Posts Tagged ‘Should I confront my abuser?’

On my blog entry entitled So F@#$ing Angry at Mother/Abuser, a reader asked me the following question:

I have to ask, Faith, as this is honestly that only got my mother, one of my sexual abusers as well, to leave me the EFF alone as well…

when you have written her, have you given her specific details of your memories? Have you ever directly called her what she is and relayed memories back to her? For me/us (me and my insiders) doing this pulled the covers back off our mother in such a way that she was so ashamed she never even tried to refute it–

She tried getting family members to contact me, but i continued sending her the same letter, and adding new memories to it. Guess what? In our case, the truth, the UGLY, BLUNT, DIRECT, no longer beating around the bush truth let us free. ~ Journal of Healing

The short answer is no.

When I was in therapy, my therapist and I discussed whether or not I should confront her. His advice was that, due to her mental illness (he strongly believes she has schizophrenia, and I agree – She has never sought a diagnosis because she thinks “hearing G*d’s voice” audibly is “normal”), a confrontation is not going to meet any of the needs I would hope to get out of it. He believes she truly does not consciously remember the abuse and, if confronted with it, the truth could cause her to have a psychotic breakdown.

When deciding whether or not to confront an abuser, I think the child abuse survivor needs to put some thought into what you hope to get out of the confrontation and then objectively determine whether that outcome is likely. If it is not, I don’t see the point of putting myself through the emotions of a confrontation when what I hope to gain from it won’t happen.

I have no desire to have her “get crazier.” I also have no desire to put more of a burden on my sister, who as the only child still in contact with our mother/abuser feels responsible for picking up the pieces. My sister would be the one dealing with the psychotic woman, and I don’t want to do that to my sister.

And then, at the end of the day, what would I have gained from setting off the chain of events to cause this much damage? Very little. I don’t see my mother taking responsibility and apologizing – I see her falling deeper into her insanity, which could cause her to continue to send me letters but of a more insane variety. If she has a psychotic break, she will become even more unpredictable, as she did when my father passed away suddenly in high school.

I see too many negatives and too few positives coming out of a confrontation, which is why I don’t do it. Thanks for asking the question, though. I periodically have to remind myself why I have made this choice. I still think it is the best choice in my situation.

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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Several of you have asked me whether or not I ever talked to my mother/abuser about the abuse. The short answer is no, although I did sort of confront her through one of my alter parts when I was still in college.

When my therapist and I talked about confrontation, he strongly suggested that I not confront her. He said that he generally leaves that decision up to the patient, and it is ultimately my decision. However, in my case, he felt that a confrontation would be a very bad idea.

In my case, my mother is schizophrenic. My therapist is concerned that a confrontation could cause her to have a psychotic episode and have to be hospitalized. He does not want me to feel guilty for anything that she might do in a psychotic state after I confront her.

Also, I see little to be gained by a confrontation. I truly do not believe that she carries memories of the abuse in her conscious mind, so she certainly would not validate my memories of the abuse. And, without her being willing/able to take responsibility for the abuse, I see no point in having the confrontation in the first place.

Now, I did sort of confront her back in college through an alter part. To make a very long story short, my mother screwed me over financially in college. We had a financial arrangement that she backed out on without telling me. I found out when my car insurance was canceled right in the middle of finals. I was not happy.

So, I called my mother (who lived in another state), and she had a really smug, b@#$%y attitude on the phone. An alter part took over and said, “You already f#$%ed me as a child. You are not going to f#$% me as an adult.” Of course, she hung up on me.

After this conversation, my mother immediate “forgot” what was said or why. [I believe that she has dissociative identity disorder (DID) in addition to the schizophrenia.] All she remembered was that I called her and “was nasty to her.” She took out a gun, loaded it, and almost blew her head off. I learned about this a few years later, when she wrote a self-published autobiography.

After I read her autobiography, I asked her if she remembered why I was “nasty to her,” and she said, “No.” She seemed very confused about the whole thing. I chose not to remind her.

I see nothing positive coming out of confronting my mother about the abuse, but I see a lot of potential negative. If she blows her own head off, then that is her business, but I don’t want to potentially cause her to have a psychotic episode and blow somebody else’s head off.

For me, I am at peace with my decision not to confront my mother about the abuse. I have been able to heal without having this conversation with her, and I don’t think that anything positive would come from this conversation – at least not enough to make it worth the taxing emotional experience of going through with a confrontation on my end. I would much rather simply never see her again at all.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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Stormy skies (c) Lynda BernhardtAs I shared in my last post, I confronted my mother/abuser about the child abuse without even realizing that I did, and she reacted to the confrontation without realizing that she was. (You will have to read that post for this situation to make any sense.) In my situation, there was no decision made. An alter part took over, and I confronted my mother/abuser about the child abuse in the heat of the moment.

When you work through the healing process from child abuse, you will reach a place in which you must decide whether or not to confront your abuser. There is no right or wrong answer to this question. Some people find it to be very empowering to confront their abuser. Others wind up regretting this decision.

Confronting your abuser is not required in order to heal from child abuse. If it was, then survivors of child abuse would be giving away their power. If the abuser refused to see them or had already died, then the child abuse survivor would be forever unable to heal. Many people have healed from child abuse without even laying eyes on their abusers again. You do not have to confront your abuser in order to heal.

However, you might want to confront your abuser. Many people find confronting their abuser to be incredibly empowering. They are able to look their abuser in the eye and say all of the things that went unsaid throughout childhood. In some cases, they might even receive a sincere apology. (I would not hold my breath for this outcome.)

If you are considering confronting your abuser, think about what you hope to gain through the confrontation. If you need to hear “I’m sorry” in order for the confrontation to make a difference, then you might not want to go through with it. Many abusers are unwilling or unable to take responsibility for their actions. Your abuser might tell you that it was all your fault and not show a bit of remorse. If your goal is to hear an apology, then you might be better off doing your confrontation through visualization so you can control the outcome.

Also, if you choose to confront your abuser, be prepared for the fallout. I know several child abuse survivors whose relationships with other family members were affected by the confrontation. Most abusers have family members who live in denial and expect everyone else to do the same. By “bringing up the past,” you are upsetting the apple cart, and they don’t like that. I have comforted friends who lost other family members they cared about after a confrontation. While they know that this speaks volumes about their relationships with these other people, it still hurt.

I, personally, chose not to confront my abusers. In the case of my mother/abuser, she is mentally ill. My therapist believes that, if I do confront her, she is likely to have a psychotic episode and have to be hospitalized. I do not want to risk the safety of others just to have the confrontation. Also, I do not feel like I need to have one in order to heal. I already did have a confrontation of sorts, but I have been able to release my feelings through visualization, so I feel no need to do it in real life.

That being said, I have set up very firm boundaries, which sort of act as a confrontation. I told my mother that she may not call or visit me. She may only contact me monthly in written form (either through email or a letter). She tried to force me to tell her why on several occasions. I was not ready for a confrontation, so I told her that if she raised the issue again, then I would not communicate with her for three months. That took care of the problem.

Whether or not to confront your abuser is a very personal decision. Some child abuse survivors feel a very strong need to do this while others do not. There is no “right” or “wrong” answer to whether you should confront your abuser. You need to follow what your intuition tells you about what is the best thing for you to do in your situation.

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Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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