Trigger warning: mention of child abuse
In a few previous posts, I’ve talked about my family, about my abusive father, co-dependent family dynamics, and about the silence of my mother and siblings who are protecting him.
I’ve done a lot of work in the last years for my own recovery, for health, for healing. I’m grateful for how far I’ve come, and I’m grateful for the friends who are supporting me, for the Community that is my home now, and most of all for God’s love and faithfulness to me throughout all of this. These are what holds me up, and they are essential to the change towards good in my life.
Last November, I went on retreat, and at the beginning of it, my prayer guide gave me psalm 139. “God, you have examined me and you know me…” It ends, “Investigate my life, O God, find out everything about me; cross-examine and test me, get a clear picture of what I’m about; see for yourself whether I’ve done anything wrong – then guide me on the road to eternal life” (version in The Message).
At the beginning of the retreat, I didn’t really connect with this psalm, at the end, I had my response to it. There was something wrong that needed addressing, and God pointed it out to me, and we did something about it. It wasn’t easy to hear, and it most certainly was not easy to do.
In what I’ve posted here before, I mention that my sister and her family now live with my parents. That includes her children, her daughter and her son. I have been concerned for quite some time about the safety of the children, about the fact that they live in a house with someone I know to be an abuser. My sister knows that too, but decided that he’s no threat to her children, apparently. “Everything is fine now.” But there has never been a conversation about the abuse of both me and her between our parents, there never has been any conversation between my father and a counsellor or anything of that kind. Nothing has been dealt with. I did my talking with friends and counsellors, she had therapy, but he never dealt with any of it. And I felt unable to visit at all anymore since they live there, unable to be in that house and see them share it with my parents. Nothing is different than it was, and the children are not safe, particularly my niece.
The thought of contacting social services or the police to report my concern had been with me for some time as well. I had even looked up their contact details in my home town, bookmarked it on my computer. But I had not yet made that call (hoping that I would not have to make it).
I tried to have a conversation with my mother about my concerns, who refused to engage. I tried to have the conversation with my sister and got the same response.
I remembered two conversations on retreat where my mother and sister echoed each other – when I first told my mother about the abuse, she told me that she had thought that “you can defend yourselves while you’re awake”… When I brought up the issue of my niece’s safety with my sister last year, her response was that her 9-year-old daughter “can defend herself”…
It’s hard to comprehend what is going on with either of them, how they can think like that.
I’ve had several comments from my mother that seem to shift responsibility for the abuse to me and my sister. Last year she asked me if I am trying to “punish myself” by staying away…
I mentioned a few things about the general ‘family situation’ to my prayer guide on retreat. She picked up on the fact that there are two children living with an abuser and she brought it up with me, in rather clear words. Including the need to take steps to protect them as far as is within our power.
So that’s what we did in the end.
We called the police to report our concern about these children’s safety. I called the police to tell them my father is a child abuser and that there are two children living in the same house with him.
I’ve had a couple of months to digest this a little now, while waiting for the police or social services to get in touch with my family. So I can write about this now. At the time, I was just in pain. I hurt, all of me hurt. At the necessity of it. At the impossibility of making that call. At actually doing it. I hurt so much. Because yes, these children need protecting. But this is my family, this feels like betraying family, and it will certainly be received as such. This is making a decision that makes it highly likely that I will lose my family, or what’s left of it. This is making a choice that includes letting go of any hope I still had for these relationships. It’s a horrible thing to have to do.
But God made the impossible possible. All week on retreat, I felt so loved, held, wanted by God. So cared about. God was with me with so much tenderness, such deep love.
If I did not have this relationship, I could do nothing. I could not have taken such a step. But I had courage enough, just enough, to make the call, because of Her love for me.
And She will sustain me whatever happens from here on.
I’ve been waiting since then. It takes time for these calls to be processed and followed up.
Today, I had an email from my sister, asking me to call her, with some urgency.
It’s quite possible that the report has now led to action being taken there.
God be with me, and with her, in that call.
Whoever goes to the Lord for safety,
whoever remains under the protection of the Almighty,
can say to him,
“You are my defender and protector.
You are my God; in you I trust.”