Content warning: child abuse, victim blaming, description of abuse
I don’t talk about the complicated relationship I had with my mother very often, because it is a very conflicted knot of emotion for me.
It’s especially difficult because my mom passed away when I was 20 years old, and our relationship was still rather fragile and there was a lot unresolved between us. Due to the location of the tumour that eventually killed her, she lost the ability to communicate verbally, it was very hard for her to find the right words, but she still tried to apologize. While she couldn’t verbalize what she was sorry for, it was pretty clear, though I wish we could have talked about things. I wish this wasn’t still affecting me, that it wasn’t always like a raw wound with a thin covering, ready to be torn open at the slightest movement.
We didn’t really talk when we could, either. Talking about things just wasn’t much of a thing in my family, which is probably why I have turned out exactly the opposite, I talk about everything, I write about everything, because that closed off state, that state of not having anyone really know you is something that I avoid like hell.
When I was 19, I’d been out of that house on and off for 3 years. I’d only come back when I’d run out of friends to stay with. Then, my mom somehow got my then boyfriend’s phone number and called me, all she said was “he’s gone, you can come home.”
She was speaking of my father, who had spiralled into depression and alcoholism since I was about 14 years old… it all came to a head when I was 16 and his abuse turned physical. Pushing, shoving, throwing me out of a chair, trying to push me down the stairs, throwing me into a corner in the kitchen… while my mom had her back turned, washing the dishes at the sink.
It stopped when he picked up a kitchen chair and had it over his shoulder, poised to come down upon me. In that moment, something stopped him, he came back to himself for a moment and set it down. Hours later, the police came. My parents had gone to work.
One of the officers told me it wasn’t my fault. Which was important, since it was something I needed to hear.
Later, my mother would tell me that it wouldn’t happen if I just didn’t make him mad. I shouldn’t act this way, be that way, I shouldn’t provoke him. Though to him, speaking English in the house was provocation, crying because he was screaming at me was provocation, I’d get accused of exaggerating and overdramatizing, I wasn’t permitted to cry.
This affected me more than I realized at the time, since up until my mid 20’s, I didn’t cry. One of my friends, who was my roomie for years, still doesn’t believe that I cry ever.
I understand my mother, I understand her fear, I understand that she felt trapped and must have felt obligated to keep the family together, to keep us out of complete poverty by appeasing him, by protecting him. I came to understand this years later. Understanding is not the same as acceptance or forgiveness. It doesn’t do much to alleviate the pain. It doesn’t do much to alleviate the feeling of betrayal, when the people who are supposed to love you and protect you fail so miserably.
When the police took my statement and charges were pressed, a while later my mother made me go to the lawyer’s office, insisting that I change my statement because it was exaggerated. She would tell me how if my father was charged and found guilty, if he had a criminal record, he could lose his job as a security guard, and she’d tell me all about how that would endanger us and our financial situation.
I was 16 years old when I walked into that office, I read over the statement that I had written, recounting the abuse I suffered, in my own words. I read it. I read it and then I handed it back to that lawyer and I told him “I’m not changing anything. That’s what happened.”
I think I may’ve dryly told my mother that perhaps they shouldn’t have forced me to take that creative writing class.
I hope that is one of the things she regretted in those last days.
I regret not being able to talk this out with her, tell her that while I understand, I am bitter and resentful, because in the end, him abusing me wasn’t enough. It wasn’t enough to make her leave. It wasn’t enough, I didn’t matter to her enough, she didn’t care about me enough, that’s what that feels like. It feels like abandonment. It feels like being thrown under a moving vehicle.
When she called me, to tell me that I could come home because he was gone, I came to the townhouse that was our home, and she answered the door with her ankle wrapped up in a tensor bandage.
It didn’t even take a second for me to figure it out. He had pushed her down the stairs.
That had been her final straw. Of course, it took two weeks for her to admit that’s what happened, even though I already knew. That was the level of our communication.
Living with her didn’t stick. They had changed the locks after one of the times I had left, and she never gave me new keys, so if she locked one of the locks, I couldn’t get back in the house. She would lock me out at night if I didn’t bring a dish and a fork home from work, a dish and a fork I had at work for my lunches. She would lock me out at night if she decided I was out too late. Even though I was 19 years old. We would get into arguments and she would push me and try to hit me.
Even if she succeeded in pushing and hitting, it never was the same as with my father. With him, he was not behind the wheel, it was rage, absolute uncontrolled rage, and I knew he wanted to hurt me. I could feel it. It was terrifying.
I was never terrified of my mother, even when she got physical, because it was out of frustration and not knowing how to deal with everything. I knew she wasn’t actively trying to hurt me, but I guess when you’re in an abusive household, you pick up bad habits. You learn these behaviours, they stick to you, and it’s hard to disengage from it. I’ve found myself flying into uncontrollable rages and it scares the hell out of me. I’ve thrown things, slammed things, scared myself.
So while technically, both my parents were abusive, I don’t feel the same way about them. It’s a sore point when people talk about statistics regarding abusive mothers… I often wonder how many of them are like my mother, while knowing that many abusive fathers are just like my father. I know because when he was harassing me on my social media account, several people reached out to me and told me that he was just like their abusive fathers.
I know there are dangerous, violent, sadistic women out there, some are mothers, but I do feel stats that anti-fems like to throw out there are flawed. It’s a complicated topic, I am not even sure if I’ve written it exactly to how I feel about it, honestly.
I’m not sure if I’m getting the point I feel across, but I have to try at least.
I hope anyone out there who is suffering from abuse may find people to support them, to tell them it’s not their fault, to tell them they believe them. Because when you’re in a situation like this, especially when you’re a kid and you’re trying to take on both your parents, it’s pretty much impossible. Nobody believes you. Getting help is daunting at best. It was unsuccessful for me. I went through three different avenues, trying to get help. All were dead ends. One was a counselor who made me feel like I was being victimized and traumatized all over again. In her second session, she asked me if I could see myself forgiving my father.
I can tell you right now, without hesitation, I can not and I will not and I should not be expected to. He has not taken any responsiblity, he has tried to blame it on my mother, he has tried to blame it on me, he has tried to deny it and to spin elaborate explanations for how exactly he didn’t “push” his wife down the stairs, she just happened to be standing by the stairs when he pushed her hand away and she fell.
People like him do not deserve our forgiveness if we do not wish to grant it.
My mother does, but I just wish I could have more from her. I wish we could have really talked about all of this, but I lost her too soon, leaving me in a very complicated situation emotionally. I loved her, I miss her, I wish there wasn’t so much hurt left that will never truly be resolved.