My ex-husband and I separated 30 years ago. Our marriage basically ended one year prior to his leaving. He’d said that if I left him, he’d tell our son, age seven, and daughter, age four, that he’d never see them again.
I stayed but not in a physical way.
One evening I awoke to find my daughter, who’d climbed into our bed, was being molested by her father. She was still mostly asleep. I carried her to her own room, then told my husband to leave within the week.
He’d been drinking, was contrite, and did as I asked. I felt guilty that perhaps my distancing had led to his increased drinking and touching our daughter.
He claimed that was the only time. In a talk with my daughter about correct and incorrect touching, she never indicated awareness of anything having happened.
I never maligned him to the children.
However, after that, even when my now-adult children try for contact with him and have him meet his grandchildren, it seldom happens.
I’ve always feared that the sexual abuse incident wasn’t the only time.
My daughter went through depressions and feelings of unworthiness since her teen years.
She was in an abusive relationship for a while, but is now with a beautiful man who loves her and they have a lovely family. But she still suffers from depression.
She lives in a different country now, and despite my efforts over the years to have her see a counsellor, she does not.
I worry that the information I’ve carried for so long is important for her to overcome her on-off depressions... but I fear that giving her this information would destroy her.
Both adult children still call their father regularly and try to convince him to visit them at their expense. It doesn’t happen.
What would you suggest?
Living in Limbo
I suggest that you first seek any counselling about this “secret,” to clear your own sense of guilt.
Your daughter’s an adult who may indeed be carrying a deeply buried memory of sexual abuse which festers into depressions instead of a desire to get mental health help.
(Yet, since she lives far away from you, she may just not have told you of any counselling she’s had).
However, if she keeps suffering repeated bouts of feeling low and worthless, without seeking to erase the source, it shows how deep-rooted childhood abuse can remain, either as a shameful trauma or, possibly, as a repressed memory.
That’s why I suggest that if you talk to a therapist about child sexual abuse, and learn the coping means that children develop around “forgetting” trauma, you might develop the informed awareness that can open up a conversation naturally, without you describing a scene she may actually NOT remember.
The questions for you to ask a professional therapist then become, how does one treat childhood trauma in adults? And, how are repressed memories best handled or recovered?
Remember, you saw evidence of only one abusive incident involving your daughter, which you shut down immediately.
Meanwhile, her father was by nature not a warm, loving man, or he wouldn’t have used his youngsters as a threat to the marriage. He also made no effort to be close or even stay in touch.
Your daughter’s depressions may come from that larger, ongoing evidence of paternal disinterest. She may not be ready to ask a counsellor OR you, why she was seen by him as unlovable.
I urge you to get more informed before proceeding further.
I’m a man who was constantly abused for years by a controlling wife.
You told me that abuse is wrong, period. (Ellie: no matter to whom it’s done).
I personally know many men who’ve chosen suicide, not feeling that they had a way out. After a friend took his life, I was frightened of my own mind. I phoned the police. They escorted my wife off the property.
They told me that things are changing, albeit slowly.
How many more men will die before we stand up for them?
There are countless resources for women, but scant few for men.
Abuse of men happens in both heterosexual and same-sex relationships, estimated as one in three abuse victims.
But men are often reluctant to report abuse because they feel embarrassed, fear being disbelieved, or that their partner will take revenge.
Instead, men need to go to police, keep incident reports, and get their injuries documented medically. And leave their abuser.
Tip of the day:
Childhood trauma should only be probed by a professional therapist.