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Abusive parents - finding out 'the truth'(56 Posts)
To cut a very long story short, I was sexually and physically abused by my father and ignored by my mother during my childhood. I haven't spoken to my father for years, having decided he was 'evil' and beyond redemption.
My mother, i find it harder to know how to feel towards her as she wasn't particularly bad, but she also wasn't particularly good to me either. Its a lack of parenting rather than an actual wrong doing if that makes sense. I have not spoken to her for several years, but have recently tried to re-connect to her via email by sending a 'confrontation letter' as per Toxic Parents book that many of us have.
She eventually replied with this:
'At the moment I am relatively pain free but I expect to be very ill again in a few months as my body gets used to the painkillers again - so now is the best time to get this stuff out.
Ok here goes - but the stuff still gives me nightmares so be prepared.
Firstly, you were a planned baby and all of my life I have dedicated myself to give you the best future that I could. This means that I did not want to end up stuck on benefits as most single parents were then. It was not so easy to be a singe parent then.
When I became pregnant I was still working, managing the Little Chef, which was a difficult job, involving me being on my feet a lot. At about 4 months pregnant I was becoming ill and very tired. Derrick (I want use this name again - DJ instead), started to become difficult. I was the main breadwinner - earning 3 times what DJ did so it was important that I kept working as long as possible. DJ did not do the housework, cooking etc. At 5 months pregnant, we wanted the baby room and kitchen decorated. He would not do the baby room so I did that after work. After much nagging from myself he agreed to do the kitchen - which was large. I came back from work one evening and he had decorated exactly half of the kitchen and demanded that I complete the rest. He has started hitting and abusing me at this time. I was made to climb up the ladder and start painting which I had to do whilst DJ went and sat in the lounge watching TV. I fell of the ladder because of my pregnancy and because I was tired and unwell. He came into the kitchen saw me on the floor and started kicking me in the stomach and vagina - stating that my pregnancy had made me useless. He spent some time kicking and abusing me and I started to lose blood. I asked for an ambulance but he took the phone and left me in the kitchen, where I stayed until the morning. After he left for work, I was able to call an ambulance and I was blue lighted into hospital. I was put into a coma in order to keep the baby and stayed in there from August for a month or two. When I was sent home, I was again beaten and I think that the aim was to abort the baby. That afternoon I went shopping to get some food and the doctor saw me in Sainsbury's. He called the ambulance straight away and I was again blue lighted into hospital. There I stayed in a coma until I went into labour. I was in labour for 3 days. On the second day, your father was physically removed from the hospital because he was being abusive to me whilst I was in labour - demanding that I hurry up and do something that any women could do! After 3 days, I had a beautiful baby girl, who I then vowed, I would protect for ever more.
When I came home on 24th December, DJ had totally changed. I had postnatal depression, which is quite common after such a difficult birth, but looking after you and protecting you became my sole reason for living. During this period the abuse became really bad and I really wanted to get away. At that time such matters were caused "domestics" and the police did not intervene. Abuse was not seen as something that was discussed. I went to the doctors whenever I could. One Indian doctor told me to go home and forgive him. The social services at that time concentrated on removing the baby rather than help with abuse. I concentrated all my time on protecting you and ensuring that you were not taken into care and recovering from a major operation and have eclampsia. During this period real abuse began. Some of them are:
Wrapping a phone cable around my neck and then ripping the phone off the wall and smashing it into my face - that is the scar between my eyes and two scars on my forehead. This is because I was calling my mother. My parents gave me little support and did not believe that I was being abused.
Rammed a wardrobe into me at great force.
Ditto a sofa - both extremely painful.
Grabbing me by the hair and running around the large, long corridor, banging my head against a wall.
Strangling me until I passed out - I often had large bruised around my neck and have lost one on my vocal chords because of this.
Frequently raping me and sexually abusing me - which in those days was not illegal. Now it is called rape.
Frequently verbally abusing me kicking me to the floor.
I have a lot of burn scars from cigarettes and small scars all over my body.
Many more that are buried, far worse and I don't want to talk about.
After he kicked me to the floor - wearing steel toed shoes he held you (a little baby of a few months) and telling you how pathetic I was. at this time, I had had enough, knew that he would only get worse, so I decided to divorce. A matter that I knew would cause even more problems.
When the papers were served on him, he became worse. He decided that I belonged to him, as did everything else. He started locking me in the house. He nailed all the windows shut and disabled the car. He changed the locks and locked me in the house with you. The beatings became worse but I always protected you and he never touched you.
One day he went completely mad (in all senses) and decided he did not want me in the house any more so he physically threw me out, holding you. I had no money, no clothes, nothing except what we had. I walked with you the two miles into town and went into the Salvation Army. They looked after me and fed us both. After a few days, they contacted my parents and they agreed to help (they had not wanted to help before, as they did not want me to divorce, saying it was all my fault). I stayed with them a few days in one of the flats. We were then given a bed and breakfast room and the Salvation Army gave me a few clothes and toys for you as well as nappies. I think you were about 6 months old. We had to leave at 7 am until 7pm and it was deep snow. We spent a lot of time in the library where I read to you. Generally walking around and eating where we could. The social came up with emergency money for us. My bank accounts had been cleared out by DJ. This was our poorest and I missed out on buying you all the beautiful things I wanted to.
The divorce was contentested all along for over 3 years. He wanted you and I would not let him have you. The cruelty was denied. We were sent to Relate where he attacked me during the counselling. This was reported to the courts. Courts were very pro men at that time. During court hearings he stated that I was amongst other things, gay, drug taker and unfit mother as well as being mad. All of these had to be proven wrong and all were said to ensure that I could not keep you. Similarly he did not want to lose any money or the house or cars. He stated that I had left the house so I should lose them all. I was doing everything I could to keep you. During one of the reports on me I was sent to a physiatrist to see if I was mad - the physiatrist stated that I was fine, but DJ was a psychopath - which meant that he had little concept of right or wrong and had a totally different view of life to most people. He used violence to make me conform to his view of life. He was trying to live as his father - his mother was not allowed a life!
I gained the house for us to live in after about 18 - 24 months. When we left the B&B to get into the house, I discovered that it had been trashed. A sledgehammer had been used on all the walls, wallpaper torn off, fittings taken, cupboards wrenched off the walls, gas fires ripped out and the gas left on. The kitchen, including cupboards and cooker had been ripped out and the place was infected. I called the environment office and they condemned the house, so back to the B&B we went while they fumigated it and the gas board and electric board made it safe. A week later we moved in to a cold shell without any furniture or cooker. Again the Salvation Army helped us.
The next couple of years were spent in court sorting out access. I did not want to give it to him. It went right up to the High Court in London, before I had some kind of control over it. He also tried to snatch you several times, giving several cases of car chases until I could get to the police station. I stopped access whenever I could but if I stopped access, then the social came in and the courts threatened to give you to DJ. at about 6 years of age you began to react very badly to access and I again stopped it. Social came in again and threatened me with court, but you were luckily old enough to say that you did not want to go to him. I promised you, that if you told them the truth, I would try my best to stop access. I explained it to you in terms that you could understand at that age. Back again to High Court and I managed, with the social, to stop all access until you stated that you wanted to see DJ. This was kept to you and you never did ask. Several times DJ asked to see you and went back to court. Every time I had to stop him again. I got several restraining orders against him, because he was chasing me and threatening me in the street. He made one snatch on you and put me into a wheel chair with damaged discs in my back - this was done with his steel tipped boots. I finally got you cleared when you were in Royal Russell after he had become abusive at the school. The police removed him and you never knew.
During this period, my whole life was dedicated to protecting you from a mad, extremely volatile man, fighting the social and the courts who insisted that a man was entitled to see his daughter.
From the you age of 0 to 2 we were below the breadline. At that time social was paid minus maintenance regardless of whether it was received or not. It rarely was. We lived a lot on rice and were very poor.
At that stage I took the decision that rather than live on benefits and give you that kind of life, I would go to university so that I could get a good job and make a life for us.'
What I don't think she realises is that I went through alot of the same torment, but I was a child and couldn't leave. I feel let down that she didn't help me more. In fact, she moved in with another violent man, who, when he got drunk would beat me in front of his own children, all the time, giving them a long speech about how useless I was and how I deserved it.
Now my issue is... should I see her as another victim of the same man who ruined my life and offer her some kind of forgiveness or stay with my previous viewpoint that although not as evil as him, she still let me down badly?
This has totally knocked me for six and I feel like I need to come to some kind of resolution in my head in order to put this whole thing in the past where it belongs and stop it affecting my future.
Any help or advice from anyone who has been in a similar situation or just some advice from a neutral point of view would be very much welcome.
she's a victim, definately.
but so are you, of him AND her.
i get the feeling she's trying to shift the responsibility by laying all of this out for you.
take your time to absorb this and think about it before responding.
Well, she had a horrendous time but I dont see much acknowledgement there of your suffering. She cant have been oblivious to it but I'm guessing she sees herself as the victim and as far as you are concerned she sees only the ways she protected you.
Yes she had a horrendous time but that is her issue (and I guess you did her a favour by giving her the chance to tell you her side of the story) but personally I'd find it hard to build bridges when she seems so oblivious/ unintersted in your suffering. I mean, she knows right? did you lay it all out in your letter?
forgiveness is paramount.
doesnt mean you have to be friends, but will enable you to move on.
i utterly disagree motherlovebone.
forgiveness is over-rated.
by not forgiving, i believe you damage yourself.
its something you do for you, not for others.
i used to think that, motherlovebone and if it works for you then great, but it's not necessary to forgive in order to move on or move past past trauma and/or abuse.
Thank you all for taking the time to reply, so late at night.
In my email to her, I talked about the things that she had/hadn't done, as I didn't want to blame her for his wrong doing. But I did count amongst that my feeling that she didn't protect me enough from my father, or the next violent partner. Also included were the fact that she moved to another country without telling me, left me with my aunt for a week, that turned into 2 years and generally pretty much ignored me in favour of her career. I thin she took the last criticism to heart and the above email in her mind explained her determination that making money was what was important. Of course, like every child (and certainly one who had such a horrible start in life) I just wanted to spend time with her and to feel loved and valued.
I am torn between feeling sorry for her and feeling that she has no understanding that I went through the same, beatings, cigarette burns, locked in my room and made to pee in a bucket, rape, etc... but I was 6 years old!!!!! And unfortunately, although I wish it wasn't true, its still has an influence on my life now and I'm 30.
So I'm torn between understanding and anger. ;0(
Duke - I'm so sorry, you have suffered so much.
Forgive your mum if you feel it would be good for you (though I'm with Binks - it's overrated), if you want to build bridges then do it because you want to.
You owe nothing to your mother. You are now living your life with the damage done to you, that in itself is hard enough without having to be responsible for your mother and the relationship between you. She had her time as your parent and made her choices, sometimes with you in mind but often, it seems, to your detriment.
Forget her feelings, make your choices purely based on what would benefit you.
you've had it ten times worse than me duke, but i can relate alot to your situation... sometimes you've just got to just lay it at their door and walk away.
she didn't protect you and she should have. that's her responsibility and she let you down.
sometimes the lack of protection is harder to get over than the physical/sexual abuse itself. it compounds the abuse and they become complicit by their lack of action.
the best response is to be a productive person who protects and looks out for others.
I am trying so hard to be productive and help others, for one thing, since I was 18 years old, I have given money monthly to the Salvation Army, so that they might help others like they helped me. I also try to help friends with whatever life throws at them.
However, sometimes I feel its all in vain as I seem to take one step forward and then something like this comes along and I'm three steps back.
Whenever I am moving forward, I am dragged back to this. I sometimes feel its not worth trying to better myself and help others as I am so damaged that it will nevr work anyway.
Three years ago my father turned up on my doorstep and it led to a mental breakdown for me. I'd changed my name and moved 200 miles and he still found me.
I had to make the painful decision to not press charges and try to forget the whole thing as I knew it would be my word against his and no good would come for me.
However, shortly after making that decision, I found out he had sexually abused 2 other little girls, and that will always be on my mind, til the day I die. Now I feel like I need to make another decision about my mother, to forgive or to forget?
try to remove the pressure of 'sorting it out'... my first counsellor was great and one of the first things she said was that i had to do EVERYTHING on my terms... even if that meant doing nothing, not replying to letters, not returning phonecalls, pissing people off or avoiding any confrontations.
after all you've gone through it's not surprising you have times when you struggle to come to terms with it.
the bottom line though is that you are in no way responsible for the abuse of you or anyone else... that needs to be left squarely at your father's feet.
since confronting my father (by letter) the thought of seeing him or talking to him makes me utterly shit myself and he wasn't a violent or overtly scary person... he was mainly creepy and odd.
i've kept all the ridiculous letters from my mum following my initial confrontation and i occassionally re-read them to remind myself how i'm better off out of it and away from them but i have moments of weakness where i doubt myself and lose my sense of righteousness.
you don't HAVE to make a decision about your mother. don't give into her subliminal pressure to see it from her point of view. she's not trying to see it from yours is she?
off to bed duke.
i hope you have some realisations that help you feel less responsible for your parents failings. your dad sounds like an utter cunt.
night night x
you obviously just want some kind of normal relationship with your mum.
it would be great for her to say "i failed you, im sorry, i realise" but it isnt going to happen at this stage, maybe never.
i would pour all my resources into myself.
you could pour your resources into yourself.
i had a dodgy upbringing, got to a point where i wasnt talking to my dad.
further on, i realised, i either accept what he is offering or cut off contact.
its nothing to the scale of what you are talking about here, but i think you too are at the point of
1) accept nothing will change re. mother, maybe you could enjoy surface stuff together, coffee etc.
2) want more, acknowledgement, admittance, etc. which isnt forthcoming, so close the book
for now, i would concentrate on yourself, if you need, keep in touch for birthday, christmas and stuff...
go and get the little you from your memory, bring her home and look after her.
I'm sorry, but that email is all about her. Nothing in there to acknowledge YOU, what you went through or your suffering. She didn't protect you if you were physically & sexually abused, did she? Infact she walked both of you right back into that same (similar) situation.
She has suffered, that cannot be denied. She had an horrendous time. But so did you. Maybe she cannot acknowledge it for fear of feeling that she let you down, maybe that would be too much for her. But it is something she needs to accept & address.
Forgive her if it will help you heal & start to understand this. But you do not HAVE to forgive her. Forgiveness will not make it any different, it will not undo what you endured. It will not take your pain away.
I do not see forgiveness as being paramount here.
THat e-mail is all about her isn't it?!
NOt an ounce of empathy towards you. NOt a shred of recognition as to how she has badly let you down by allowing you to be abused. And no real apology apart from "you see, it wasn't my fault all along".
Warning bells started ringing for me with the first line "I will soon be in pain" or whatever it was.
She has been through the mill but it is NOT your place to pity her. You are the daughter in this relationship, not the mother. You have always been the vulnerable one out of the two of you.
It is not black and white and I always believe that abusers and bystanders(your mother) have been abused themselves, which is why they behave like that. But going by that line, you should forgive your father too.
IT is up to you what you do with it. I am sure she loves you, in her own way. But having had letters like this from my own mother (all about her problems with my father while I was being abused left right and centre by both of them) I can assure you that unless your mum does some real soul-searching you are going to be waiting for recognition of your pain for a long time
I spent the best part of my childhood and early twenties "forgiving" my parents because I wanted to be a better person than them. Do you know what forgiving them did? It allowed them and me to believe that their behaviour was somewhat acceptable. ONly by finally allowing myself to NOT forgive them i.e to hold them accountable was I finally able to improve my life, be a good mother myself and move on. NOT forgiving takes much more strength and wisdom than blind forgiveness because you are showing yourself and the world that what has happened to you was wrong and you will never allow the same thing to happen to your own children.
I haven't read the book (toxic parents) so am not sure of your reason for sending the letter in the first place but would say a few things...
1. You can report abuse to the police even if it was decades ago if you so wish.
2. I agree with Sakura's last post tbh. If you are looking for reasons for your mum's behaviour, then you've probably just got a shedload of them in that letter.
Also, you said something about trying to put this in the past. I think you have to accept at some point that your past shapes your future unless you take strategic steps to stop it happening. I don't know if you can recognise any behaviour you have today (like anxiety or depression for example) that you feel are unhealthy or whether you just have the feeling that the past is too much in your head.
Either way, I would really recommend a counsellor to talk through all of it. I, too, used to think that all I needed to do was 'put it behind me' but I now realise that this was a euphemism for 'deal with it properly' because I had been repressing everything because when it came to the forefront in my head, I found it too hard to deal with.
I'm not saying you're like this but just in case .
And yes, of course she was a victim. But she was someone who stayed in that 'pattern of living' (by then dating a similar sort of person to your dad) and didn't escape the cycle. I feel sorry for your mum (as I do my parents) but I think you need to get to a place where you can feel sorry for them but also, acknowledge the fact that you are allowed to feel disappointed and let down by the treatment you had as a child and quite rightly so. And you owe it to yourself to get some help to enable you to live your life without your past featuring too large in your future.
I cried when I read of your mum's abuse, but the others are right - that was about her - there's no acknowledgement of the depths of abuse you suffered.
I had an abusive childhood - emotionally abusive and neglectful - from about the age of 12.
Like you, I stuggled with it for years, read "Toxic Parents" about five years ago and decided to confront my mother through writing a letter (and BTW I've just bought a book called "When you and your mother can't be friends" and that's good too).
My mother responded with a letter that was very like the one you have described above. She basically (1) told me how hard things had been for her being a single parent (2) shifted the blame to my stepfather and (3) thanked me for giving her the opportunity to get it out of her system.
In the letter she talked about us "having nothing" and how she had gone to train as a nurse to "make us a better life". She dressed up every decision she had ever made as though she was making it in my best interests, for example, saying that her (many) failed relationships with men had failed because they "weren't good enough to be my father" when in fact I remember perfectly that it was always the bloke that ended the relationship and it was always some issue to do with her jealously and possessiveness. She also glossed over many of the points I had raised because she didn't have an adequate answer and couldn't bring herself to take responsibility or say sorry.
Eventually I responded to her letter with a second letter saying that I felt she was not acknowledging what I had suffered and that I did not think my stepfather was in any was responsible. She replied again but the closest she came to acknowledging anything was saying that she was sorry things had worked out the way they had.
I agree with the above posters who say that you should (a) respond only on your own terms and (b) take time to think before you respond.
Ultimately, I found your mother's letter very sad but as somebody else has said beforehand, the opening lines about her being in pain rang alarm bells immediately. She has clearly suffered and has tried to avoid your suffering to an extent, but there is no real explanation of how she prevented you suffering at the hands of her new husband. She reminds me of my own mother - very selfish and dressing herself up as selfless.
I also agree with Binks that forgiveness is over rated. After the second letter from my mother I decided to try that route and it didn't work - just caused more problems. I was pregnant with my first child at the time and I wanted to give my child some sort of relationship with her nan and free her from the destructive stuff I'd been brought up with.
Looking back, she had never truly acknowledged what she had done and despite this I allowed her into our lives. Four years later I am paying the price.
Initially she did appear to change and make an effort (offering lots of help with the baby which I really needed because DH worked dreadful shift patterns) but as time wore on, she slipped into her old self and I realised that her behaviour is an entrenched part of her personality and cannot be changed. I won't give you reams of examples, but there was a time last year when I asked her to babysit between 7-7.30pm so I could go to parents' evening (there was nobody else available and DH was away)
and she started umming and ahhing and trying to use the situation to her advantage to have control over me (by saying she would and then as I was about to put the phone down saying that she might change her mind).
My point in telling you this is that, although books like "Toxic Parents" are excellent, I think they offer more in terms of getting the stuff off your chest than in dealing with the aftermath when it doesn't work out.
I am expecting a second baby this week and haven't seen my mother since Christmas (by choice). Her behaviour deteriorated to the point I could no longer deal with her. From her perspective, it's a case of "what's the problem? I thought all that stuff was in the past?" because she has no insight into her own behaviour (and even if you tell her she would deny it). It's way too exhausting for me to cope with as well as two small children.
It's not ever going to be "okay" but I tested the waters through writing that letter and I guess she just wasn't up to the challenge of looking at herself objectively. It does help enormously to have written the letter and read her response (the second letter she responded with, not the first) but the only real conclusion was that she was never going to change.
Sadly your mum sounds a lot like mine in terms of her selfishness and I wonder about her ability to reflect on her actions objectively. I don't deny she's had a crap life but that's not your fault to fix. You owe her nothing, not even a response if you don't want to make one.
You might need to write back, as I did, but you will need more time to relect on how you feel about her responses and ultimately, you might continue to feel disappointed that she let you down.
Oh my god, some of your responses are so insightful.
Yes, I do feel that she hasn't acknowledged any of what I went through and in fact, that is exactly what she is like, very self centred. Its all about her and she has no empathy or understanding of others.
A random example.....
I was in boarding school and she left to move to Singapore with out even telling. I rang home and there was no answer several days in a row. The school got involved because I was worried she might be dead on the kitchen floor.
And then I got a postcard about a week later saying that a great job opportunity had come up and she had moved, to make more money for us. In her head, she sent the postcard within the first few days of arriving, so what was the problem? In the end she was there for a year before moving to another country. My stuff that was at home was sent to charity shops without my knowing!
I think you are right, I need to decide if I can accept her without her changing or ever acknowledging anything I have been through. In her mind she did what was right.
The thing I said about leaving the past behind - I kind of feel like a damaged person. F**ked up by all that has happened, and no matter how hard I work in my job, my relationships, this stuff always comes back to haunt me.
Its like as soon as something is going right, this all comes back to remind me how I'll never escape from that bedroom I was locked in as a little girl and all this being a successful girl about town is all just a facade.
Its so hard to know what to do for the best. but I shall certainly take your advice and think long and hard about what I want before replying.
thank you all so much, your kind words and thoughts mean so very much to me.
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