This is a guest post by someone I know who wishes to remain entirely anonymous. Please do not attempt to guess who they are, they will not be commenting and any comments trying to state who they are will be deleted and the commenter blocked from commenting on this blog entirely.
TRIGGER WARNING: THIS POST IS ABOUT THE AFTERMATH OF CHILD ABUSE
People know that child abuse happens. They might be a bit unclear on what exactly it is but they know that it happens and that it is bad. What most people don’t seem to really realise though is that most abused children survive childhood and grow up to be adults. Adults that could be and probably are people they know. What else people seem not to understand is that many people who were abused as children were never removed from the care of abusive relatives as children and may still have an ongoing relationship with abusive and abuse-enabling relatives as adults.
I am still in regular contact with people who deliberately and wilfully harmed me when I was in their care. I smile and play the dutiful adult offspring and act like nothing is wrong. I go home for Christmas. When people talk about how no matter what your parents always love you and want the best for you, I stay quiet and pretend it doesn’t hurt. When I need to write something like this blog post, I don’t and it swirls round and round in my head threatening to spill out of my mouth.
“I was abused”
“My mental illness was caused by child abuse”
“I cannot feel safe at my parents’ house”
These are sentences I have said aloud. But not to my parents or anyone who knows them. Not to most of my friends.
And even when I say them, people try to minimise and tell me that of course things must be okay now after all this time? Or they suggest that things can’t have been “that bad” because as a child I did not call the police or social services to rescue me. Because the teachers only saw a bright child and didn’t notice I was hurting. It was bad enough to have permanent effects on my development, mental health and my identity. That I was abused at all was “bad enough” because child abuse should never happen to anyone.
People tell me my parents were “trying their best” and maybe they were but it doesn’t matter. I was harmed. I am hurting. And I live in a society that so valorises the nuclear family that it seems like I am the only one who has to live with the consequences.
Because I cannot publically write about what happened to me. Because there is no polite way to say “Actually, my relationship with my family is fucked up”. Because never seeing the people who hurt me again isn’t a socially valid option – and seeing them without pretending nothing is wrong isn’t either.
There are hundreds and thousands of people like me. Quietly trying to piece our lives together whilst pretending nothing is wrong to save society’s ideals about family.
It hurts. It hurts pretending and it hurts when I don’t. There are so many things where I wish I could just call my mum or dad for advice and I can’t. I feel so alone at those times because I have no parental figures in my life and no way to find new ones. I have to be my own mum and dad all the time. Except when I go back to my parents’ house and plaster on a smile and talk about a carefully scripted version of my life – one without nightmares and nervous breakdowns and suicidal ideation, one where I am independent out of choice not necessity, one where I feel loved and wanted by my family. An acceptable, comforting lie. I can’t sustain it long. It hurts so much.
I feel alone so much of the time but I know there are millions of others in my position. I wrote this for them. You’re not alone.
It happened to me too.