only time she ever dropped the prefect parent act.

When I arrived at my grandmother's house my mother's siblings (who I hadn't seen since I was a young child) all noticed the way I was being treated. Two of my aunts took me aside and told me my mother was a total psycho and shared how she had bullied her siblings when they were growing up. They told me they felt sorry for me having to grow up with her as my mother. I listened to them, I cried, but I didn't tell them any details of my abuse. I just stared at them and couldn't speak. Still, I'm grateful that they told me what they did. That was the first time I felt validated and realized that I wasn't crazy, SHE was.

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JustKathy

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Re: Why didn't I tell anyone?
« Reply #12 on: August 04, 2021, 06:50:45 PM »
"It's maddening to think that she chose to leave a child in danger rather than risk angering a narcissist" ... KNOWING how dangerous those parents were. That's what's been hardest for me, my older cousins [closer to mother's age than mine] admitting they knew, and there we were. Left alone in it with no recourse, no champions.

I'm so sorry, Moglow. I've spent a lot of time thinking about this one, wondering what my mother would have done to my aunt had she intervened. Yelled at her? Stopped inviting her over for Thanksgiving? Anyone who knew and didn't intervene was, worst case, at risk of being shunned, while we were at risk of illness or even death.  :'(

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moglow

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Re: Why didn't I tell anyone?
« Reply #13 on: August 04, 2021, 07:22:40 PM »
I wonder - did they really not know how bad it was?? were their blinders strapped on that tight and it cut the blood flow to brain? Like you say, what could they possibly have done to other adults? Little kids, we had nothing and no one in our corner and no way out.
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Jdcooper

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Re: Why didn't I tell anyone?
« Reply #14 on: August 04, 2021, 10:07:44 PM »
I agree about the shame.  I was just watching the Handmaid's tale where the handmaids all sit in a circle and shout = "her fault, her fault...over and over while pointing at the person in the middle.  Thats how I felt in my family-it was all my fault and therefore whats to tell...

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Duck

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Re: Why didn't I tell anyone?
« Reply #15 on: August 05, 2021, 11:27:12 AM »
My en mother had a talk with me in my bedroom in which she explicitly told me that if you talk about your parents outside the family, it is a form of betrayal.

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TimetoHeal

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Re: Why didn't I tell anyone?
« Reply #16 on: August 05, 2021, 12:04:12 PM »
I see a pattern here of many of us having either absent or enabling fathers.  My dad was present, and I always felt very close to him and adored him.  But I realize now as an adult, that he had a responsibility to protect me from my mother's rages and abuse, and he didn't.  He was very passive, and I believe, even frightened of her.  I remember one instance where he and I were talking and bonding over something and she walked in the room and he visibly, quickly turned away from me like a child being "caught" doing something naughty.  So healthy, huh?  I've also recently learned that my father was a high-functioning alcoholic.  Of course, my NPDm told me this, so I have to take it with a grain of salt.  But it makes sense, and I do remember he and my mom drinking heavily.  Anyway, if we couldn't confide in our closest other family members for whatever reason, if they wouldn't protect us, what made us think anyone would?   I think that is a big reason. 

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blacksheep7

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Re: Why didn't I tell anyone?
« Reply #17 on: August 05, 2021, 02:02:36 PM »
Interesting post....I've thought about this myself many times.  Why didn't I tell anyone and also why didn't my brother and I talk about the violence. The Dr Jekyl & Mr. Hyde father when he was home.  I didn't know as a young teen that  a family home  could be peaceful, no screaming or yelling and/or physical abuse.  I just thought that it was the norm for parents to get mad, go overboard when something wasn't to their liking.
As I grew older, around 16/17, then I knew something wasn't right.  For one, NF still raising his hand, always ready to hit, his way of scaring us and showing who was the boss. At an early age he would also threatened  to throw us out, weekly.  The big eye opener was Covert M who never protected us, who also hit when she would lose her temper.  She enabled NF by telling us we were «bad kids» because we acted out in petty stuff.   That is when I understood that «they» were on the same team so it was no use speaking to her about my fears or any problems in high school.  I remember vividly when I had my menstruations and had severe cramps, I would roll into a ball on my bed and endure, never going to M to tell her.  I figured she wouldn't help me anyway.

I also do believe that shame was a big part of it as we were raised in Guilt.   I developped a defense mechanism, built a wall  emotionally and acted frivolously for many years into my adult life.
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11JB68

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Re: Why didn't I tell anyone?
« Reply #18 on: August 06, 2021, 12:14:19 AM »
As a kid I was overtly told that family business stayed in the family. Wasn't supposed to talk to outsiders about family issues. Once I vented to a cousin about Updh yelling at enf and then was scolded for embarrassing them.
As an adult dealing with Updh, I either felt ashamed of my situation or that folks might not believe me

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Leonor

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Re: Why didn't I tell anyone?
« Reply #19 on: August 06, 2021, 05:03:00 AM »
How do you know how someone is feeling? What they think about what they're hearing? What they even might be wanting?

Most people don't say, "I'm sad." Or "I feel happy right now." Or "I disagree with that statement." Or "I hope my team wins."

The world would be SO MUCH easier if that were true. But human beings don't communicate with words as much as behavior, expression, tone of voice, even pace of breathing.

And so little children are told, from their earliest moments with no words at all, to hide what is happening to them. Since no one around them speaks of it, that is understood to be true for you too. It's like the first rule of fight club.

That's why you didn't say anything, but also why it is totally inexcusable for adults around you to not say anything, either. Everyone knew what was happening to you. Everyone. Because it had happened to them, because they saw it happening to their siblings. They just decided, as adults, to continue to not talk about fight club.

As a traumatized adult, I have compassion for traumatized adults, even those who traumatized me. But there comes a point in adulthood when we say, What happened to me was sad. I deserve compassion and healing. But I have a responsibility to make a conscious decision to heal as much as I can, because now I am in the position my parents (or teachers or coaches or religious) are in. I can continue the cycle, or end it.

Those one-off Gee I didn't know or Sorry for you, not sorry I didn't do anything apologies, for me, are worthless. What, are we supposed to thank them for not protecting us? Make them feel better for choosing an abuser over a little child? Console THEM?

What about, "I knew that your dad was a violent jerk because our dad was a violent jerk. Of course I knew he was beating you, even though he never did that when I was around. I didn't do anything because I was afraid and didn't want to face the truth that my family is dangerous. I wanted to believe in this fantasy world of not-so-bad. And I sacrificed you and your cousins for my own cowardice. I don't know what I could have done, because I never bothered to try to do anything. I am so, so sorry and will do anything within my power now to support you in however you want to move forward in your healing. And I am in awe of your courage and heart to have survived into the amazing person you are today."

"Yeah so we kind of thought your mom was a little off but oh well, what the hey? Sorry bout that."? No.  :sadno: