Betrayed, Angry, Disappointed and Confused.
These are some of the emotions you can feel when you find out that a family member knew about the abuse going on in your home but did nothing to help.
The adults in my family knew that my mom and stepdad were abusive, raging alcoholics and what I still find so painful to understand is why no one ever acknowledged it, empathized or helped.
If you’re someone that’s struggling to come to terms with the fact that members of your family turned a blind eye to the abuse you experienced today’s post is for you.
Through the lens of my personal experiences, I’m offering up 3 reasons that may help you understand why your family ignored the abuse.
I’ve got to say, even if you never get your why…
What you’ll learn today, will help you see that your family’s inability to rally wasn’t your fault and certainly not a reflection of your worth.
Ultimately, their inaction says nothing about you but everything about them.
After you’ve had a chance to read, meet me in comment section and share if and how you’ve come to terms with a family member that turned a blind eye to abuse.
A quick heads up here. I realize the reasons I’m providing, based off of my own experiences, certainly aren’t exhaustive and don’t represent every family. That’s why it so important for you to sound off and share in the comment section.
Remember your voice, experiences and insights are vital to this community. And what you have to share is not only unique but it may be exactly what someone else needs to read. And that someone could be you.
As always, thanks for commenting, sharing and reading each and every week.
Until Next Tuesday,
#1 They’re Cut From The Same Dysfunctional Cloth
As a kid, I foolishly believed that the only reason why my family never protected my mom from my stepdad’s beatings was because they didn’t know about them.
So the night that my Pop-Pop (my mom’s dad) showed up at our house just in time to witness my stepdad pinning my mom up against the fridge by her neck – I thought for sure he’d send my stepdad packing.
But instead, as my mom dangled there, her face slowly turning purple, my Pop-Pop leaned back in his chair and growled, “That’s what you get, you bitch. Next time you keep your mouth shut.”
At that time, I didn’t understand my Pop-Pop’s reaction. I was devastated. But now as an adult I know better.
I know that my family knew about the beatings. I know that they knew about the beatings my mom unleashed on me. But because they were all cut from the same dysfunctional cloth they saw that as normal. And as a result, they did nothing.
In my family, there are generations of dysfunction, addiction and abuse that had never been challenged before. And unfortunately, that cycle and behavior became the family norm.
So in that context, it makes sense to me now why my Pop-Pop, aunts, uncles and cousins never said or did anything about it.
As a family, they were all cut from the same dysfunctional cloth.
So if you’re thinking about a specific family member and you’re wondering why they never spoke up about the abuse, try to place their inaction in the context of your bigger family picture.
Within the context of your family, does their behavior make sense?
Now, just because it makes sense, within the family, doesn’t mean their inaction or lack of concern is okay.
I just want you to see that their behavior really isn’t about you.
#2 They Didn’t Have “It” To Give
This one has been a hard lesson for me to learn but sometimes you have to accept that some people, even if they’re family, just don’t have it to give.
The “it” in this scenario could be anything from support to protection all the way to unconditional love.
Years ago, I hit a really rough spot after my stepmom left my dad to be with her lover in Florida.
I remember being on the phone with an aunt who was in town, and asking her if she’d drive out to hang out with me. I told her that I really needed her support and company.
And her response was one that I’ll never forget. She said, “I can’t because my car doesn’t have air conditioning and I don’t like to drive with the windows down.”
At the time I was devastated by her response and I took it very personally. But over the years I realized that her inaction had nothing to do with me. I was asking something of her that she just didn’t have to give.
I went to the wrong person to try to get my needs met.
It’s unfortunate but even when abuse is present that doesn’t automatically mean that your family will step in to protect you. And sometimes that’s because that person or collection of people just don’t have “it” to give.
#3 They Didn’t Have The Strength Or The Courage
Another aunt, that I absolutely adored, dropped me off and left me with my mom one night when she was belligerently drunk.
I was only 7 years old at the time but I still remember the look of horror on my aunt’s face when my mom answered the door and my aunt realized how out of control and dangerous my mom was.
Instead of offering to take me for the night or at least calling the police in private, my aunt just let me go inside. And that night I got quite the beating.
For years that night haunted me and I replayed my aunt’s response or lack of response over and over again in my head.
Fast forward 15 years later and I’m living in an apartment above a man who beats the crap out of his girlfriend on a regular basis.
It took me weeks to build up the courage to call the police and do something about it.
I worried that I was making a mistake. I thought I should just mind my own business and I was afraid of what might happen if they found out that I’d made the call.
That’s when I realized the tremendous amount of courage and strength it takes to stand up and take action against abuse. That’s when I considered for the first time, that my aunt just didn’t have that kind of courage or strength.
Her decision to remain silent had nothing to do with me or my worth but everything to do with the courage that she didn’t have at the time to do the right thing.
Coming to terms with family members who stayed silent in the face of abuse isn’t about making excuses for them. But I think it’s so important, for your recovery and healing, to see that their inaction had nothing to do with you and was never a reflection of your worth.
If you’re in a spot right now where you’re struggling to come to terms with something like this, try to place their behavior in your family context. Try to replace what you think they should’ve done with they were actually capable of doing. Ask yourself, did they really have the strength or the courage? Did they even have that kind of support and protection to give?
Again, I’m not asking you to make excuses or pretend like it’s okay, I just want you to see how little their choices had to do with you and your worth.
Finally, learn from their inaction and realize that you have the power and the knowledge to choose differently especially if abuse is still alive in your family.