Relationships with people who were survivors of sexual/physical abuse | INFJ Forum

Relationships with people who were survivors of sexual/physical abuse

Discussion in 'Relationships and Sociology' started by slant, Apr 17, 2010.

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  1. slant

    slant amour-propre
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    This is a relatively serious query of mine so I want it to remain that way.

    I was wondering how interacting with people who are survivors of sexual abuse and perhaps physical abuse in childhood and young adulthood is different than people who haven't been through that.



    Are survivors of sexual/physical abuse usually prone to depression and emotional issues? Perhaps emotional disorders like bi-polar disorder?

    I was thinking a lot lately about my relationship with my mother and I know that she has been through a lot of things related to drugs, sexual and physical abuse in her childhood, by family and people she has dated in the past. She has been told by a psychologist once many years ago and told me that she might be bi-polar, but when I mentioned this only a few years later she said she has never gone through it.

    I am trying really hard to understand sexual/physical abuse because she has in the past stated 'I came from a hard life! This is who I am! You either take it or leave it, because there's nothing I can do about it it's just how I am!" I'm paraphrasing here but that's the gist of what she said while in tears.

    I think I have a lot of emotional trauma regarding the way she treated me, and I kind of am apprenshive about stating it because she always would tell me when I stated my feelings on the manner that, I had a better life than she did and that compared to most people my life wasn't that bad. She would always question why I was so disturbed by a lot of her actions and thought I was simply overreacting. People on the outside of the situation, so far as I can tell, know that when my mother gets in 'that kind of mood' she is unable to deal with stresses. I can recount lots of stories in the past of her freaking out on a variety of people.

    Also, is it odd for a person not to have any social friends, go out on a regular basis recreational and to not have any interaction with neighbors? I have seen on television shows that usually women have friends come over to their house or a book club or a church they go to. Men, too. They go out and do things socially in their community and have friends. They also tend to have a relationship with their neighbors, talk to them, occasionally chat- some become friends.

    Is her reclusion necessarily healthy and normal? I didn't think about it growing up, but she's really seemed to isolate herself. The only person she talks to on a regular basis is her mother who is just as bad off as her, and she refuses to make friends at work. Over the years, she has had 'phases' where she has had workfriends but they have always ended sourly and afterwards if someone wants to get together, maybe a friend who never did anything to her, she refuses. She sits at home all day online and has a lot of online friends versus actual support in real life and has had a few internet boyfriends. She seems not tot want to engage with anyone outside of he house or let anyone in the house, and I remember because we are generally slobby that I was not allowed to have friend over to the house because it was 'too messy'. She also, when the house was clean, would state that I couldn't have friends over because she wasn't in the mood or she was too tired.

    There have also been phases where she was being very happy and cheerful, having my friends over [though she never had a friend of her own over to our house. I remember only one single occasion when I was about 11 years old when she did, and that is the only occasion I remember. for the most part the people who came over were my sister and I's friends, she did not have friends of her own]. She would buy gifts for me to give to my friends, but she would always mention while doing this that she was a 'good person' and that she always tried to be a 'good person' by doing nice things for people.

    It always seemed very disturbing to her when people did not appreciate her the way she was wanted because she felt that her self worth, almost, was demonstrated in the kind acts she could do for others and the feedback she would get. And like a twig snapping in half, so suddenly, she would revert to being angry and crabby and not liking to have to drive my friends and I around or buy gifts to give to them- but sometimes she would do it anyway, relating it as a favor and cursing us for the many times in the past we had her do something that she apparently didn't think we were very grateful for.

    I guess that's a lot of information. I'm just wondering, is this behavior normal? I know that my opinion is in some sense biased because a real psychologist would have to see the entire situation, but from the slice of life I have given you, would you say that trauma in the past has made her act this way? I do not personally think this behavior is normal after living out of the household of my mother and her mother for a period of time.

    Another thing, is that she would always get worked up about when things got lost or broken. Sometimes she could go on for a half hour up to an hour or so of complaining about how irresponsible we were and cursing us that she paid good earned money for those things we had broken or lost; when we would state that we didn't mean to, or that it could always be replaced, she would say that we thought her money was just for throwing around and often would attempt to relate us to our father, who she is divorced from, and apparently has a bit of a grudge against. She would argue that we were irresponsible like he was and that our dad would just go out and blow money on things he didn't need and break things and buy money to replace them without a care in the world. While, some of this is true, my dad is an impulsive spender, I don't know, I felt uncomfortable with this sort of comparison. Perhaps I am in the wrong.

    I am sharing some things that are personal to me so that you have a better understand of what I am trying to get and understand.

    Do you think the forementioned behaviors are a result of abuse? I will state that her father was a drunk and slightly schizophrenic in his later years [he now lives in vegas as a homeless bum] and while he was nice, kind, and genious when he was sober he often was drunk and would do unthinkable things to his two daughters because my mother believes he wasn't in his right frame of mind to even realize what he was doing. He had smashed my aunt's face into the wall so hard that her eye swelled up to the size of a small tennis ball, and stayed that way for several weeks. He was violent and apparently sexually abusive when he was really bad off; he also had the habit of taking my mother to parties and pretending she was his girlfriend and then the two would smoke cocaine together. Needless to say, my mother was an alcoholic until she was about 20 or so? I'm not sure of the age. All of this information is the little slice of her life I know.

    I also know that her mother was a clean freak and would every week have her take all of the books off the bookshelf and clean, move all of the furniture, etc, and would make her repeat it until everything was spotless. Her mom also was into her religion so much that she didn't really pay much attention to my mom, and my mother didn't go to a doctor her entire life because her family was all christian scientists. Top that with the fact that my grandmother remarried when my mother was about eight to this really strict man who had no children who was constantly worrying about stupid things. He's still like this; for example, if you are trying to bring groceries into the house he demands you shut the front wood door even though there is glass door that is protecting air and stuff from blowing it--you have to close both doors, even if you will only be gone for thirty seconds and even if someone in the house already. It's just, rules like this, that he would implement on my mother and it would add up. They had to completely dry themselves off before they stepped out of the shower because if there was any water on the floor when they were done my grandfather, the step-dad of my mom, would get angry. He wasn't violent towards them he would just slam things and make a big deal about it. You can call him passive aggressive.

    So I see all of these unhealthy behaviors and I am trying to understand my mother but she's causing me a lot of problems right now. How am I supposed to deal with someone who has gone through so much and/or is it that much? Is this actually trauma and is her behavior really abnormal?

    I know this was long but any input would be fantastic, so long as it is serious and pertains to the issue. No 'rabbits' please. Thanks.
     
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  2. Ecton

    Ecton Community Member

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    Does your mother attend family functions like a wedding or a holiday celebration?
     
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  3. OP
    slant

    slant amour-propre
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    Uhmm well she does attend the holidays at her mothers house but typically she works on holidays when my father's family invites her to come over. She has appeared a few time at my father's family house, but it's inconsistent. She also isn't consistently at holidays, I'd say most of the time she is and the other part of the time she is working on the holidays to make more money.

    There haven't been a lot of weddings in the family, only one I remember, and we attended briefly to drop off our gift, signed the guestbook, and left.
     
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  4. Flavus Aquila

    Flavus Aquila Finding My Place in the Sun
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    I have heard that women (in particular) who grow up with abuse feel more comfortable or secure??? in abusive relationships - in fact they will often marry abusive husbands.

    Perhaps it is a matter of being comfortable with what your familiar with - so maybe she unconsciously "stirs the pot" to cultivate a "secure environment."
     
  5. OP
    slant

    slant amour-propre
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    That's possible. I still don't know how to deal with that, though? Any suggestions, anyone?
     
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  6. arbygil

    arbygil Passing through

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    Personally, if you're asking me, slant, I'd say that yes: Your mothers' past trauma influenced how she runs (and ran) the household. She's still that little girl in the house where everything was supposed to be perfect, and now she's conflicted between having absolute freedoms (i.e., her own household) and being "perfect" and "good." It isn't necessarily good for her to be so isolated but let me tell you this: You are responsible for you, and no one else. You cannot make her change by becoming a better daughter or a more listening daughter. As you must grow and change and become a healthy adult, so must she - and if she has never seen (or isn't continually seeing) a therapist on a regular basis for the past issues, she will never be able to change. She's stuck and she doesn't know how to change, so it seems to me.

    Just concentrate on becoming the healthiest individual *you* can be, and if you need to talk through your issues with a therapist so you can get to that place, don't be afraid to do so.
     
  7. Questingpoet

    Questingpoet Not Afraid to Use His Beard
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    I am not an abused woman, so I cannot speak as/for one. But my relationships and observations have lead me to believe that woman who come from abused relationships are not more likely to seek out abusive men, nor do they necessarily feel more comfortable in such a relationship. However, they are less likely to leave an abusive relationship because of feelings of worthlessness. They may feel on some level that the "deserve" the abuse. Again, I speak for no one here, only what I have learned through talking with women who have been in such situations.

    I am continually amazed and appalled by the large percentage of women that I know who have suffered some type of abuse. My heart goes out to each and every one of you. It's by far one of the greatest failures we have as a species that we hurt and abuse our own--especially those that can least understand it or defend themselves.
     
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  8. Flavus Aquila

    Flavus Aquila Finding My Place in the Sun
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    Just a guess, but when I was in training we had some very nasty instructors. This unpleasant situation drew us closer together. Somehow the other guys from my group never contact me/each other, except when facing difficulties - it is as though this is the only way we know how to relate to each other.

    Maybe you could ask your mother how she coped, growing up. From what you have said, it sounds like her mother helped her get her mind off her troubles by doing all-consuming physical work (hyper-cleaning).

    It might be that some people can never comfortably relate to others fully (I think I might have a hint of this), but they can feel comfortable relating in limited ways. My guess is that you might be able to spend at least some quality time with your mother by suggesting you both spring clean some rarely cleaned things: light fixtures, behind major appliances, etc.

    Just guessing.
     
  9. Shai Gar

    Shai Gar Guest

    I try to steer clear of rape victims. Dated one for two weeks. The sex was great because she felt she had to make up for something, but she always talked about it, and since she had already tried to run it down legally and they couldn't find the guy, I could do nothing for her besides provide therapeutic aid, and I am no psychologist so anything from me sounds false to me... Also, Hell of a turn off to hear her talking about how she was abused when I wanted to use her.

    I wanted to advance, she wanted to dwell.
    Not into it...
     
  10. goldfinch

    goldfinch Community Member

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    Children who were abused come to believe that they did something wrong. That they could have stopped it. They also believe that there is something inherently wrong with them. Frequently their anger is directed as themselves instead of the perpetrator.

    Many times they grow up feeling these same feelings. The feelings don't just go away. So as adults they continue to feel that they are "bad", "dirty", and worthless. That they are ineffective. They couldn't stop the abuse, therefore they are a loser.

    It can be very difficult for them to make attachments to people due to these feelings of unworthiness and shame. They think why would anyone want to be with them, to love them? The shame can become all encompassing. They yearn for connections, but are unable to form them.

    If the perpetrator is a parent it can frequently be worse than if it was another relative, friend or a stranger. After all a parent should be taking care of their child, not having sex with her or beating her or neglecting her. Frequently a survivor of abuse will spend their whole life trying to find a substitute for that parent.

    As for perfection, this is a common response as well. An abuse survivor will think, "If I am perfect someone will love me." Knowing on the inside that they are a fraud however, that they may look perfect on the outside but they are dirty on the inside.

    I don't want to make generalizations for all abuse survivors. These are just some of the results that I have seen and read about. Many of the behaviors that you describe in your mom seem to be a result of shame. Shame is one of the most difficult human emotions to deal with and talk about, even for third parties. When one feels shame they feel that they are an inherently "bad" person, and that is very difficult to overcome.
     
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  11. testing

    On Holiday

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    Hi Slant,
    I can answer a little bit of this because some of my experiences with my own mother are very similar. I also have a very good friend who survived it. Not sure about the bi-polar disorder, I believe there is (likely) some kind of pysical component to bi-polar which perhaps can be triggered by abuse --- totally guessing here.

    But, yes. I do believe that survivors of sexual abuse usually have emotional issues. People each cope in their own way, in my mother's case it has involved lifelong eating disorders and general hatred of her body. Also, she's very very very clean and concerned with housework. On the surface, she's worked very hard and succeeded at moving past a really difficult childhood that included sexual abuse, but below the surface there are very definite emotional issues still there.

    The other friend I mentioned, who is my closest female friend and I believe an ENTP/J, copes by being really a workaholic.

    Both of them always have to prove they're good enough. For something/somebody imaginary... I don't really understand.

    You're the one having to deal with your own mom's issues now, though. Honestly, it sounds corny as hell, but I've found just telling her you love her and are proud of her (find something you're truthfully proud of, don't lie) can go miles and miles. If you're incredibly angry with her this can be hard to do but maybe if it is something you can truly say it might help.

    Good luck, hon!
    Janet
     
  12. Ecton

    Ecton Community Member

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    I wanted to think a bit about what you reported, Slant, so I slept on it. Your family situation is different from mine, but similar to my mother's. I wanted to make sure I still felt that way after I slept on it, because I tend to want to connect with you and don't want to pollute your post.

    My grandmother has PTSD related to her experiences in World War 2 and some terribly dark secret from Europe that she is scared to death of us discovering. She had her house repeatedly firebombed in London as a child, and lost three fiance's in the war. One fiance drowned right in front of her off the coast of Wales. She ended up as a penny dancer, and I think something dark happened. She married my grandfather when she met him as a dough boy, and took a ship to meet him in the US. She was running from something. The end result was someone with extreme anxiety and undealt with fears and burdens. She was emotionally incapable of raising a child well. In addition, my grandfather has Asperger's syndrome, and would combine that with drink and then beat my mother for doing 'the wrong thing'. Mostly, he was taking out his daily stress on her, but he could not connect with her emotionally, and thus only raw aggression came through. After a four or five years, he decided the drink was making him evil, so he quit cold turkey. (People with Asperger's can have amazing force of will when they come to realization)

    Unfortunately, he also did many other entirely inappropriate things to her, but was unable to see the consequences or understand them when they were communicated to him. His behavior continues to be entirely inappropriate, although he loves us. My grandmother has spent most of her life in an anxious attempt to control him. She is now agoraphobic and rarely goes anywhere. She also turned to religion in a way I do not approve of, and I'll skip the details, but she uses it as yet another wall to hide behind.

    Miraculously, my mother just started dealing with it this year. She went to see a therapist who convinced her to accept that her father was physically abusive. It took a therapist to get through to her, she would never listen to us.

    All of that tension, anxiety, and disorder gets passed down through the generations. We each do better than the last by realizing what is going on and improving the situation. The good news is that the likelihood you will do better is extremely high.

    Things my mom did well:
    * Mom accepted her mother but was not bound to her
    * Mom eventually sought counseling for the emotions she could not fathom
    * My parents learned from their parents problems and became far better parents for it.
    * She picked a healthy partner in my dad

    Things my mom did not do well at:
    * Mom waited a long time to 'deal with' the past, and that was a mistake. Running from it was smart, but not sufficient.
    * When angry with me, she would say, 'you are just like my father'. (Don't ever do this, as your kids will subconsciously get the real meaning right away.)
    * My mom controls her fear by being incredibly judgmental of others. It is just her defense mechanism to protect herself and is reflexive. If she could break that barrier she would grow tremendously, but this scares her more than anything.
    * My mom has trouble looking at her father objectively. She could not accept his condition as something other than a 'quirky personality'. Thus, she did not respond to him in an appropriate manner and never had reasonable expectations for his capabilities.

    I think your mother has a lot of similar characteristics to my grandmother. While my mom coped, she had limited support. Asperger's was only recently recognized and my mom still has trouble understanding the connection. Her mom's OCD, agoraphobia, and low assertiveness potential are something that back then people just didn't talk about. Recognizing the problem, affirming it at a deep level, but not taking it too far, can be an important first step. Each generation can cope better, but each has to deal with a little of the residual effect.

    Slant, my impression of you is that you are extremely bright. Combined with the fact that we live in a more enlightened age about these issues, I think you have a 40 year head start on my mom.
     
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    #12 Ecton, Apr 17, 2010
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2010
  13. Skoffin

    Skoffin <font color=#00EE99>She Whose Name We Do Not Speak

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    I admit I may have skimmed a bit as I don't have much time on my hands so I won't comment on the bulk of it for now, but I will on one subject. Yes, a hard childhood or terrible experience can be difficult to come out of however it is not impossible. Many people have problems growing up, some learn to deal with it and move beyond it whereas others dwell on it and even use it as an excuse to become bad people themselves.
    I do not think it a reasonable excuse to use your own poor experiences as a reason to treat others poorly.
     
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  14. Holahola

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    Hi Slant,
    So this response might be 8 years too late haha, but I came across your post while searching how certain personality types behave after being abused.

    You may have figured this out or have been told this since it’s been 8 years, but your mom definitely sounds like she has high functioning personality disorder. My mom was not sexually abused but she grew up in a very low income household of immigrants and her behavior is almost identical to your moms. My mom would just rage a lot and I was scared of her. I have been going to therapy for years actually because of the emotional isolation I grew up with due to her being emotionally unavailable. Also, your mom’s stepdad sounds like he has OCD. No matter what your mom suffered, know that you deserve emotional validation just as much as she does, even though what she went through was traumatic. Because based on your description, it sounds like you’ve experienced some traumatic things too from your past that shhouldnt be disregarded or dismissed.
     
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