Telling your children you’re a victim of child abuse

Speech blog

The latter part of 2006 will never leave me,  I was in hospital once again and stuck in a spiral of self destruction.
I had endured a period of flashbacks from my childhood that left me devastated and bewildered. I felt as if my world had imploded and yet I now had to try and put preventative measures in place to protect not only myself but my children all of whom were in their teens.

I realised that I had to ensure no contact with those I now knew had abused me. But in order for that to happen I would need to stop seeing people who were part not just of my life but the children’s too.
I realised that they now needed to know about my past, the past I felt so ashamed of,  I blamed myself for and the past that was pulling closer to destroying myself.

Victims of abuse face many dilemmas,  not just at the time of the abuse but in the years after. One of those is whether you tell your loved ones or not, that time came for me in 2006.

My then husband already knew a little of my past, I had after all been on mission self destruct for over 2 years,  but even he didn’t know that much. How was I going to explain this to him,  to the children?  It seemed an impossible situation.
I made a list of pros and cons,  not that it solved anything but more I think I was trying to find a reason not to tell,  I feared their reaction.

In the end I spoke to my then husband in the doorway of the hospital, we had gone for a walk, I had put off telling him right to the final moment. In a stunted conversation were I was trying not to say too much but saying just enough I finally broke my silence.  He understood far better than I could have hoped and whilst he didn’t want to know all the horrible details he was very supportive and he realised the decision I needed to make.  Together we decided that for now I would stop contact with certain people and he’d ensure that the children didn’t have contact with those people either.

In the days following as I saw the children; I was lucky that they visited me often, I  explained that I cared for them deeply and didn’t want to die because of them but because of things that had happened in my past. I remember telling them I was sorry for all the distress I was causing them, once again I blamed me for this mess.

I made up some feeble reasons for not seeing various family members for a few weeks and then I left hospital and as I returned home I somehow managed to keep avoiding people. It helped having an allay in the form of my then husband.

But as time went on I realised that soon we had to tell the the truth. That I their mother was a victim of abuse. This was one of my worst dilemmas what would I say, did I tell them everything or a little.  What if they disbelieved me. In the end their father and I agreed to be together when I told them, in the comfort of their home in a safe and familiar environment I shared my secret.

I remember thinking that I could just explain it briefly,  so that is what I did. I told them I had been hurt, by whom and as a child.  That I no longer wanted contact with those people and I didn’t want anything that reminded me of those people in our home. So if those people sent a letter or a card I didn’t want it.
I avoided saying the type of hurt and I remember asking them if they had any questions.  It was in reality very matter of fact, quite cold and only the part I was willing to share.

Did I fudge it,  YES you bet
Was that good, NO
Did it help to tell them, YES
Did they hate me or blame me, NO

But now looking back I realise how nieve I was, my children didn’t ask me what kind of bad had happened, they tell me that they knew or at least had a very good idea I meant abuse.
I have over time come to realise that I under estimated my children,  they were far more aware than I gave them credit back in 2006.

I don’t regret how I told them but if I had my time over again I would do it differently.  I would be far more open, I’d explain what I meant by bad things I’d use the word abuse.
I would have kept offering them opportunities to ask me questions,  I would have asked how they felt more often.
I would have tried to be more open to discussing things and I would probably have been less clinical about it.
I wish there had been a booklet I could have utilised to help me and them, but I am still unaware of any kind of booklet that deals with this topic, one that is designed for children or teenagers. (if you know of one please let me know I would wish to post a link to it on this site).

Today my children now young adults are my strongest supporters and the fiercest defenders anyone could wish for.
They understand far more and I have been far more open and honest with them. They understand more of my past, the abuse is exactly what it is abuse. They have never judged me nor criticised,  their love for me is unconditional as is mine for them.
They don’t know the details of the abuse but I wouldn’t want them to, yet I know they comprehend the issues of child abuse,  self harm and mental health far more than most. For because of me they have to live with the legacy of abuse, my dissociative disorder the result of my abuse impacts all of us.

My advice to others facing the dilemma of whether to tell your loved ones or not, is fairly simple.
From my experience I have found if  loved ones truly care and its done in a sensitive manner it can be productive.
But each victim, abuse survivor has to make this decision for themselves, but if you can seek advice or help beforehand I would recommend doing so.

Personally I couldn’t avoid telling the children for I had lived with secrets all my life and I wasn’t prepared to anymore.
For I believe the truth sets you free, free from keeping secrets and carrying a shame you don’t need to carry.

Copyright DID Dispatches 2014

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2 thoughts on “Telling your children you’re a victim of child abuse

  1. Pingback: Forging a Deeper Understanding of Flashbacks: Part II | Trauma and Dissociation

  2. Pingback: Forging a Deeper Understanding of Flashbacks: Part II | Trauma and Dissociation

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