At the start of last month I posted an entry called Fear and loathing in Dichotomy Hubris
It was about how I feel so cut off a lot of the time from support from other people because I can't share what happened. I am bound up by shame and humiliation over being sexually abused by my own brother.
Well, I ended up taking a copy of that entry to my therapist, as I felt I needed to talk about it more. We discussed the aspects of my abuse that really involve his instilling of shame and humiliation in me as a form of control and dominance.
That shame translates in a large way to the fact that it was my own brother, a family member that did it. Now a few of my friends know I was abused, but the identity of my abuser is the one little kernel of fact I haven't told anyone except my wife and health professionals.
This excerpt from my previous entry sums up a lot of it:
Some of these people I have known a long time. Some of these people have also known my brother for a long time. None of them would have an inkling of what he did to me before they knew either of us.
I'm isolated by my own shame and fears. What would they think of me if they knew. If it had been some stranger or something it might be different. What would they think of my family.
Now besides the fact I've just realised upon re-reading that I should have had a lot of question marks instead of periods on those rhetorical questions — there is a lot of pain and shame bound up in those words.
One thing my therapist said was that the only way to really, really know how people are going to react if you tell them who abused you it to actually tell them and find out. My immediate response was, “Well, that's no good to me, tell me another way!”
I don't agree with every observation my therapist has made about me, some we've discussed and others we haven't (or at least I haven't), but — damn her eyes — I think in the end she is right about this one.
So, for me, the first step to talking to other people about this, people who know my brother, is to talk to my brother about this. To at least warn him.
You're reaction to that may be, “Stuff him! He deserves what he gets and you don't owe him anything!”, and you'd probably be right. I didn't say I owed it to him to warn him, I said the first step for me
was to warn him. I
had to do that, to at least treat him fairly or decently on that level, without compromising what I need to do to heal myself.
If you've survived abuse that may not be an aspect for you, but it was for me. The only common factor I have seen in survivors paths to healing is that they are worked out in excruciating increments.
So I've been working up to it. A few weeks ago I told him I wanted to talk to him about some stuff. Hadn't seen him since then because he was away on a business trip, so I had a reprieve for a while.
So this afternoon, brother drops in to return some stuff he had borrowed of mine, and to pick up a book I had borrowed of his. We're sitting there talking about some stuff, all the while the back of my head is going “how do I do this?”
Sophie knows what I'm planning so she's staying out of the room and keeping the kids entertained down the other end of the house. I start talking about how I've been having therapy lately for something called PTSD or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, sort of easing myself up to it.
So then I say, if I've got Post-Traumatic
Stress Disorder, then there must have been some Trauma to be Post, as it were. He agrees. I say the trauma occurred when I was about age nine and that I was sexually abused. He looks me in the eye and says, “By me.”
“Why did you do that?”
“I don't know.”
We started to talk more. This may seem a bit surreal but we were having this calm, casual conversation more or less. No hysterics, no accusations and denials, no outpouring of emotions. We, just, talked.
Like me, his memories of that time are a bit hazy and fragmented too. I've mentioned before how my brother is a bit of an odd person and it wouldn't surprise me at all if he had some form of Asperger's Syndrome
or similar condition. Well, one thing he mentioned was that our mum would tell him she didn't understand him at all, and vent that frustration verbally in a lot of ways. He always saw me as the favoured sibling. I believe he even said that mum told him she wished he hadn't been born. I don't know about any of that, I don't recall, but while I'm a bit surprised I can believe it possible. However he did
say that while it may, in part, explain why he did what he did, it doesn't excuse what he did.
We talked for a bit. Some of the relevant things to come out of it were:
- He takes full responsibility for what he did. He may not really know why he did it, but he knew it was wrong and there are no excuses.
- He regrets it. He apologised for it. He understood that may not be worth much, but he offered it for what it was anyway.
- He can understand my need to talk to others about this, and I should do what I need to do. He wasn't giving me permission, he knew I wasn't asking for that, he just acknowledged that I need to do this and he appreciated my giving him a heads up.
- He knows this has been a big silent wall between us for a long time. He hopes that perhaps we can repair our relationship in the future but will understand if that never happens.
All in all it went about as well as I expect these things could go.
All in all, I think he's been expecting this for a long time.
So how am I now? To be honest I'm numb. After he had left, Sophie and I sat on the bed and I told her about it all. We had to go about to a friends place not long after that for a while, so I really haven't had a lot of time to process it all yet. There's reaction going on. I think there's some relief. I can feel my heart racing a bit every now and again.
I'm glad tomorrow is a public holiday here because I suspect reaction will come to the surface tomorrow, once I have some space, it's all happening in the back of my head at the moment, and will come forward once it's processed a bit.
I guess that's one excruciating increment dealt with. I don't know exactly what it has achieved, or where it leads, but I think the path is going upwards... one less dark secret killing me slowly...