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house of denial

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Reading the following Traits of Families that Tolerate Incest and Child Abuse got me to thinking, and so I wanted to respond to each of the points they made so maybe you could see what an incest abuse house might look like:

Poly-abusive
Sexual child abuse is just one of a number of abuses taking place in an incest family. There may also be a history of family violence, substance abuse, and other criminal activity.

This wasn’t the case in my family, at least not that I know of.   My family was all about self-control to probably an abnormal degree.  Interviewing my father in later years I found out that his sister and father went to Florida together for a week, and that she came back, “different.”  I am sure there is more to the story, and I wonder to what extent it affected the rest of my father’s family, as there were five brothers and my aunt was the only girl.

My father blames his abuse on drinking.  However, he was not an alcoholic, and he was not drunk when the abuse began.  Later, these incidents coincided because the only time he could have an excuse for not being in my mother’s bed was when he was playing his bass on a gig, and drinks were provided to the musicians gratis.

Duplicity, deceit, collective secrets
The incest family hides its embarrassing secrets.

Incest is so taboo it doesn’t come up in any conversation, so it’s a level of secrecy too secret to even acknowledge to oneself. However, There weren’t collective secrets in my house.  I think it was more a sign of the times with their generation that would not air any dirty laundry out in public.  Or even to family members.  We didn’t have collective secrets but kept secrets from each other.

Rigid and tightly controlled
Incest families have rigid rules to prevent revelation of their secrets.

My family was extremely tightly controlled.  Mostly this was my mom’s doing.  If she was silently seething about something, you could tell because she would have micro-perceptible tics, and you breathed a little quieter and walked silently and made to sure to be ultra sensitive and stay clear of trouble.  The problem was that this was not a rare occasion.  She was like a hawk, and one sidelong glance was all it took.  It was like living in a library with the most vigilant librarian imaginable on duty, the one who hated her life and hated people.  So there was always this psychological tension in the air that you didn’t want to trip up.

Together, probably due to my mother’s influence, our family had strict rules about the activity and behavior of children.  It was a strange hybrid of progressive liberalism from my father and repressed Victorianism from my mother.  We were to be seen and not heard, but when we were asked to speak, it should be something progressive and liberal coming out of our mouths.

I was kept on an extremely short leash:  one time at 12 years old I went to the neighbors to borrow something, was gone for ten minutes, and my mother totally freaked out because I had been missing when she called on me.  When a woman with tics who rarely speaks freaks out, it’s twice as scary as when someone just gets angry.  I still shudder thinking about it.

You know how you go to visit some establishments as a child and you are made to understand that there are strict rules for decorum?  You keep your knees together.  You make sure your skirt covers your bottom when you sit.  You cross your ankles together under your chair.  You don’t bounce your legs or tap your toes.  You sit upright.  You don’t put your elbows on the tables, etc., etc.  Well, that’s how I felt in my house every day.  A billion unspoken rules, any violation of which would raise an eyebrow, or cause the corner of the mouth to twitch, or worse some silent muttering.  I wanted to please so badly, and every little sign of disapproval was pointed and severe.  Yes.  I was tightly and masterfully controlled.

Demand for blind, absolute loyalty
Incest families usually have a domineering head of household who rules the family through force.

Force?  or fear of madness?  My mother ran the household, because it was her realm – a booby prize of control because she had no life of her own.  Everything about her was about control:  controlling her emotions and making sure everyone else controlled theirs as well.  There was no force, except the police state of her stare.  That stare can not be underestimated, and I lived in constant silent fear of upsetting her precarious balance.

Poor boundaries
Disrespect for each others’ privacy, rights, and individuality is common in incest families.

Again, my family liked to think of themselves as progressive liberals.  Bathrooms were not private.  We only had one, and toilet use trumped shower use.  So in a household of six, this meant a lot of exposure.  Too soon, however, we were a household of three.  Nakedness or modesty was not respected, because both my parents were freely naked in front of us, ostensibly to prove in their liberal self-image that bodies were beautiful and nothing to be ashamed of.  So I saw much more than I wanted to see.  And I couldn’t, in defense, ask for privacy, because it was off the table as an issue.

My father’s hip liberal attitude included family baths – and my mother participated probably only because he urged her to.  The bath is where my abuse started.  Family baths that my mother opted out of, to have more time to herself.

Parents immature and inexperienced in life
Parents of incest families usually never become fully mature adults.

While my parents were both very responsible and upstanding citizens, I would have to characterize them both as being very immature.  They didn’t take action to improve themselves or gain more understanding.  Their actions were self-absorbed like those of children.  They did not learn from situations.  My father was a whiner, a pouter.  My mother avoided situations.  These were not emotionally evolving people in any sense of the word.

Conflictual marriage or troubled divorce
In incest families, this may refer to situations where children are pushed into the drama between a conflicted mother and father.

The hallmark of my parents’ relationship was no communication.  They did not speak of issues in front of us children, ever, and would go behind closed doors to literally whisper their disagreements.  Again, the environment was tightly controlled, especially emotions.  Afterward, it was clear that nothing had been resolved and a wall of silence was what we were taught by example, as how to deal with relationships.

My father used me for validation when my mother wasn’t around.  He would try to get me to sympathize with him.  Later, he would use me as a confident and tell me their relationship problems.  Still later, he told me he turned to me because  my mom was “cold” to him in bed.

My mother was perpetually miserable in crush on someone else.  For some reason my siblings were unaware of this, but I could see it/feel it.  And later confessionals with my parents confirmed this.

What we had here were two people dependent upon each other in a maternal/paternal way, but who both felt trapped.

No childhood for the children
Incest families are somber and strict places, where the authority figure (usually one of the parents) dictates behavior for everyone else. Rather than let children run around and play, they force children into a regimented routine.

The sound of children playing was like nails on chalkboard to my mother.  She liked babies.  But didn’t really care for children.  She wanted to read and fantasize and escape, and me making any noise at all would destroy her perpetual search for reverie.   She also shut down joking amongst my father and brothers, and any time my father was happy or whistling or in a good mood, she shut that down too.  It’s as if her unquiet suffering mind required all her focus and concentration, and any disruption which brought ugly reality into that effort was frowned upon.

Chaotic situations, traumatic stress
Incest often takes place in chaotic households, with unstable roots. These families may move often and lack connections to any one community.

Or, these families carefully craft a place in community, superficially always present, yet not really engaged with any of it.  My parents really had no friends, despite attending church gatherings for fellowship.

Low level of appropriate touch
In the most toxic incest families all touching is considered taboo. Parents do not hug, caress, or cuddle their children, as normal families do. This is perhaps the most telling symptom of incest.

Bingo.

I can remember being asked for a kiss at times – you know, the kind of staged pucker-up type of full-on kisses.  But there were no random kisses to the head, no caresses, no holding hands except in dangerous traffic situations, no bear hugs. In short, no physical affection of any kind.  Occasionally I would see my mom smiling or amused over something.  But affection to her was buying me a soda or an educational workbook and watching me enjoy it.  But touch?  nope.  nothing.  One story my mother repeated several times was of breaking a hair brush over my sister’s head because she squirmed while she was fixing her hair.  I sat very still as a result.

My father, on the other hand, loved to wash my hands and clip my nails.  It was these small opportunities for skin contact, in an environment where there was no touching allowed, which fed him in some dark way, and which was a precursor for his uncontrollable desire to molest me.

Compensating veneer of religiosity
Incest perpetrators often hide behind an external show of religion.

Church was my family’s only social life.  Religion is great.  It provides the facade of community and bolsters their place in society.  It convinces them that they aren’t really the anti-social misfits they really are.

What was my home environment like?

Well, I can tell you that at first glance it looked like anybody else’s house.  Except that it was eerily quiet.  It was heavy, like kryptonite.  But of course that would change if anybody came over:  then my home became a mirror of whoever came to visit’s personality.

What facilitated my abuse?

In retrospect, it was my mother.  Not on purpose.  But everything she did set up that heavy environment.  Except for the t.v., which was my babysitter, no noise was tolerated.  Where was she during my bath time?  Where were my siblings?  Why did everyone allow my father to read me bedtime stories every night by himself?  Why did we do nothing together as a family?

And that one day when the social worker came to visit, (I vaguely remember my mom cleaning house for the social worker’s visit and how perfect she was that day) how could they be so clueless?  Did they even bother to look closely?  Did they see us play and interact?  (of course not – there was no play) Did they look at our photo albums and see any candid fun shots?  (of course not – there were no candid fun moments)  Did they do anything besides have some coffee and ask my parents how I was doing? Of course not.

So actually, EVERYONE facilitated my abuse.  The entire family was so lost in their own misery nobody thought about me or that I was a child or what I needed as a child.  And the social worker was just there to rubber stamp everything.

Gack, I should have gone into social work.  This is just so distressing to think someone could have caught this.   I know I could walk into such a home, sniff, and say, “something’s not right.”

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Written by girl4708

November 10, 2009 at 8:01 am

Posted in Infinite Longing

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