Is "forgetting" abuse possible?

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Ayn 534
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Is "forgetting" abuse possible?

Unread post by Ayn 534 »

First, I want to apologize if I offend anyone. That is not my intent. I am honestly looking for answers.

I am however, very angry, and will try to (but cannot guarantee that I will be able to) keep that in check.

I am 16. My mother tells me that I was sexually abused by my father for some unknown period of time until I was five.

Putting all of this into context, I have at least one younger sibling. My mother and father are alcoholics, my father is high functioning, my mother used to be but has been deteriorating over the past three or four years.

She informed me of this...

Well, she says "fact..."

After driving my father from our house and filing for divorce. Both of which happened in the past year. (That is TEN years after she supposedly discovered that I was being abused.)

I 100% prefer to be with my father than my mother. He never barters anything. If he can, and he thinks it appropriate (we don't always agree on the definition of appropriate), he gives it to me or helps me earn it for myself.

With my mom it is always a commercial transaction. I'll get fed IF I do the laundry and vacuume... Nothing outlandish, but there always is both a precondition and "rules" (parenthesis because they are rarely spelled out but always rigidly enforced). Dog hair along the baseboard missed by the vacuum may mean no dinner or one slice of American Cheese Processed Food Product on one slice of Wonder Bread.

If she had a motto it would be: "the ill-treatment will continue until morale improves."

So, back to my question.

I never feel apprehensive when I am with my dad. I never feel that he is creepy or anything. He wasn't thrilled when I became sexual... But I'll just take a wild guess and say few fathers think that their 15-year-old daughters are "ready."

Mom uses me as a proxy to attack him. Because, having driven my dad out of the house, he is mostly beyond her reach.

I have no recollections of being abused and don't think that I have exhibited a single "marker" for having been abused as a small child. Until last year things were pretty good. Even the fact that my parents are both drunks had its advantages. Teachers, principals, and policemen all seem to value the fact that I can read a clock, express myself without falling or slurring, and could blow a 0.0 BAC if needed.

I need to figure all of this out on my own. Please don't suggest talking to a counselor, they all have agendas and want me to be the poster-girl for false accusations or severely repressed memories as the case may be.

Personally, I don't want to think that my father did... And is now being so nice to me because of guilt. (Mom's stated theory.) Or, that my mom is so vindictive that she will accept destroying me as collateral damage in seizing Dad's bank account and 401(k).

I also hold open the idea that many years ago my mom was sexually abused by her dad and she is transferring those emotions. Because we rarely saw him (even though they lived 15 minutes away), she totally flipped when I asked the question (after she said "all men are rapists"), and her downward spiral started when grandpa became terminally ill.

Nothing typed above pertains to anything other than my life.

Thanks to anyone who chooses to respond.
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Re: Is "forgetting" abuse possible?

Unread post by Sam W »

Hi Ayn 534,

In some ways, the question in the title of this post has the most straightforward answer. If this abuse occurred before the age of five, it would be something that would be difficult for you to remember, period, because our ability to remember things from early childhood is extremely limited in the first place. There can be instances where abuse is repressed or forgotten to some degree, but when talking about early childhood, it's not forgetting in the sense we commonly use that word.

When your mom disclosed this to you, did she give a reason for telling you now?

It sounds like the bigger issue at play here is that things are incredibly acrimonious between your parents, and that your living situation with your mom is miserable, and you're afraid that her telling you this is an attempt to make you a tool to hurt your dad. It also sounds like that, in terms of your safety, you feel much safer with your dad. All of that, combined with the fact that the abuse apparently took place before you could remember it, does make this an extra tricky situation.

What we can try to do is figure out what you want to do with this information, including what to do about the fact that you probably won't be able to use your own memory as the way to confirm what did or didn't happen. Too, we can also talk about what you could do to be in the living situation that feels safest to you the majority of the time.

(I do feel like I need to mention that any decent therapist, when presented with this situation, would be focused on your well-being rather than on turning you into the poster child for something. That's not to say you should seek out therapy if you're not comfortable with it, just that there'd be a way to tell relatively quickly if a given therapist is the right person to address all this with).
Ayn 534
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Re: Is "forgetting" abuse possible?

Unread post by Ayn 534 »

Thank you for responding.

There are only two things that make me think that my mother may not be lying to me. The first being that I might have six or so memories from before Kindergarten, then an uninterrupted stream from then to now. A crafty abuser, understanding this, could have potentially quit knowing that it wouldn't be remembered.

The second is that although my mother's M.O. is to lie, she openly states that she is telling me because she does not want me to have any kind of a relationship with my father. (Her explaining that to the police TEN years later had a paradoxical effect though.)

But, of course, offsetting those factors, a crafty liar could also tailor her lie to biology, and admitting the blatantly obvious isn't truly a disclosure.

Regardless of anything that may or may not have happened eleven years ago, or one year ago -- and I'm not saying that I know what happened eleven years ago -- today my father is safe and predictable, while my mother is destructive and unpredictable. She scares me, for what she will do to strangers, people from school, the police, herself, my sibling(s), my father, and myself.

I feel that she is teetering on the brink of self-destruction, and while I don't want to nudge her over the edge, I also don't want to be taken out as she falls.

I'm not living at home right now. I don't know how long this situation can last. The authorities don't want me to stay with my dad. I have family nearby who might take me in, but my mother objects to that as well. She wants me to return, but fears calling the authorities lest I share with them my sizable video and audio collection of her drunken utterances, threats, and confessions.
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Re: Is "forgetting" abuse possible?

Unread post by Sam W »

Given everything you're saying, it does sounds right now like figuring out what the safe, sustainable (even if only in the short term) housing options you have is probably the thing to prioritize. Is your current situation safe for you? And have you been able to talk with whoever is providing it about how long they're able to offer it for so that you can plan accordingly?

You mention you have other family, but that your mom would object to them taking you in. Does she have any ability to act on that objection? I ask because it sounds like she's going to object to anything that isn't you just submitting to her abuse, so it may be a matter of choosing which options give her the fewest chances to retaliate.
Ayn 534
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Re: Is "forgetting" abuse possible?

Unread post by Ayn 534 »

Thank you,

I am staying with a friend from school. I haven't discussed it with them (and I probably should), but I get the idea that I can stay so long as no "scene" is created. My father is staying at a nearby "Residence Inn" sort of long-term hotel. But, as I alluded to earlier, when I went there my mother called the police. Had she been sober and a bit less venomous, that could have gone badly. As it was they took me to my aunt's (father's sister).

I called my friend the next day because they live a few blocks, rather than 20 miles, from my school. I imagine that either my aunt or uncle would take me in. (But, I have never discussed this or directly asked them. I guess that I should do that.) Were it long term, it would entail changing schools, which isn't really something that I want to do.

(Remaining here isn't just a personal preference. Every one of my neighbors and teachers has seen my mother drunk at 2 PM. Sometimes behind the wheel... In a school zone... Most of the school administrators have NOT seen her somewhere she was supposed to be (conferences, meetings, picking me up). To be fair, they've probably never seen my father sober, but he hides it well. People just think he is quiet and really likes aftershave.)

My mom can easily call the police or social services. But to be taken seriously she'd have to be sober. I've also calmly explained that rather than go with her I will play loops of her drunkenly admitting to using food as a weapon, gleefully threatening me with bodily-harm, and of her laughing confessions to causing two separate events that required police intervention. Actions she officially blamed me for.
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Re: Is "forgetting" abuse possible?

Unread post by Willa »

Hi Ayn534,

It seems as though your current options would be to stay with your friend or stay with your aunt and uncle. The first step could be discussing your options for your situation with your friend and/or your extended family. Is this something you feel you are able to do? This would be helpful so that you can have a better idea of if you are able to stay where you are or if you need to plan to possibly find other arrangements for more secure housing. If you would like ways to begin or have these conversations that is something we could work on together.

As Sam said it seems the best course would be to decide where would be safest for you, and that may be the option that gives your mother the fewest options to retaliate. Would you like to expand upon why you wouldn't want to move schools? It seems like being in community with people who are familiar with your mother's abuse would be a pro but it is also understandably very difficult to pick up one's life and move it somewhere completely new. This is a very difficult decision to make but talking with both your friend and aunt and uncle can give you a larger sense of your options moving forward.
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Re: Is "forgetting" abuse possible?

Unread post by Willa »

Adding to this another option for us to help you would be to schedule a time for you to meet with another staff or volunteer to talk one-on-one in our chat function. This could give you the option to safely give more details about your situation and talk in real-time with someone. Also, If you are comfortable, here we can discuss where you are geographically and could find a social worker local to your area who can more directly aid you in finding safe housing options. I understand you have had bad experiences with counselors in the past so this would be someone who is vouched for by our staff and is in our network of trusted individuals. Either way, this chat option is always open to you.
Ayn 534
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Re: Is "forgetting" abuse possible?

Unread post by Ayn 534 »

Thanks,

As I understand what I have researched online, so long as one of my parents lives in my school district -- or both of them are homeless -- I can attend school where I have been attending. The fact that I may be temporarily living with a friend's family, or my aunt or uncle (neither of whom reside in the district) would not impact this. Were I to be taken into state custody, I would likely still be able to remain at my school (since, in pixels, the state claims that they wish to have as little impact as possible and seeks to reunite everyone later).

Were my aunt or uncle to gain legal custody the state would pay them about $4500 ($300 a month for about 15 months) less whatever it would cost them to become certified foster parents. But then I would have to change schools.

My mother would object to my staying with anyone but her. But were I to use the nuclear option her objections will fall on deaf ears. I'd really prefer to be a bystander to her self-immolation, not the supplier of a mason jar filled with unleaded. I need to discuss all of this with my friend (we have, but not in a "this is what we are going to do" manner). Then if that goes well I have to speak to my friend's parents... (Who are probably wishing their child had never met me, but don't know how to say "no" without harming their own parent-child relationship.)

Right now if my mom says "rain is wet" teachers and other parents physically check to make sure. That benefits me. I have a track record. Clean, sober, punctual, attentive, thoughtful, sarcastic... That's 83.3% positive. My mother also has a track record. But not a good one. So, earlier this year when she smashed the school's Chromebook to "punish" me, nobody believed her lie that I did so because I hadn't completed a due assignment. Dad just had to pay for a new one unless he wanted the matter reported to the police.

She can rant at me. But when the neighbors call the coppers, and they show up, all I have to do is point out her intoxicated state and ask if the officers would like for me to show them where she keeps her stash of pill bottles with other people's names on them, and the whole conversation changes from what she says I did to who can legally consent to a search.

I understand and appreciate your focus on my housing situation.

But, the thing that is really driving me is doubt. I have 100 excellent reasons to believe that my mother is lying to me about my father. I'm sure that a vote of my neighbors, teachers, and school administrators would look like a Russian election result. But I don't know and I hate myself for not being 100% sure. For thinking that maybe, just this once, she isn't a lying sack of shit.

('Cause, no matter if it did or didn't happen one of the two people who created me is a monster. A psychopath without any regard for me.)

See, I almost always feel safe with my dad (and when I don't it's 'cause he is pushing me to do something new and somewhat scary, like downhill skiing). And I almost never feel safe with my mom. I don't feel safe watching Netflix with my mom. That has to count for something... Right? If something horrible had happened wouldn't I have some subconscious reaction?
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Re: Is "forgetting" abuse possible?

Unread post by Heather »

Hi there, Ayn. I have been out this week with illness, but in checking in, I have noticed your thread and wanted to pop in today on it.

I'm the person Willa was offering up for you to talk with in chat if you want. I'm in and from Chicago, I was unhoused on and off here in my teens and some of my twenties, and I am also unfortunately very familiar with the kind of situation you have posted about here: with one (clearly abusive) parent saying the kinds of things about the other, the parent you actually feel safe with and who, in your own experience, doesn't have a history of abuse with you. I'm so sorry you're in this spot, and that it comes with substance abuse and housing struggles to boot. It's so much at once, especially since you've carried so much of this over so much time.

I do hear you and agree with you that you have every reason to consider what your mother has told you suspect. I also will always tell everyone and anyone that the feelings and memories to trust are your own, way above and beyond anyone else's. That said, I'm not surprised it's now hard for you to be 100% sure about what you were sure you knew: your mother has unfortunately changed that for you. I think that uncertainty is probably more about the impact of her behaviour (both recent and over time) than it is about what is and isn't true. I think it would be impossible not to have what she has said to you create doubts. I really hope you can let go of any negative feelings about yourself for having those doubts.

Like I said, I trust YOUR feelings. You don't have an agenda, after all, and your feelings with all of this have been consistent throughout. I agree with you that her timing, the way she has done and said all of this, that all of it is suspect. I trust who you feel safe with and who you don't. I think you can trust that, too, I really do.
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Ayn 534
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Re: Is "forgetting" abuse possible?

Unread post by Ayn 534 »

Thanks,

I hope you are feeling better. The past few years have been tough.

I don't mope around filling my head with negative thoughts. Maybe it's a good thing that I am pretty busy. I sort of figured out the basics in my own head and then spoke with my friend. That gave me both a second opinion and let me hear out loud some of the things that I have been thinking.

I guess the most important consideration is that I want to remain in my school. Academically, I'm doing pretty well and I am understood. I'm uncertain that I would have the same prospects in 18 months if I were to change. Additionally, I have a social support system here. No, it's not that moving a district or three away would end those relationships. But they would change.

My second desire is not-negotiable (which is a little odd, but I have more control over it than my first desire). I am not ever going to live under my mother's control again. On my own, in-school / out-of-school, with a relative, a friend or as a ward of the state, I won't go back.

I don't know what happened to her. She was never a "great" mom, but she wasn't always a bitch from hell either. But at the end of the day, it isn't my job to figure her out, I just need my own space. Even IF -- and it is the world's biggest IF -- what she says about my father is true... Even that says that she is worse. IF she knew and didn't take steps to stop it... IF she was willing to keep me in the dark until she wanted something for herself... That really tells me all that I need to know about her.

But, I really strongly suspect that she is just lying to me again. Our history is one of her telling self-serving lies. This could just be a psychotic "if I can't have her nobody can."

Don't get me wrong. My father is no prize (unless he's the booby prize), but his many failings are of omission, not commission. Whatever might or might not have happened in the past. He hasn't frightened me (other than my worrying that he'd die) from my first retained memory to today. Abuse, unlike neglect, requires overt action. Not only do I not see that at present or in the part of my past that I firmly remember. I just think that I would have a subconscious recollection or reaction were it true.

Maybe I'm just justifying a decision I seem to have already made. There are too many ways for my mom to keep my dad from gaining custody. And honestly, I want to maintain a relationship with him without being subject to his control.

But, I don't (and probably won't) ever really know what happened 11 years-ago. One thing is for certain, if I make it to college I WILL NOT study psychology. I'm sick of it.
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Re: Is "forgetting" abuse possible?

Unread post by Sam W »

Hi Ayn,

I think those two desires make an incredible amount of sense given what you've shared with us. And I think it speaks a lot to your own determination to take care of yourself and your own strength that you've decided nothing is going to make you go back to living with your mom. I do think it's also sound to what you're already in the process of, which is learn to be okay with not knowing 100% what happened when you were little, and making your decisions about your present and future based on what feels safe now.

You know, it's a really common experience when dealing with a parent who is abusive, struggling with substance use, or both, to feel like you're not entirely sure what happened to them or why they got worse. With something like alcoholism, when that's left unchecked, it tends to get worse, not better, as time goes by.

I do want to say that, with your mom, I hear you expressing a desire not to be the one to tip her completely over the edge. But when we're dealing with people who act the way she does, they're actually already over the edge in a lot of ways. She went over that edge every time she she made a choice to threaten you, to break things you needed for school, to do any of the things that lead you to not feeling safe with her. Often, when we take whatever steps are needed to break away from an abusive person, there's an extinction burst that can look like they're going over the edge, and from the outside it may look like we pushed them. But it's more that they were already on the other side of that drop and we're doing what we can to avoid getting yanked down and hurt along with them.

Since it sounds like you'd rather not live with your dad long-term either, and you're not going back to your mom, one thing to do while figuring out what your safe housing options are is to figure out which ones are open to you for what amounts of time. That helps you plan, and also helps you know what other resources or factors you'll need to consider down the line (like money for a place you share with roommates, or help meeting and talking with housing services).

We can certainly keep talking with you about those as is helpful, and about how they fit into a bigger safety plan overall, since that's what you're essentially already doing; trying to form a plan (or plans) for how to get and stay away from someone who isn't safe for you.
Ayn 534
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Re: Is "forgetting" abuse possible?

Unread post by Ayn 534 »

Thank you for responding,

As much as I wish it were different, you are correct, I don't want to live under the authority of either my mother or father. While my thoughts and opinions are somewhat self-supporting, I don't think that the issues that I have with my mother need to be rehashed. My dad, on the other hand is different.

He is living in a long-term stay hotel. Which is probably best for him. They clean up and change the linen twice a week. He can go downstairs to happy-hour Friday, Saturday, and Sunday and gleefully ignore the pool, laundry, and weight room. Like life at home without Mom bitching at him. If he had a little house... Well... I don't know... I might end up as the maid and cook.

The cops think it's unseemly for me to stay there. They have their heads firmly planted in their asses, because, although it isn't the right place for me to be, it isn't because he is a predator (at least today). It's just too "adult" (note: to me that isn't a compliment) and too effite.

I am glad for this, for some reason he is well liked and really respected professionally. Considered the best nuclear reactor operator in the country in spite of always being intoxicated. (Okay, that was a snarky joke, he's really an airline pilot, I mean Senator. Remember when I said "sarcastic?")

I have discussed the situation with the friend that I am staying with. We haven't, but the friend has, discussed this with the friend's parents. Reading between the lines, my friend is a senior and will be going to university this summer. I'm probably cool until then. I try to contribute, and can pay to offset the cost of housing me, but the friend's parents won't accept.

I imagine they wish we had never met. So when my friend goes to college I'll need a new residence. I need to have discussions with my father, aunt, and uncle over this. But right now, that is a June -- August 2024 problem. Just in economic, and not legal, terms I imagine that I can get myself to graduation (June 2025) if I don't have unforeseen circumstances.

'Course they are called "unforeseen" for a reason.
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Re: Is "forgetting" abuse possible?

Unread post by Willa »

Hi Ayn 534,

It seems like staying with your friend for the time being is the safest and most preferable option for you at the moment.

Going forward I would like to ask what you feel would be the most helpful for you as the next steps with us. We are more than able to continue discussing and aiding in whatever we can, a housing plan going forward that Sam and Heather have touched on- whether that is brainstorming ways to start this conversation with the friend or friend's family or connecting you to housing services. I also wanted to make space for you to bring up anything else you wanted to get advice on or just talk generally about, if that is more useful for you for the time being.
Ayn 534
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Re: Is "forgetting" abuse possible?

Unread post by Ayn 534 »

Thank You,

After discussing the situation ourselves, my friend and I had a conversation with my friend's parents. There are three or four months remaining in the school year, and I can stay through the end of my current semester. They figure that by then either my father's situation will have "normalized," or I''ll go stay with relatives and change schools for next year.

That isn't what I'm going to do, but I do really appreciate being able to stay until the end of the school year. My father should be supporting me right now, and my hosts have refused my offers to contribute to household expenses. I think I should be having a conversation with my father about where I will be living next school year.

I'll let you know how that turns out.
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Re: Is "forgetting" abuse possible?

Unread post by Sam W »

I'm so glad to hear that the conversation with your friends parents helped you figure out what the next few months will look like! And I hope when you talk with your dad about all this, that also gives you at least some sense of what comes next so you can more easily plan for the next year.
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