Possibly just as devastating as being abused, is the social/emotional effects. Some of the effects are real, and some are imagined perceptions of how we think others feel about us, but both are equally painful. Let me explain.
After 16 years of enduring my father’s abuse, I finally was able to get away from him and tell my mom and siblings what had happened. I was never sure if they believed me right away. Everything I thought was so obvious, was only obvious to me, as what he did left no visible marks on my body, only in my soul. It is fairly common for abusers to selct and isolate one child. So asking my siblings to suddenly change their view of how we grew up was a bit too much to swallow. My mom, recently divorced from my father, knew about his darker side, but never knew quite how dark it was or what he was capable of. But my siblings, who suffered mainly from his indifference, not direct abuse, wanted to believe their little sister, but also just could not put this only face on the one they called Dad.
They asked me if they should stop talking to him, throw him in jail, or what? Well, the caseworker assigned to me decided that pressing charges would only cause more pain and never end up with a conviction – my word against his – so he got to go on living his disgusting life in freedom, just without me any more. The question then became, do we invite him to family dinners? Our weddings? Christmas? He’s still our dad. I agreed with them – then. I did not have the strength to do anything else.
So then I thought, if they can pretend, why can’t I? As long as I don’t live with him, he can’t hurt me any more, right? Wrong. Way wrong. His emotional abuse continued for years after I moved out, until I finally made it stop. To this day he still attempts to control, belittle, and discredit me as being a silly girl that exaggerates, even lies, to get attention. I no longer take the bait. It took me having my own kids to realize my true innocence in it all and just how terrible everything he did to me was. Although saddened by it all, I am no longer so emotionally invested. I have moved on. He is like a stranger to me.
But I still have the emotional scars. I will never completely trust anyone. I always look for ways people may be lying or trying to hurt me. I assume others do not like me and have trouble making friends. I am always the first to apologize, thinking I have caused whatever the problem may be. I always thought I was bothering people, so remained silent unless spoken to.
Last night a new friend called me to invite me over for dinner. Not to cook. Not to entertain. (I’m a musician) Not because we are related in some way. But because she wants to spend time with me. ME! I have not had a true friend since I told my dirty secret 18 years ago. I used to say my husband was my best friend, but now I’m not so sure of that anymore for reasons that come out in later posts. My high school friends abandoned me, told by their moms they could not associate with me any more. I agreed, I wasn’t good enough for anyone. I did not make any friends in college or the years after, which again I’ll save for later.
Here is a link to a great psych blog, and article about not fitting in.