Another disappointing response from a relative

I had my aunt visit recently, the one who was also assaulted by my father. When I visited her a couple of years ago, she was very accepting of what I had to say and even offered to put some pressure on my mom to write me a letter.

After visiting me she visited my mother, and you guessed it, went into denial. She wrote me a letter expressing her hope that my mother and brothers and I would all be one big happy family again.  I just got it and I’m crying.

I know, I know that family members do this. That they go into and out of denial, and seldom are able to really handle how bad it is. However it really hurts. Why do I always have to be the strong one? Why can’t I have the steadfast warrior support I deserve?

It hurts.

Here is the response I wrote:

“Dear Aunt J

I really enjoyed your visit. Thank you so much for coming.

You know, I’ve learned a lot in my life in connection to what happened to me. One thing is that people have a very hard time holding in their hearts that it is as bad as it is. It hurts. It is an exceptional person who can do it, usually one who has had to face her own hard truths unflinchingly. I am able to do this for others, and I understand it is a rare gift. It feels better to pretend it is something that can be swept under the rug or that it’s not of much importance. That’s how I understand your letter. I forgive you for wanting it all to go away, and I understand the impulse to put gentle pressure on me to make nice with my mother, which demands that I pretend what she did wasn’t horrific in it’s own right, and give up my right to a confession and apology.

Here is why you should resist that impulse to condone and minimize, however. That impulse is what protects people like Graham. That impulse is what keeps people from calling the police and getting children to safety, or calling child protective services. That impulse to hide from the truth of a horrific situation is why he is not in jail right now, why he got away with raping a child, with aggravated sexual assault. That impulse is why I have chronic discomfort, every day from the vascular damage and scarring he inflicted on me, scarring and nerve damage that in part result from medical attention my mother could have gotten for me, but did not. If we do not stand up to insist on a world where children’s bodies are respected, and those who violate them are held accountable, who will? If we contribute to a climate that sweeps it under the rug as not important, then we are part of the problem.

It is important and healthy to face the truth. It is good for the soul, and our own personal integrity. It is good to be accountable for harm we have done to others and make amends.  That is why I am requiring that my mother confess to me what she did, to make amends by confessing in writing. I have proof, in the form of the scars, that she did know, right after it happened. Those wounds were very severe, and not something a mother would not have noticed in a 5 or 6 year old child. She knew, and she covered it up, instead of going to the police or even a doctor. I got no stitches, no antibiotics, and as far as I can recall, no painkillers. I’m not sure if you tore when you gave birth, but I imagine it is like that. My doctor has given me some strategies to manage the pain and vascular problems I still have, but my body will never be the same. Those ongoing effects could have been prevented if I’d gotten stitched up and removed from Graham’s reach right away. Imagine a child going through that alone.

It is a small thing I am asking for. I am asking only that people face the reality of what happened as unflinchingly as they can. I survived it, I healed it.  I deserve that small thing from people who love me, and I respect myself enough to insist on it. If it means I have no family, so be it.

I was so honoured that you and uncle T believed and supported me. It filled a deep place within me. Although I understand that denial is part of your own grieving process, and that it is difficult to stay connected to the truth of what happened in the face of my mother’s denial, it still hurts. I understand, and I forgive you, but I want to inspire you to do better.

Accepting the truth, even a horrific truth, unflinchingly, has its own gifts. It makes us stronger, and less able to be manipulated by others. I would not go back. I am proud of who I have become by overcoming, and wish that for my mother and older brother, and for you.

May you be blessed in all ways possible,


your niece. “

0 thoughts on “Another disappointing response from a relative”

  1. Powerful.

    I have received zero support from my family. It has been a punch in my gut, a violation all over again. The abuser is living with small children, and while everyone knows/believes, no one will stand up to him. No one with stand up with me. And those children LIVE under his roof. I fear I’m too late. They are already broken. No one will listen to my screams.

    Did you receive a reply to this letter??

    1. I got a holiday card, which acknowledged it slightly.

      About the children at risk- Call social services , or child protection or whatever the government body that protects kids is called where you live and tell them the name of your abuser, that he abused you and the names and addresses of the children he is living with.. Call them. It’s hard I know. I did it once. Do it anyways. Someone should have done it for you and they didn’t, but it’s still your turn. Even if nothing is done there will be a record for them later, and a paper trail that may eventually go somewhere. Do it. Do it for yourself and all of us who didn’t get that call made for us.

  2. Pingback: Rules of kvetching: applied to CSA survivors | May We Dance Upon Their Graves

  3. Good for you! Haven’t many of us had those same conversations with our families of origin? Damn, and the responses are usually just what you got here. Your reply was eloquent and respectful. Even though it may not change your relationships, you have planted a seed, stood up for yourself and the rest of us…..Blessings my brave one!

  4. Dear Sworddancewarrior,

    I just found your above personal sexual abuse story and car crash metaphor. Wow, I completely understand every word you said! I also, understand the feeling of family members treating this situation like it is not that serious! I have severe Post Tramatic Stress Disorder from my step father who adopted wanting to be with me throughout my childhood and adulthood. I was not raped by intercourse. However, my dad mentally sexually abused me everyday from childhood until I moved out at age 18. The throughout my adulthood, he didn’t,t want my mom and I to have a mother/daughter relationship. He wanted me gone! Although my mom yelled at him and fought with this everyday about this disgusting behavior, she has stayed married to him for 41 years now. He has abuses her so much mentally, that my mom has been passive aggressive to me my whole life. I don’t think she fully realizes how he has made her look at me like I am another woman her husband wants. It is so sick to this day. However, I have always had Jesus in my life to walk with me. If it were not foe my faith since childhood, I don’t think I would have survived! The beginning iof my life started when I met my husband almost 25 years ago! He lived through all the disgusting happenings with my dad and my mom who is angry, in denial and too weak to leave. My husband is a wonderful, caring, loving and understanding man. My mom would always say “All families have problems.” We’ll, you know what, I am so thankful my husband and I have two beautiful daughters whom we are giving a loving, normal, fun and safe childhood and forever! I am so thankful to The Lord! Our daughters do not know about this part of my life. They live an innocent life regarding these situations and I don’t think they should have this in their heads. However, they do know, that I am the mom who is very protective which they know it is because we love them with all of our hearts!

    I hope you are doing well! I know from experience, some days are better than others with a PTSD. I do now take medicine for my PTSD for the lat 9 years. It has really helped me! I just isn’t right that I have to take medicine because of what an adult did to me since childhood!

    You are in my prayers Sworddancewarrior! I love the name you chose! It makes me feel stonger knowing you are a warrior about sexual child abuse!

    God Bless you always!


  5. My aunt sent me a reply that was decent, although she referred to me being angry, perhaps from what was written in ‘car crash’. but all in all, fine. I’m in light facebook contact with her and she’s stayed in contact, so that’s good. All in all, a fairly successful boundary setting.

  6. I agree with the others. Ultimately, if she’s not willing to be courageous and face what happened, despite your encouragement, then sadly there’s not much you can do. Whatever her decisions are the fault of her behavior is not yours to take upon you. The badness goes to the abuser – no one else.

  7. You are clear and resourced her, the ball is in your Aunt’s court I hope she meets you but if she can’t, know you gave it your best shot and she is the one who loses out

  8. I agree great the second letter was sent
    It is a lonely place but heh we are all here
    proud to be connected to you

  9. I thought the second letter said it so much better than the first because you stopped being so apologetic and dancing around what you wanted and asked for something specific, namely that she not write anymore “let’s all be one big happy family” letters. The sad truth is that your family may never get out of denial and the dark energy has probably already been carried into succeeding generations. I wish you well.

  10. Warrior – your analogy of the tearing of childbirth was excellent. The whole letter was heartbreakingly excellent. I wonder if perhaps your Aunt feels some guilt about not saving you, and thus she wants you to be okay now (so that she doesn’t have to feel so guilty). Either way, I really appreciated your letter.

  11. Thanks Margie, I knew other survivors would understand. I ended up sending my aunt a much briefer message. It was:
    “Dear Aunt J,
    Thank you for your card. We enjoyed having you here too.
    I also read your letter. I’m going to be frank, because I know you’re a straight shooting type of gal.
    You’re in denial. It’s normal when something this horrific happens. I get it. I hope at some point you are able to take in the full truth of what happened into your heart again. When you do, you will understand why my mom’s confession and apology is so important to her own healing and integrity, and why having a relationship with her without it is not possible while retaining my own healing and integrity.
    I am hurt, but I understand and I forgive and love you. It was great visiting with you. Please don’t send me any more ‘why don’t you all make nice together’ letters again, okay? It really hurts my feelings.
    I’m attaching something I wrote a few years ago, as part of a book I’m writing. I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback on it. Other survivors say it really captures what they’re feeling, and we all hope it explains what complex post traumatic stress disorder is like. The examples in it are not from my own life, but chosen to reflect the meaning I’m trying to get across. I hope it is useful to you in understanding the context and situation.
    Lots of love,
    I attached a printout of ‘Car Crash: What PTSD is like:

  12. Dear Sworddancerworrier,
    Well done!
    I feel your pain. I have just cut my family off because even though they know the truth they are in denial and protecting my father who abused me instead. It hurts! It is so unjust!
    You are an inspiration to all of us who have gone through this horror. I am only now after 20 years of therapy letting out the original pain and the flash backs and memories are horrible but I like you, believe in the truth and I beleive in going through this jouney no matter how painful so I can live the Whole life I was meant to live in the beginning not the half life I was given. There is only half life if you live half truth.
    I am blessed with a husband who has now become my champion and is sticking up for me. Now he is aware of it all he cannot believe the crap I am copping from my family and his too now! Everyone wants the survivor to take more drugs and shut up. As I read somewhere recently, It is easier to support the perpetrator as it takes less energy than to support the Victim/survivor. This doesn’t mean it’s right though. Most times in life the hard road is the right road.
    Sending you much support and love.
    Flying Margie
    Here is my blog if you want to see, I am still growing though….

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