Tag: PTSD

5 Things to Kindly Keep in Mind with People Processing Violence

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Children learn what they see, so please, lead by positive example. Psychologically healthy parents protect their children, they don’t hit them. Fear and respect are not the same thing, and children deserve to feel safe.

 

People who’ve survived any form of physical abuse or threat are often left with hard-to-heal emotional scars. The damage can take many forms, such as: sexual molestation, rape, being physically struck or beaten, experiencing danger, and military service. But no matter how personal safety violations are inflicted, any may lead to psychological dysfunction.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder, dissociation, denial, depression, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) are some issues experienced by humans whose nervous systems have been pushed beyond their limits. People who experience assault-based trauma are more likely to develop PTSD, but everyone has a different level of stress they can handle before becoming permanently overwhelmed. Because all humans are different, there’s no way to predict psychological disorders, and no guaranteed cures.

Some common symptoms felt by those who’ve been in threatening situations may include hypervigilance, being easily startled, insomnia, never feeling safe, brain fog, irritability, an exaggerated fight-or-flight response, mood swings, and panic attacks involving dizziness, nausea, sweating, rapid heartbeat, tunneling vision, or a sense of impending doom.

Below are 5 things to kindly keep in mind while talking to people processing violence:

  1. The Compassion Competition—

One of the worst assumptions to make about a person affected by violence is that they lack perspective or don’t understand that somebody always has it worse. Abused people know they’re not the only person to which injustice has happened, and unless they’ve never been on the Internet, they’re obviously aware of life’s many atrocities.

Examples of this might be saying, “Well, at least THIS WORSE THING didn’t happen to you…” and giving an example of something you consider a greater wrongdoing.

This reaction completely invalidates the feelings of the person who trusted you enough to confide, and insults their intelligence. The fact that bad things also happen to others doesn’t magically erase the bad things that have happened to them, no matter where you’d place the abuse on your spectrum.

In short: Pain is not a contest. You can show empathy to more than one person at a time without dismissing the feelings of anyone. Because regardless of how someone was hurt, it always matters.

  1. The Dance of Denial—

Many victims of physical or sexual abuse find themselves alone with their pain because the topic makes others feel uncomfortable. This can be especially true if the person was violated by a family member.

Families sometimes brush unflattering stories about sexual or physical abusers under the rug because it’s hard to believe a relative is capable of such brutality. But this reaction can re-victimize people by invalidating their pain.

Often, rather than helping those harmed by a family member or stranger, friends and relatives defensively ignore the issue, allowing the perpetrator to get away with something evil. This lack of justice or support can severely hamper the healing process, because a person can’t heal from a wound nobody will acknowledge.

In short: Abuse at the hands of a stranger -or- a family member hurts, and all forms of abuse are abuse. Ignoring the “icky” can make those harmed feel like they’ve done something wrong, rather than the person who caused the damage. Listen, believe, and strengthen instead of shaming.

  1. The Blame Game—

If you ever feel like saying, “Well that person is a ____, so what did you expect?” or, “I just accept that they’re messed up, and ignore it. That’s just who they are!” about the person who harmed someone, go ahead and keep that thought to yourself, because it reeks of victim blaming.

You may have the best intentions, such as trying to commiserate with the person who’s sharing their painful experience with you. However, what they often hear instead is: “Shame on you for being stupid. You should have known what you were dealing with, and anticipated your own violation.”

In short: Nobody in a civilized society should ever have to expect violence. Don’t imply that people could have predicted their own abuse and avoided it, because this only makes you look uncompassionate.

  1. Downplaying the Damage—

There is nothing more unhelpful than someone telling you to “get over it” in reference to anything, including the violation of your personal safety. Unless you have the ability to crawl into another person’s psyche and assess how something has affected them, dismissing their damage can be downright dangerous.

Everyone has a right to feel safe, and whether you’ve experienced similar things or not, your decision that everyone else has to deal with emotions exactly the way you do is thoughtless and condescending, at best.

Being told you’re “histrionic” or to “put on your big boy/big girl pants” are examples of thoughtless advice, and often given by those who choose to live in denial, rather than being brave enough to deal with their problems. This form of blatant invalidation is heartless and harmful. If someone has the courage to face their personal demons, rather than attempting to humiliate them into silence because of your own cowardice, you might instead watch and learn.

In short: Gaslighting is gross. Stop trying to make people feel like they’re overreacting or incorrectly imagining their own abuse. Everybody’s emotions are valid, and your motives are questionable if you’d prefer people in pain “suck it up and move on.” If you feel this way, why don’t YOU move on… somewhere out of hearing range.

  1. No Pity Parties, Please—

Most people who’ve been hurt by someone else are furious that they were forced into the role of victim, and don’t enjoy it. Treating them with compassion is lovely, but viewing them with pity can be upsetting. Being helpless is the worst feeling in the world, and nobody who’s experienced it ever wants to feel it again.

The word “survivor” is preferred over the word “victim” by many because it implies strength, rather than weakness. Surviving doesn’t have to mean someone has survived a life-or-death situation, either—it simply means someone is trying to accept and cope with what’s happened to them.

In short: Nobody chooses to be abused, and treating people like they’re fragile or broken because of the violating actions of another can frustrate them. Let them know you think they’re strong for moving forward, despite those who’ve tried to hold them back. Survivors of abuse would much rather you celebrate their courage than pity them.

***

People on the path to wellness don’t appreciate roadblocks created by other humans, well-intentioned or not. If you truly want to help someone move past bad things that have happened to them, listen to and believe them, don’t invalidate their feelings, and try to empathize.

Kindness and understanding go a long way in this world, and by avoiding the potentially harmful reactions listed above, you might give someone the compassion and support they need to heal themselves.

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Victim Impact Statement

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Me, age 5.

When I was 15 years old, my biological father viciously beat me up via repeated closed-fist punches to both sides of my face, eyes, and mouth. He has grossly downplayed his brutal actions over the years by lying to our family, as many shame-filled, violent offenders do.

I am writing this Victim Impact Statement because I am tired of explaining the ways in which my father repeatedly punched me in the face to people who wonder how I could possibly have an anxiety disorder or PTSD.

If a stranger had jumped anyone in an alley to beat them as severely as my father did me, no rational or intelligent person would be surprised to learn they had an anxiety disorder from the experience.

I will be sending anyone who wants to understand from where I’m coming to this writing from now on, because I’m creating a personal boundary I’d like all to respect.

Every time I am forced to discuss my father’s violence, it makes me think about a bad experience I’d rather not relive via repeated dialogue.

I refuse to deny what happened, because facts are facts, and it very much affected me, both emotionally and physically. To deny it is to deny the truth, and I won’t do that.

The truth is that my father should have been in jail for what he did, and had I called the police, he would have been. And he knows this. Not because I would have been lying, but because I was unrecognizably bruised and swollen, bleeding, covered in my own blood—and he didn’t have a scratch on him.

But I accept that it happened, and also that I can move forward into wellness, even if nobody believes me.

I would like to officially invite all doubtful people to join me here in Acceptance World. Because Denial World is not a place in which anyone can heal. And Nobody Believes Me Even Though I Have No Reason to Lie World invalidates me and hurts my feelings, so I’m not letting anyone send me there anymore.

You can believe me or not—that’s your prerogative—but my truth is no longer on trial.

I am not awaiting your verdict.

You can, however, consider yourself a part of a very disturbing problem if you believe the grown man who beat up a 15-year-old girl was in any way justified for this horrendous action.

If anyone needs further confirmation, I am still in contact with many school friends who saw my swollen, beaten face, puffed-up lips with cuts inside that bled if I smiled, two bruised eyes with one swollen shut, and chipped front tooth. The same friends who saw me drink my “lunch shake” through a straw for a week until the inner mouth cuts healed enough to stop bleeding, allowing me to chew again.

My science teacher was so shocked by my post-beating appearance she called Child Protective Services, causing a social worker to come to our home, who offered to drive me away on the spot. This means my abuse was legally recorded by my school and the Arizona Department of Child Safety (teachers are legally required to do this).

There is also an impartial non-relative witness to the event: my former stepmother, who screamed at my father to stop punching me, cleaned up my bloody, swelling face, and disposed of my blood-soaked clothes.

It turns out mouth cuts bleed a lot. Until my father repeatedly punched me in the face, I didn’t know this. I’m getting ahead of myself.

I think what I’m mostly trying to ask of you is please, stop blaming the victim. Start believing the victim.

(Also, please realize the victim doesn’t consider herself a victim and hates that label because it implies weakness and she’s one of the strongest people you’ll ever meet, but can’t think of a better way to say the above. Thanks.)

Below, I’ve written for anyone wondering, exactly what happened. Not “my version of what happened” but what actually happened.

You may have been given a different version of the events by the man who beat up a teenage girl, and I would like you to please use basic common sense and realize the person with nothing to hide and everything to lose is telling you the truth, not the man who is rightly ashamed of beating up a girl.

I am not afraid of legal repercussions or slander charges as I write this, because I know I am telling the truth and have nothing to fear. My father has lied to my family over the years, describing what was actually 6-7 sudden, hard, closed-fist punches to my face as “a slap to the mouth” to make me look like I’m exaggerating.

He recently confessed to his sister that yes, he actually did punch the shit out of me, but then lied about the circumstances, prompting her to tell me I deserved to be beaten up, as if there is ever a justification for a 36-year-old man to beat up a 15-year-old girl.

(I can forward you the email in which she admits he told her he beat me up if you still need proof.)

She stupidly believed his lies, once again. Yes, that’s right. She believed the person with every reason to lie—the man trying to make something he did look less disgusting or somehow justifiable—over the person with no reason to lie. She abused her daughter, too, so I think she’s hoping that by justifying my father’s violence, she can justify her own.

I now realize they are both very sick, psychologically damaged people, and am officially done trying to salvage a relationship with either one. I will explain this further below.

Because of my father’s fists punching my eyes, my optic nerves are permanently damaged with no other explanation. My eye doctor has confirmed that being beaten to the point of having swollen shut, blackened eyes without medical treatment is likely the cause, as I have no other glaucoma symptoms. (He couldn’t figure it out until I finally shared that I’d been punched in the eyes and face repeatedly without medical/anti-inflammatory treatment. This can cause permanent nerve damage.)

I have to get the chipped tooth my father’s fist knocked out replaced whenever the composite filling falls out.

I will pay for my father’s violence for the rest of my life financially and physically. I’m working with psychological professionals to heal the emotional damage, because that is the only thing I can hope to lessen.

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On the way to get a chunk of front tooth my dad’s fist knocked out replaced a few years ago. Again. No, he’s never offered to pay for this, even though he caused the damage. A real stand-up guy, right?

 ~

I share my story because I’m one hundred percent tired of discussing it and trying to convince even my own family members that this happened to me. It did. I have no reason to lie. By ending contact with my father for my emotional and psychological well-being 10 years ago, I lost a large financial inheritance… and it was worth every penny.

Because love is what matters in this life, not money. On your deathbed, the amount of money you amassed means nothing. The difference you made in the world, and the kindness you’ve shown others is all that matters.

At least, that’s what I believe will matter to me. Was I a good, honest, compassionate person with integrity? If I can answer yes to this question, I will be satisfied with my life.

I don’t feel sorry for myself, I am not seeking pity, and I am aware that worse things happen every day all over the world.

And this fact doesn’t negate what happened to me, or make my feelings about it any less valid.

Below is a detailed account of my father’s abusive actions, and the psychological impact his violent, sudden, and completely unjustified attack had on me.

~

My biological father was sitting in my newly-painted stark white bedroom – the one he’d destroyed in a fit of immature rage while I was at school that day. Every music poster I’d saved to buy had been torn down and destroyed, all color and life drained from my room via coat of white paint, creating what it already felt like to me anyhow: a prison cell.

The latest thing I’d done to piss him off was bleach my hair white blonde against his wishes because I wanted to look like a Madonna album cover. It was the late ‘80s, and I thought her hair looked rad. My father, upon seeing the hair color I’d secretly bleached told me the next morning before school I looked like a cheap whore. I told him I thought it looked cool, and assumed our latest conflict was over… until I came home to my completely-stripped-of-all-personality bedroom.

~

When my father walked into my Benjamin Moore Jailhouse White-painted bedroom to lecture me, I’d been sitting on my bed listening to a record. He lectured me about my disobedience, this time in reference to my bleached hair, although there’d been previous incidents that contributed to his worn patience with me.

I’m diagnosed with ADHD, and have always had extra nervous energy to burn off every day. Sometimes I’d catch myself rocking in place, or tapping a foot without realizing I was doing so. Unfortunately, this was a foot tapping time.

My dad noticed I was tapping my foot to the beat while he lectured, saw it as an act of defiance, and lost his temper.

~

He had a sudden, flash, blackout rage-type of temper. When he got back from Vietnam, I experienced it in the form of hitting, smacking, and having to go get the belt.

One cruel memory that stuck with me was when he snapped each of my individual crayons in half and dropped them, one by one, into the kitchen garbage can while my mom and I begged him to stop. My sister had left them on the floor, and not me, but I was punished anyway. He smiled as I sobbed.

Another disturbing memory involves his arriving home, taking off the black horrible-smelling socks in which he’d worked construction all day in the Phoenix heat, holding me down, and putting them over my mouth and nose. I would nearly suffocate trying to not breathe the horrible smell, and would struggle—little girl versus large man. If I peed my pants or accidentally kicked him during these struggles to escape, he would smack me as hard as he could. It would sting like bees wherever he’d hit me, so being 5 or 6-years-old, I’d sob until he told me to shut up or he’d “give me something to cry about.”

Luckily my mom divorced him when I was 7, remarried when I was 8, and moved us away to Kansas. My biological father still managed to occasionally smack me on summer vacations with him, but at least the majority of the year was spent far away.

~

But now I was 15, and once again unsuccessfully living with him. My father’s well-known temper this time culminated in his grabbing the record spinning on my player, and snapping it in half in front of me.

“There! NOW will you pay attention to what I’m saying?!” he yelled.

The nervous foot tapping. Whoops.

I told him to stop breaking my records. He grabbed another from the pile, pulled it out of the jacket, and snapped it. Then another. And another.

I’d already lost every music poster for which I’d saved, and was now watching my record collection disappear, one snap at a time. I wasn’t a rich kid, and had saved every allowance or bit of birthday money to buy everything I had. Often I skipped school lunch so I could save the few extra dollars per week that allowed. I knew I’d never replace everything in my room he’d destroyed that day.

Desperate to get him away from my quickly-depleting record collection, I ran to the living room to grab one of his records, holding it in the air, poised to snap, just as he’d destroyed mine. It was an album by The Beatles. The difference between my father and me was that I couldn’t do it.

He yelled at me to drop the record, and I replied, “Then stop breaking my fucking records!”

My mom told me later when I spoke to her on the phone about the beating that the f-word had triggered him to smack her across the face when they were married, too.

He dropped the record he’d carried out of my room to punch me repeatedly in the head and face, three or four hard, closed-fist punches with his right, then three or four blows with the left. He was an equal opportunity abuser, according to both sides of my now-swelling, bleeding face.

The attack was so sudden and vicious, one blow after another, that it took me a moment to stop trying to defend my 15-year-old self from a man with weight machines in his garage and a history of hitting women and children. I think I tried to block with my arms. I should’ve run after the first punch. It just happened so fast. There wasn’t really time to react beyond instinct.

Punchpunchpunchpunchpunchpunchpunch, his fists rapid-fired at my head like gunshots.

I finally ducked, turned, and ran for the front door, blood pouring from my mouth because my teeth had been knocked so repeatedly against my gums that the area above and below inside my lips was shredded. My peach sweater and white skirt were blood-soaked from the gushing mouth cuts, and the skirt proved a traitor, allowing my father fabric to grab, preventing me from fleeing.

Thwarted from escape, I curled up into a ball, trying to protect my head and face, and my father kicked my curled-up body, sneering at me, “Stop being so dramatic.”

Being dramatic? That was when I heard the screams. I hadn’t realized they were coming from me until he spoke, snapping me back to reality, and stealing the protection of psychological dissociation from my traumatized brain.

I remember looking up into the light coming from the beautiful etched glass panels in the front door my dad and his current wife had picked out through the one eye that hadn’t swelled shut. I was groggy and confused, wondering why I hadn’t made it to the other side. I didn’t understand why so much warm liquid was running out of my mouth.

~

My stepmom had my infant half-brother in her arms when my father started punching, and now that she’d found a safe place for the baby, she ran to where he stood over me and the puddle of blood forming on the concrete beneath. She yelled at him to stop, to leave, to go to his sister’s house down the road, but he wouldn’t, instead storming down the hallway to their bedroom to cool off.

She took me into the guest bathroom where I didn’t recognize the girl in the mirror.

I looked as if I’d been in a car accident, my face ballooned round because my cheeks were swollen and bruised, my lips huge, both eyes rapidly bruising, with one closed. One of my front teeth had a big chip missing, I’m assuming from his wedding ring.

All of the teeth in my mouth were loose enough to wiggle for a week afterward. I remember lying in my bed afterward, testing them one by one. I worried they were going to fall out from the trauma.

I remember being amazed by how the numbness from the extreme facial swelling took away the pain.

I’m positive I had a concussion, because all I wanted to do was go to sleep, and my brain had been sloshed around via repeated punch to my head.

My stepmom kindly cleaned me up, put me to bed, and disposed of my ruined, blood-stained clothing.

They would be divorced within a year or so. I wasn’t surprised, and always wondered if watching her husband beat up a 15-year-old girl showed her exactly what kind of man she’d married. I also want to tell all family members who don’t believe me to ask her what happened that day, as her son is fully grown, married, and no longer very much in touch with our shared biological father.

I would never have asked her to talk about my beating while my brother was in my father’s care out of protection for him. She couldn’t jeopardize her son’s safety, and I wouldn’t have wanted her to do so. In case you’re wanting to blame her, I also want you to know that I don’t and never have blamed her. She had an infant son to protect, and any action taken to legally or criminally prosecute his father could have been dangerous for her child. As a mother, I understand completely that she couldn’t risk her son’s future.

I only blame the adult man in his mid-30s who thought that violently beating up a 15-year-old girl was morally or legally acceptable under any circumstances.

But now, my former stepmom could talk, if asked. She has no reason to lie, after all. She’s not related. I would challenge every disbeliever to ask her if my words are true. I have to wonder if maybe, since some family members have written me off as “histrionic,” they’d believe someone with no reason to lie.

Or would they still defend a grown man who beats up teenage girls?

What a sad question this is, in a culture full of victim-blaming, to wonder if a girl beaten up at age 15 by an adult male will ever be able to convince her relatives, the people who are supposed to love her, that she has no reason to lie.

There’s a magazine cover floating about our media right now with 35 women who’ve experienced the same shameful phenomenon.

~

To this day, one of my biggest regrets is that I didn’t call the police on my father, because then at least there would be photographic proof to show family members who still can’t believe their relative could be capable of such brutality, and wrongly assume I’m being hyperbolic.

If I’d just made it out the door, to the road, to the neighbors’ house for help, my father would have been in jail for assault and battery when the police saw the blood-soaked and badly beaten teenage girl, and her completely unharmed father. I looked like I’d been hit by a truck; he didn’t have any injuries at all aside from sore knuckles. It was a clear case of assault and battery: a “no-brainer,” to use a trite term.

My father would be a mugshot on the local news if he did today what he did to me back then.

I also wish I’d called the police because if I had a photo of my face to show, there’s no way any rational, compassionate human would decide that I “deserved it” or that my father “deserves love and forgiveness,” as I’ve been told by family members. They would recoil in disgust, and likely feel stupid for suggesting I forgive him.

If he was a stranger who had turned my face into someone bloody, beaten, and unrecognizable, they’d only want justice for me.

If a man did to their child what my father did to me, they would be filled with rage on behalf of their child.

But because it happened to me, their empathy disappears.

Except for my violent, child-beating father. Everyone feels incredibly sorry for the man who beat up a teenage girl. So much empathy for my abuser.

I want to ask my family, where is the love and understanding for me, when they ask me to forgive someone who’s brutally beaten me without remorse? My father not only never apologized for the damage he did, but is still lying about it.

How can they not see how hard it is to forgive someone who won’t even acknowledge they’ve harmed you?

Why do the people who are supposed to love me care more about the feelings of a man who violently beats up teenage girls? He doesn’t care about my feelings or forgiveness, so when asking me to forgive him, perhaps ask yourself, why is it so important to you? And please don’t give me some “enlightened” answer about how it will heal me because my healing journey is my own, not yours.

I tried denial disguised as “embracing positivity” for decades, after all, when I had a relationship with the man who caused so much damage. I tried to be the Forgiving Good Daughter. We spoke on the phone, had occasional visits, and guess what? It didn’t change a damned thing. In fact, it was harmful to me. The pain was still there because he never apologized, and he is still, to this day, justifying his actions with lies.

So my dad deserves forgiveness and empathy for beating me bloody at age 15, and I deserve none?

I’m supposed to magically heal and forgive a person for violating me, even though he refuses to be truthful about or acknowledge what he did?

Are you really going to pretend a grown male in our society didn’t know that violently beating up a 15-year-old girl was wrong, because, as one family member actually told me recently… that’s just how he was raised and he didn’t know any better?

Because of course he knew better. He still knows better. And the fact that he won’t tell you the truth means he has no respect for you, either, by the way. He’s lying to you, because that’s what people who are ashamed of what they’ve done and realize they’re in the wrong do: they lie.

Stranger hurts family member: everyone wants justice. Family member hurts family member in the exact same way: everyone wants silence. I will never understand this phenomenon. Wrong is wrong.

Abusers often downplay their violence to make the damage less damning, attempting to make themselves look less horrible, and to make their victims look histrionic. This is a known fact about violent men, making it especially disappointing when female family members don’t believe what happened. They of all people should be emotionally savvy enough to know this.

I was recently told by my father’s sister, for example, because he told her I yelled “Fuck you!” and hit him—two things I never did—that I deserved to be beaten, and that any person in our family would have done the same.

The fact is, she’s a sadistic idiot, at best, for believing a grown man’s weak attempts to justify beating up a teenaged girl—especially considering that he’s lied to the entire family for the last 20+ years, including her, telling them that he’d “only hit me in the mouth” before only recently confessing to her that oh wait, yes, he did violently beat me up, followed by the fake justification given above, as if there is ever justification for a man to repeatedly punch a teenaged girl (or to beat anyone not attacking them, for that matter).

Rather than explain to her that she was stupidly believing lies he’s created to make himself look less awful… again, I instead gave up on her. And him. Forever. She also violently beat her own daughter, and actually sent her 16-year-old daughter to live with our grandfather, the pedophile who molested her daughter while fully aware of what he did to her daughter—so I’ve finally had to accept that my father and aunt are very sick people with whom I have no desire to communicate again in this lifetime. They were both abusive, sociopathic, terrible parents – so of course they want to rewrite history. They’re ashamed of themselves, as they should be.

I’m not engaging with either of them anymore because he’ll obviously never tell the truth, and she’ll keep defending his violent behavior in an attempt to justify her own. And I don’t have time in my precious life anymore for ridiculous, toxic, lying people—related to me or not.

~

Fortunately, I have multiple friends with whom I’m still in touch who saw my face when I returned to school a few days after the beating who can back up my truth. This helps, knowing there are people in the world who believe me because they saw the damage, even if my own family won’t listen. One is a close female friend of mine who cried because she barely recognized my battered face.

I told most who asked that I’d been in an ATV accident because I didn’t want them to feel sorry for me, but one teacher, a smart woman who saw through my story, called Child Protective Services and reported the obviously beaten up teenager sitting in her science class.

The social worker came to our door and had me sit in her car to talk separately from my father. She asked if there was anywhere else I could go, but at that point I felt like I’d ruined relationships with every available adult in my life, so I told her no. I felt like I was a bad kid, and must deserve the painful thing that had happened to me.

As an adult, of course I realize I should have called the police and pressed charges, but I was 15 and scared. I felt alone in the world. I begged her to let me stay, even when she told me we could drive away and she’d send the police back with me later to retrieve my belongings. I truly felt everyone hated me, and that I had nowhere else to go. She ended up giving me her card, making me promise to call her if it happened again or I changed my mind.

~

Despite all of this this, 8 months ago, I tried to reach out to my biological father in forgiveness, for my own peace.

I realize now I don’t forgive him at all, because I would never do to a child what he did to me. A better word than forgiveness would be acceptance. I accept that what happened, acknowledge that it shaped me in many ways, refuse to let it define me any longer, and will stop allowing it to negatively impact me as much as possible.

So I extended the olive branch to my father via letter telling him I forgive him and would like to have a relationship on whatever terms he’s comfortable, trying to find peace. I even apologized for the abrasive way I cut him out of my life 10 years ago because I expressed my anger in an unkind way.

That’s right—I apologized to my father for expressing anger at him for beating me up and never apologizing to me for it or acknowledging it. I apologized to him. And I had no expectations of an apology or anything from him, I was simply trying to move forward. I wanted to permanently place my pain behind a brain door labeled “This Bad Thing Happened” and get on with life. Acceptance. Peace.

And guess what, all you “positivity” hashtag-sharing people telling me to forgive my father because it will heal me, and he’s a good person, and surely it couldn’t be that bad, and blah, blah, blah…?

My loving, kind, poor, misunderstood, teenage girl-punching father blew me off.

He never answered my letter. So because I took everyone’s advice and tried to forgive the man who violently beat me up, never apologized, has lied about it to everyone for years, then admitted to doing it but still tried to justify beating up a 15-year-old girl… now, I am more hurt than I was before.

Yup. I gave him a second chance to hurt me, and he took it.

And great advice, everybody. Thanks for your help. #positivity #forgiveness #bullshit

Sorry for my bitterness. I know the people pushing positivity and forgiveness were only trying to help.

But I would like to ask anyone who blindly does this to please realize you don’t know the details of personal relationships, so this advice can possibly harm, rather than hurt. Sometimes a person seeking emotional wellness needs to close the door on a toxic person and move forward, not try to embrace the toxicity.

So this was obviously disappointing and hurtful for me—my lifelong deadbeat, unsupportive dad once again not being there for me—and there might have been some closure to be found if my father and I could have put this behind us.

But as my husband always says about my biological father: What do you expect from a pig but a grunt?

~

I am now done trying to maintain a relationship with him out of some sort of “good daughter” guilt trip-expectation society places on people who’ve been harmed by relatives.

This double standard is one of the weirdest aspects I’ve noticed about my father’s violence. If a stranger had violently beaten me the way my own father did, my entire family (and most members of a civilized society) would want justice. But because I’m related to him, this somehow means I’m supposed to forgive and forget about pain this person has inflicted on me without remorse or apology? This makes no sense to me.

And it goes against the principles of basic biology to harm one’s own offspring. The number one priority of any mammal parent is to keep their progeny safe from danger. Because I know firsthand how worthless it makes an emotionally underdeveloped psyche feel, I will never understand how a parent can hit a child. My son is nearly 10, has ADHD neurology, and it has never once occurred to me to smack or slap him, much less punch him. The thought makes me physically ill. My job is to protect him from the danger, not BE the danger.

Another odd phenomenon I’ve encountered is the idea that being beaten up by someone I know—by the person who should be protecting me from such things—is somehow less traumatizing than a violent beating at the hands of a stranger, rather than more traumatizing.

A stranger doesn’t know me, so it’s not personal if they hit me.

But growing up feeling physically unsafe around the one person in the world who should have made me feel safe?

That’s worse than anything a stranger could have inflicted upon me.

~

As I was telling my psychiatrist about the recent discovery about my eyes, I embarrassingly started angry-crying, because this permanent optic nerve damage was completely avoidable had my father acted like an honorable man instead of a malicious bastard.

My doctor asked me if I have bad dreams or relive it, and I told him I relive it whenever I talk about it too much, and yes, which recurring nightmare would you like me to share, because I have five?

I confessed that I often have to sleep with a hunting knife folded up in my hand because I never feel safe.

I think every noise or creak of the house is someone breaking in, and patrol windows in the dark, trying to protect my son from unseen dangers.

Sudden noises have me shaking in an adrenaline rush of terror, I can’t be in crowds, and I always have to be facing a clear exit in restaurants.

If my son playfully sneaks up behind me, I have to hide the anxiety attack-tears he causes because I don’t want him to feel guilty for something “normal” moms can handle.

I’m damaged, and I’m always waiting for the other shoe to drop. Spending the earliest, most formative years of your life being afraid of a parent who should be making you feel safe and loved will do that to a person.

Being violently beaten up by your own father at 15 will also do that to a person.

Because Child Psychology 101. It’s really not that hard to figure out.

My psychiatrist then diagnosed me with PTSD, and gave me an antidepressant he said is commonly given to people with PTSD.

Desperate to pull myself out of the pool of anxiety, fear, and sadness I’d felt since I found out my optic nerves were damaged, I tried the SSRI antidepressant. It made me feel even more anxious and scared, and after giving it a week, I stopped taking it because it was making everything worse.

My doctor told me I’d done the right thing the next time I saw him and prescribed another antidepressant in case I wanted to try a different one, but we both agreed that I should probably stick to only anti-anxiety meds. I never filled the second antidepressant prescription.

I am currently seeking a behavioral/talk therapist to help me learn how to avoid being “triggered” or upset when discussing violence.

~

What I would like anyone reading this to know is that I’m not crying or upset as I type, I’m actually calm, because writing is cathartic and soothes me. I’m not wishing to be considered a victim by sharing the truth about a bad man, and don’t want pity. It makes me furious to think of someone feeling sorry for me, actually.

I would also like to make it clear that I recognize someone always has it worse. There is nothing I loathe more than a Compassion Competition, so telling me things like, “At least you didn’t have THIS happen to you…” only makes me think you have problems with which you need to deal and are living in denial, or perhaps that you are lacking in empathy.

Because yes, I get it: of course there are one million worse things that might have happened to me. But that doesn’t make the pain of what happened to me any less valid. Pain is not a contest. And neither is empathy.

I also want people to understand I write about painful things because reading about similar experiences from other people has made me feel less alone, and like someone else in the world understands. I’ve experienced a lot of gaslighting from family members who’ve chosen to believe my father’s downplaying of the facts over the truth—all doubts that could be erased in seconds had one person snapped a picture of my face after he violently beat me up.

And no matter what anyone thinks I did— no matter what a sad old washed-up piece of shit whose three children barely speak to him has to say—this 15-year-old girl didn’t deserve to be brutally, repeatedly punched into permanent facial damage for any reason. There is no justification and no excuse for what my father did to me.

I am not my PTSD and I’m not my anxiety disorder. What I am is a good-hearted person who had a crummy thing happen to me that I’m actively trying to work through and move past for emotional wellness.

Thank you for listening, and especially for believing people like me who have no reason to make up stories.