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Secondary victims of sexual abuse...anyone else out there?

(150 Posts)
VenusandJuno Mon 22-Oct-12 16:35:10

As the Jimmy Savile case fills the news I feel a resurgence of many familiar and unwanted feelings and emotions. Not that they ever go away, but the lid can be squashed on from time to time, only to be knocked off all too easily.
Hurt, anger, disgust, guilt, shame, confusion, anxiety, loneliness, doubt, a general feeling that the world is darker and less secure.....etc etc etc. Too many feelings and too many combinations of feelings to make any sort of a conclusive list.

My dad sexually abused my sister.

I have never really had it suggested to me or come across any sort of acknowledgment or recognition or discussion around the issues that affect the "others" in cases of familial sexual abuse. If you're not the victim(survivor) or the perpetrator you are still a person whose life is turned upside down by the sexual abuse and the effects on a family. Your relationships are, of course, shredded and then (possibly) rebuilt.

I'm not looking for sympathy here. This is a thread for anyone who is in a similar situation and would like to talk freely about it. It's not a thread for any judgement either. My feelings and emotions are valid and I want to be able to express them. Also the terms "secondary victim" or " secondary survivor" is just something I found from a quick search.

amillionyears Mon 22-Oct-12 20:49:58

Am bumping this for you.
No direct experience. But have been a listening ear in rl for someone.

I am sorry for what your dad did to your sister.

Can I ask a couple of questions?
Did your mother know?
And are you a much different age to you sister?
Do you have other siblings?

VenusandJuno Tue 23-Oct-12 09:41:51

Thanks for the answer, amillion

It's a bit lonely on this thread. I'm just finding things tough with more memories and questions coming up again. It means I can't put energy into my life here and now and become tired, snappy and sad.

I don't really know if my mother knew. She wasn't living us later on and he had new women. I do have siblings and some of us have memories of behaviour from our dad that is sort of worrying/questionable boundary wise. The sister who was abused and I are just a year and a half apart.

It's hard to get on with daily life when your brain gets taken over with these horrible thoughts all over again.

I felt sure there would be others on MN who would be in this position.

KnitFastDieWarm Tue 23-Oct-12 12:13:54

I know how you feel - a relative of mine was sexually abused by several family members (which causes highly conflicting feelings for me as I have happy memories of them dating from before I knew about the abuse). My relative was also shunned by the family, gaslighted and generally treated like crap in order to prevent 'scandal'. It was easier for the family to believe that my relative was crazy/unstable/lying/deserved it than it was to acknowledge what happened.
It's a horrible situation to be in, particularly when you love the abused person but also have conflicting emotions towards the abuser - it's very difficult to acknowledge any positive emotions you have towards them (I don't know if you do with your father?) without feeling horribly disloyal to the abused person. In the end, I had to make peace with the fact that someone I had love and trusted a a child was not the person I higher they were - they were an abusive, callous bastard.
Sexual abusers really are the lowest of pond life. Cowards who destroy lives and leave a trail of destruction behind them.
So no, you're not alone - feel free to PM me if you want to talk more freely smile

hidingbehindthis Tue 23-Oct-12 12:25:23

I have no personal experience of this but have opened and read the thread and i think it seems such an important issue. It deserves more bumping!

OP i'm so sorry for you and your sister. Have you considered counceling for you? It's easy to see why this is having an awful effect on you. For all the reasons described here. Make no apology.

I would imagine there are many people reading this, identifying with this, and trying to pluck up the courage to talk about it. All the best to you, and your sister.

KnitFastDieWarm Tue 23-Oct-12 12:26:36

And yes, the savile case brings up a lot of horrible feelings - not least that one of the abusers in my relatives case knew savile as an acquaintance and use to talk about his predilections (and all the while the bastard was doing it himself, to his own family)

It's just horrific how endemic it is.

VenusandJuno Tue 23-Oct-12 17:04:14

Thanks for answering. I really appreciate other people's experience. I would like this to be more talked about. It's like, as the sibling or "other child" (or mother of the abused child as well) your hurt and the damage is insignificant should not be talked about.

I want to write more but I'll have to come back to it. How to come to terms with the pond life and callous bastard aspect of your own father is something else.

Thanks again

Sunnywithachanceofshowers Tue 23-Oct-12 17:50:04

My DSis was abused by my GF. She told me early on but I didn't tell because she asked me not to, so he went unpunished.

I adored my GF. He never acted inappropriately towards me, for which I'm grateful. But I spent many years feeling guilty for loving a man who has hurt my sister so much.

TheHeirOfSlytherin Tue 23-Oct-12 18:00:07

Not quite the same as your situation but my mum says she was abused by her BIL between the age of 9-adult. I do believe her, but what I find hard to reconcile in my head is that she says her parents knew but did nothing. My grandparents were better parents to me than my own were and I find it really hard and confusing and upsetting to think they would have let this happen to my mum. I don't have and can't get their version of events.

I wasn't even alive when this all went on but I'm very torn between loyalty to my mum and to my grandparents.

DoIDare Tue 23-Oct-12 18:02:02

Yes. It is utterly crap.

DoIDare Tue 23-Oct-12 18:05:22

Especially without any closure or resolution. Even if you feel lots of pain, your pain is nothing compared to primary victim. So You feel bad, for feeling bad. You have to support the victim, but there's no real framework to support you.

Pagwatch Tue 23-Oct-12 18:06:21

VenusandJuno

I was abused all through my childhood and, I don't know if this helps but I have huge sympathy for my siblings.
I understand that they must have feelings of guilt and shame. They have terrible issues to deal with too.
I understand how it is to endlessly berate yourself for being part of covering it all up - I still blame myself for not speaking up even though I know iwas just a child.

I do find it helps me to think of a child in this situation because ith ensue quite clearly that I would never blame them for the same actions in that situation.

Could you get some counselling? It is ever so isolating because the people you would wish to talk to are so close to you. And family members may care deeply about the abuser so it divides loyalty. I do sympathise.

VenusandJuno Tue 23-Oct-12 19:31:25

knitfast :*it's very difficult to acknowledge any positive emotions you have towards them (I don't know if you do with your father?) without feeling horribly disloyal to the abused person*

Yes. I still have contact with my father. I feel ashamed to say it on here. But life is not straightforward is it? Who will ever be able to tell me if my choices are right or wrong.

sunny god, that sounds so difficult for you. Did you have to keep quiet whilst it continued or after? And did you keep on seeing your grandad?

theheir "torn between loyalty" is it isn't it? Just horrible shit. Even if your head knows facts which make you hate a family member for their actions. They did other normal stuff too. He was my father and I didn't have a good relationship with my mother. I wanted him to love me so much and never felt good enough at all. When I found out he'd abused my sister for years I struggled with the underlying thought "why not me? Why didn't he love me enough to abuse me?"
Fucked up but true. I wasn't good enough to abuse.

I love my sister. We were always closest to each other. But in the end she will see me as having failed her by remaining in contact with my father (and my brother who she hates)

doidare the lack of closure or resolution drives me mad. This will never be over. Sometimes I imagine a judgment day when I die ....I would actually welcome it even if I went to hell. Someone to tell me what the "right" thing would have been in every angle in every relationship

pagwatch I'm so sorry you went through being abused. Thanks for posting on here, your being understanding of your siblings situation is good to hear about. It didn't work out that way in my situation. I was an adult when I found out about the abuse and I tried to speak to him about it. I didn't try hard enough I suppose. I thought I'd spoken about it, but, to an abuser who is deft at lying to others and deceiving themselves you have to really bloody spell it out. And they'll still shrug it off.

Sorry for rambling. I didn't know what to expect when I started the thread. Looks like some counselling might be what I need.

VenusandJuno Tue 23-Oct-12 19:32:31

*abused my sister, for years then I struggled with ...

mummytime Tue 23-Oct-12 20:09:48

Do get yourself counselling. Do you still talk to your sister? Maybe just let her know you are going to counselling for this. The "why not me" I think is probably quite normal, and if not acknowledged could lead to all kinds of very self-destructive behaviour.

Have you ever heard the story of Freud. When he started psycho-analysis he started to get women coming to see him with tales of being abused. He started by believing them, but then as there were "so many" he decided it couldn't be true, so came up with his theories of "hysteria" and "penis envy".

Sunnywithachanceofshowers Tue 23-Oct-12 20:35:42

Hi Venus

It only happened once, and she told me the day it happened. I kept quiet about it until some time after his death. I also went through the 'why not me' stuff, which I knew even as I thought it was twisted.

I saw a psychotherapist for various issues years ago and we talked about this issue, which was massively useful.

pagwatch big hugs to you xxx

BinksToEnlightenment Tue 23-Oct-12 20:54:28

My sister was abused by her brother. But he's not my brother. Me and her have the same dad, her and him have the same mum.

She told me about it, but on the proviso that I would never tell anyone. I didn't, because I didn't want to humiliate her. It was horrific abuse. I don't think I need to go into it, but it was very bad and lasted for a long time.

Three years ago she made a very serious suicide attempt which she was lucky to survive. She's been in hospital ever since as a high suicide risk. She's very pretty but she has since cut her face badly across each cheek. I don't know when they will let her out.

It's horrible. I feel like I shouldn't feel bad. I don't deserve to feel bad. I'm alright.

It's not something I can talk to anyone about either. If I ever do, it's just a stunned silence.

Anyway, I wanted to let you know there are more of us out there.

Sunnywithachanceofshowers Tue 23-Oct-12 20:55:20

Binks sad

mcmooncup Tue 23-Oct-12 21:19:24

What an important thread.
I guess what this is about is how we are all hoodwinked into doing nothing and this can have devastating effects on everyone involved, however secondary. There is a culture everywhere that this must be kept a secret, that we must not speak up........and therefore so many people get away with sexual abuse.

The Saville case is an extreme example of how our culture still has conflicting messages about paedophiles - i.e. we all hate it and would never condone it, but also, we must never speak up about it unless we are 100% sure, and even then it is us who will be up for possible vilification, and the victims not believed.

The cultural shift that is required is massive. It is such an emotional crime and so tied up with our sexualised culture that is fiercely protected by the patriarchy, strongly stereotyped so we are mislead into thinking "he can't be that type of person", and on an individual level creates huge conflicts that we are all liable to want to avoid - OP your example of still being in contact with your father is an example of this. I am not saying this as a criticism in anyway, but rather an example of how we still find it hard to believe that these people can also be nice, and how we avoid the conflict associated with cutting all ties and saying what actually needs to be said.

I just hope the Saville case gets some honest discussions started about how our culture supports the secrecy of paeodophilia and the press stops monster-ising paedophiles and making them one dimensional characters - they are often the most charming people, of course they have to be sad, and we can learn how to disassociate the conflicting emotions of someone being good while also causing immense unforgivable harm to children.

All that ^^ possibly is not that relevant.............but I hope you know where I am coming from and I am sorry for all the hurt that is caused by abuse. It genuinely devastates me how this is such a prolific problem in families.

VenusandJuno Tue 23-Oct-12 21:29:40

Oh binks

I know that I am car crash viewing and listening to JS things and I could just avoid them but sweeping under the carpet gets exhausting. It is hard to keep faith in Humanity when these things are happening all around.

binks and anyone else, if you want to talk more please do. Have you been to counselling binks? Not that I think I need to "find answers" through counselling. There are no answers. I actually think a support group is what I need.

Like this thread, just somewhere when the truth can be spoken and maybe some feelings, thoughts and beliefs about the experiences can be unravelled a bit.

I'm sorry if I have bought up difficult issues/ memories for any of you but thanks for posting. We are all victims. We have all been put in a position of being guilty for someone else's actions.

BinksToEnlightenment Tue 23-Oct-12 21:32:05

Thank you, sunny. I just don't know how to help her. I'm not allowed to visit her very often - no one from her family is.

I worry so much about her. She's eighteen soon. She's missed her gcses and her a levels. She should be going to university.

Also, I feel like I should be taking revenge for her on her brother. But I can't do that. I'm a mum.

It's just so so so sad sad

BinksToEnlightenment Tue 23-Oct-12 21:35:24

Thank you too Venus. I feel selfish for even thinking about my feelings. Do you know what I mean?

I agree completely with the support group idea. It would be lovely just to have a nod from someone who knows what this is like.

tazzle22 Tue 23-Oct-12 21:39:36

"I just hope the Saville case gets some honest discussions started about how our culture supports the secrecy of paeodophilia and the press stops monster-ising paedophiles and making them one dimensional characters - they are often the most charming people, of course they have to be , and we can learn how to disassociate the conflicting emotions of someone being good while also causing immense unforgivable harm to children"

That just says it mooncup .........they dont go around with it tattoed on their foreheads, they rarely are "wierdos".... they are just "normal" to look at and talk to ! My father was unusual in being quite viscious and cruel at times but to most outsiders ( only relatives saw that stuff) he was charm offensive itself.

I too feel for siblings / relatives ..... its only recently I told my brother about what happened over 40 years ago and it must have been hard for him to hear even just the bare bones of it. I am lucky in that he believed me because he had remained in a family relationship with our father till he died. I too do have a few "happy" memories of the times we did do "normal happy family" stuff... and after all , we all crave that !!!!

I do think that often just as much support can be needed for those who were around / witnessed / related to a survivor ..... for definate your feelings and needs are valid / real and need to be heard.

VenusandJuno Tue 23-Oct-12 22:02:39

Yes. All my friends used to think my dad was great. I doubt they do now.

mc I must admit I still find it really hard to have my contact with my dad challenged. I believe that I had to come to some sort of resolution and go ahead with my life. Do I condone the abuse every time I speak to him? Maybe. I feel a bit like I'm drip feeding information but I guess that's becuase I started off just wanting to be general discussion but obv it's too personal to not add details.

binks that really is so sad. But you are not responsible for her now or then. Poor, poor girl. And poor you. Is there somewhere where you can find some advice or support? A family member or friend? Anyone else who knows the truth?

VenusandJuno Tue 23-Oct-12 22:06:27

Yes tazzle to the memories of "normal, happy life" ....though you always question whether things were "normal" or "happy" at any given time.

Night everyone. Thanks for posting on here today and please kep doing if u want to talk more x

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