Friday, December 23, 2011

Protecting Abusers

After my last post, BJ and I were talking. He said something to the effect of, "But you understand the desire to protect abusers. You still do it yourself."

Oh yeah. I do.

I've had panic and anxiety for three days following sharing with my brothers that my uncles had molested my cousin. I should protect them (my uncles). They're good people. So, yeah they molested at least three little girls, but... it's okay. Just keep it quiet. Don't tell anyone. Think of how it will affect them, their kids, their wives, my grandma... Think about everyone else, keep the secret, even if it kills me. Maybe they've changed and repented, and isn't fair to bring up their past...Why do they deserve to hurt just because I am? Or just because my cousin is? Geez, Jen, don't you believe in change and forgiveness? When are you just going to get over it?? They hurt you, but you don't KNOW that anyone else is getting hurt. It gives you anxiety to watch their teenage sons with little girls, but that's just you being overreactionary. And around and around it goes in my head.

The truth is, they did what they did. Pretending that they didn't do it is silly. Lying to protect them from the consequences won't heal or help anyone.Talking about it is the only way for things to change. (Which is why I wanted to tell my brothers so bad, and why I did tell them, even though it caused killer panic and anxiety ever since.)

The thing that makes ALL abuse possible is secrecy. As a child, I was sworn to secrecy. They said things like, "If you love me, you'll do this."
"This is what grownups do, and some people don't think you're big enough to do these things, so don't tell anyone. You want to be grownup don't you?"
"This is our little secret. Just between you and me, isn't this fun?"
"Don't tell your mommy and daddy. Think of how sad it will make your mom that you did this. And your dad will be so mad at both of us. You don't want him to be mad, do you?"
My mom remembers me trying to tell her "a secret", but I couldn't do it. She remembers me being so worked up, but in the end I didn't tell her, and we both forgot for the next twenty-five years.

As an adult, we keep abuse a secret for many different reasons.
"I love you, and this is just between us, so I won't tell my parents that the bruises I have came from you."
"Don't get anyone else involved."
"People will know I hit you because you deserve it."

I didn't share the horrible things that abusers have said to me. I haven't shared a lot of things that people have said to me, because I was worried that others would agree. If I told the bishop that my husband called me a "dirty whore", he'd agree. So I kept it secret to protect both the abuser and myself.

I understand why people protect abusers. I understand why abuse is kept secret. I understand why people blame the victim. I have done a lot to protect abusers. I have kept abuse a secret, and I have blamed the victim (me). Knowing all of that about myself, and knowing that there HAS to be a better way, I keep on writing and talking and searching and hoping.

My goal is still to heal ALL of us.


  1. Yeah, I do this too. I justify my silence by saying that what happened to me isn't really that bad compared to some horror stories I have heard. I am glad that you remind me that silence heals no one. Thank you for this post.

  2. Wow. This one is tough for me.

    I just want to say, I appreciate your bravery and ability to "speak" about this.

    I wish that I could just DO without having a barrage of thoughts that challenge what ought to be a sensical way of being. Yet, I know I protect the abuser because it seems the right way of being. However, there is that rational side that says otherwise.

    Those "secrets" damaging they are.

    Thank you for simply sharing. With light and love to you Jen.

  3. Kathy - Thank YOU!
    N - I too wish I could just DO. Trust myself. There are definitely times when not speaking is best, and there are times when not speaking is harmful...

    Thank you for your thought and insights. I appreciate YOU.

  4. I'm glad you told me. I'm sorry it brought you anxiety. I don't know how to solve the problem, but I definitely know that silence isn't the answer. I know I didn't say much that night. We kind of just moved on to another subject, largely because I didn't know what to say. But I had a talk with mom a few days later. I expressed to her that I felt someone needed to talk to them. They need to know the damage they've caused. Not because I necessarily even want to punish them, but because healing needs to happen and that doesn't happen through silence. Mom agreed. She said she would bring it up someday, but for now she doesn't know how. I can accept that, because I don't know how either.

    Strangely, I was happy for you though. I know that sounds really weird, but I know for a long time you didn't know what happened. I hope that figuring out who the abusers were has been a helpful step for you.

    Anyway, thank you for ending the silence.

  5. I actually appreciated the change of subject after... I'm not sure I was ready to talk about it more at the moment.

    And I get the feeling happy for me though, it's one of those things that I call "miraculous shit". It sucks and it's wonderful all at the same time.

    I do plan on talking to them someday. For the very reason that healing comes when we start talking.