An article on the Emerging from Broken blog caused me to think about my father, my relationship with him and his abuse of me. Funnily enough I’d already been thinking about him during the last few weeks having gotten past Mother’s Day for this year. I’d been thinking about his absence from a large part of my memories of my childhood. Also my thoughts had begun to turn to Father’s Day coming up in June - another excruciating day for me to get through. In some ways Father’s Day isn’t quite as hard as Mother’s Day because it doesn’t get quite the same amount of publicity but it’s still a really tough day.
I find it very hard to address the issue of my father. It’s been very challenging for me to write about him.
I have no relationship with him and never did. When I think of my childhood my father does not figure in it till I was about 8 or 9-years old and he raped me for the first time. It had struck me as odd that he does not figure in my memories before then. He was physically there during those years but obviously not there in other ways for me. It's a really bizarre one to explain. There are reasons those memories are blocked out of my mind. I wonder what really happened during those hidden years.
Even from the age of 8, he was not emotionally there. I physically had a father but did not really have a father. He was never a father to me.
Although I felt safer with him than with my mother I was not in fact safe with him.
In some ways my father was a passive abuser who did to me everything my mother told him to do and he never questioned her nor refused. For instance he only beat me if she told him too.
BUT he was a willing participant in the abuse and torture my mother masterminded throughout my teen years.
My father was a very complex figure that I cannot get my head around. He was in many ways a weak man who I recognise as totally terrified of my mother just like everyone else was. My mother spoke and the entire house jumped to attention. When I say that I mean precisely that – when she spoke it felt that every part of the house [inanimate parts not just the people in it] took notice. She was so domineering and intimidating that my father was very much under her thumb and in her shadow.
BUT that isn't the entire story when it comes to my father.
In some ways it would be easier for me if it was.
He wasn't just a passive abuser.
I am tempted to think of my father as being very passive but he could also be incredibly aggressive when he chose.
He chose to come into my bed at night from the age of 8. Yes I liked his cuddles and the sense of maybe someone does love me. But I didn't like what his cuddles turned into. He chose to rape me the night of my 9th birthday. He chose to carry on raping and sexually assaulting me at night for several years after that often assisted by my mother holding me down.
He didn't continually fault find, belittle me, mock me or make insinuations like my mother but he showed he thought the same by his disregard, his emotional absence and his abuse when he was physically present. He turned a blind eye and deaf ear to all my mother did. That made him just as guilty as her in the abuse, humiliation and victimisation I experienced.
Saying nothing and pretending nothing was happening did not mean nothing was happening, it enabled terrible things to happen and told me that if I thought it was wrong, then I was wrong because no-one else in the family thought it was wrong.
It also showed me that no-one, not even my father, was going to come to my rescue.
For me as his daughter I needed to be validated as a female and to have healthy stuff about males modelled. Instead when my father touched me up and raped me he invalidated me as a female. He underlined what my grandfather, godfather and brother had taught me in their treatment of me - that the only thing I was useful for when it came to men was sex, my body was not my own and I had no value outside of abuse.
The only value I had to my father was based in meeting his needs and he ensured that occurred both passively and aggressively.
He never once disobeyed or questioned my mother. If she said “beat Fiona”, then he did. If she said “strip Fiona so I can make fun of her then he did”. If she said “rape Fiona with these implements” then he did. If she said “not hard enough Alan, harder Alan, harder” then he beat me harder until she stopped saying that. I have vivid memories of hearing those words many times in my childhood. If she said “hold her down” then he did. I think you get the picture.
My father never once spoke back to her and said he was not going to treat his daughter in those ways. Even though he didn’t beat me of his own volition then it does not excuse him doing so at my mother’s behest.
I felt my father respected me more than my mother did because he did not join in her belittling and mockery of me.
But he did not in reality respect me because he crossed proper parental boundaries.
Incest is more than a sexual act. Incest is incredibly insidious. Incest permeated and affected every single aspect of our life as family.
There were times when one parent was the abuser while the other passively turned a blind eye. I can’t say one parent was categorically passive while the other was categorically active in abuse. They were constantly switching roles. It certainly made life very confusing and I never knew what to expect at any time from either of them.
BUT the passive parent was just as guilty as the active one!
In some ways because my mother hated me and constantly showed her hatred of me every time she opened her mouth, every time she beat me, every time she mocked me and put me down it means my father’s abuse faded into the background.
But that does not mean he did not abuse me because he did.
It does not mean his abuse of me did not impact me, it impacted me enormously. It does not mean that my life is not affected day-by-day by what he did, because it is profoundly affected.
Although my father was physically present, his emotional absence, collusion, passivity as well as his active abuse of me had an enormous impact on how I perceive myself as a female and as a person.
His passive behaviour and attitude towards what was going on in the family undermined me just as deeply as my mother’s obvious hatred of me.
Just as my mother was never a mother to me so my father was never a father to me. Not only was I emotionally orphaned in that way but also I find it really hard to come to a definition of what a mother is or what a father is. I have no sense of what it means to be a daughter, to be loved, to be included, to belong. I do not know what it means to be a daughter nor how it feels to be a daughter. My femininity was not affirmed instead it was undermined, abused and misused.
I was taught it was a bad thing to be female. I was taught it was a dangerous thing to be female. I was taught that being female means you have to submit to being used in whatever way the males around you want to use you. I was taught that males have no respect for females. I was taught that males see females as a sexual object, something to be used to fulfil their needs. I was taught my only value was in being used and abused. I was taught I had no right to my own body.
I spent my childhood telling myself that my parents were not my real parents because I could not believe anyone could be so cruel to their own flesh and blood. I spent my childhood telling myself that one day I’d find out I’d been adopted by them and I’d meet my real parents, my real family, one day. Sadly that never happened because they were my real biological parents.
I spent my life struggling to believe the cruelty they subjected me to. I spent my life hoping one day they’d acknowledge things were wrong in my childhood. I spent my life hoping one day they would realise how their treatment of me had impacted me and love me. The events of last summer showed me once and for all that my parents never loved me; they will never admit anything was ever wrong and they never will love me.
To give up that hope was very hard.
It was immensely painful to face up to that but key to me being able to speak out the truth of what really happened in my incestuous family.
If only my father had been a real father and had respected my femininity and my sexuality. He did not.
And that says it all!!