When You Deeply Love Your Abuser
There’s always a good reason why we respond to trauma the way we do. Healing means being gentle with ourselves as we understand why.
“Where is your anger?” My husband Steve asks me. He’s been a phenomenal support to my healing from a sexual assault that happened when I was very young, but I never had a much of an answer. I simply didn’t feel the rage he thought I should feel.
When I was little, we didn’t see my mother’s adult male relative often — he lived in another country — but I adored him. Brock was exciting and fun, and he drenched me with buckets of attention that my parents were too distracted and uptight to render.
On the Saturday morning in question, I expected to find him in the kitchen with my parents. “He’s getting dressed,” my mother said, fussing over pancake batter. “Do not bother him. Go get dressed.” Back in my room, I hesitated long enough to decide that my mother had it wrong. Brock would be delighted to see me. Then, full of joy and still in my nightgown, I climbed the steps to our third-floor guest room.
He was shaving at the sink. He was delighted to see me. But after some teasing conversation, the light in his eyes shifted to something dark and unrecognizable. Then: BLAM!
The trajectory of my life changed in that few minutes. I spent the rest of the weekend withdrawn and depressed, but no one asked me what was wrong. I didn’t know a thing about surviving trauma, but I knew better than to tell on him. My parents would take his side. This left me only one option. “I’d better forget all about it,” I told myself. My miraculous brain complied, and I did exactly that. Two decades passed before I remembered I’d been abused. In the meantime, I managed to grow up as a close-to-normal kid.
Brock didn’t visit us again until I was a teenager, during another weekend in which I was suddenly depressed, puzzling even myself. I remembered nothing of what he’d done. He didn’t try to put moves on me, but he treated me with a disdain no one else seemed to notice. I never saw him again.
So my husband Steve can’t get his head around my lack of rage. (To his credit, this very gentle man speaks of taking a baseball bat to my…