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Abusive Father

Question:

I am 19 years old and I am having problems with my father. I am his only daughter, and the youngest of four. All of my brothers were sexually abused, possibly by my father, and I am not sure if I was ever molested. I am having a lot of problems recently with my mental health. I am diagnosed severe depression for about 3 years. I am trying to get past everything but I cannot remember everything that happened when I was a child. My father was very verbally abusive and sometimes would hit my other brothers. I, myself have not been hit, or I cannot remember. I do remember seeing the beatings of my brothers. I want to move on from my father because I have so much hate for him. I do not live with him, my parents are divorced. But he is a sociopath (he fits the descriptions perfectly) and very deceiving. He manipulates me with guilt trips and buys me things now to win me back.. i can not get rid of the guilt that I feel for him, and it is hurting me a lot! I need to know how to move on and I am just scared, but I don’t know what of. I do not want to see him anymore but the guilt and hopelessness I feel are holding me back. I have a very low self esteem issue and he was the problem of that, I believe. I just need to get away… Please Help!

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Answer:

You’re at a good age to get help now and to protect yourself better if you choose it. As a child you are necessarily under the domain of your parent. If they are abusive you don’t have much power to stop them. As a legal adult (at age 19), you have the legal status necessary to become independent of your parents. You can live independently of them and you don’t have to accept it when they are abusive.

There are some principles to understand here.

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  • Depression is not a moral weakness or anything wrong with you as a person. Rather, it is a real illness that can, in many cases be brought on by toxic environments (such as living in an abusive home, or remembering times that you or people you care about were abused, tortured, or tormented). It’s a little like Cancer in that it isn’t clear why some cases of it occur, but it is clear that you are much more likely to get it if you work with radioactive materials or pesticides (toxic materials) than if you don’t. You are much more likely to get depressed if someone is abusing you than if you are not being abused.

  • People who abuse other people are sick people. They are wrong in the head and in the heart. They are often unable to appreciate other people as independent people. Rather, they can only relate to them as people they control or people in their way. Abuse is a sickness of control – what an abusive man (or woman) wants is control over the people he torments. They will hurt you and/or manipulate you psychologically so as to maintain control over you. Don’t let them do either.

  • You aren’t alone. There are millions and millions of people around the world who have been abused in one form or another. Even millions of people who have been very violently abused such as yourself. Wherever you go, wherever you work or go to school or church or whatever, many of your fellows will have been abused. They won’t admit to it in public, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t the case.

  • Your situation can improve if you take the proper steps. If you take steps to emancipate yourself from your father, you can lessen the control he has over you, and begin the process of recovery. Some steps in the right direction could include:

    • Finding a supportive, trusted, non-abusive person or people in whom you can confide. Like a therapist or a friend, or a trusted clergy figure (if you can find a compassionate one).
    • Reading books about how to recover from abuse, and how to become assertive. Reading and learning about abuse is healthy because it stimulates you to learn to form your own thoughts, independent of what your father thinks. (And don’t let him tell you it’s stupid or foolish for you to do this…)
    • Finding a safe place to live where your father can’t get to you easily
    • Decreasing or entirely eliminating any need you have to get money to support yourself from your father.
    • Refusing to see or speak to or contact in any way the abusive person on an as-needed basis (determined by yourself and no-one else) so that you have the space you need to start to find yourself.

  • When you start to challenge the grip that an abusive person has upon you, what you will find is that they will tend to do something to try to maintain their link to you and their control over you. They will probably first try to dominate you by escalating their abuse and violence until you cringe with fear. If that doesn’t work then they will predictably be sweet to you and say they’re sorry and have changed and that things will be different. They may even mean it – it may not be a lie at the moment they say this. You may be very very tempted to believe that they have changed. However, whatever sweetness they can offer you will be temporary only and the abuse will start up again pretty much as soon as you don’t appear to be escaping anymore. It is important for you to not only become more independent of your father, but also to find supportive friends or allies who can help you to recognize and withstand all attempts your father may make to prevent you from becoming a psychologically emancipated person.

  • Finally, know that you don’t have to totally cut yourself off from your father forever in order to get well (at least there is a decent likelihood of this). You will need a time protected from him (and any other controlling abusive man or woman) where you can learn how to become yourself. When you are more self-confident and feeling better about yourself and have learned how to be assertive, you will be more easily able to cope with this man (albeit possibly only for short periods of time). It ain’t perfect, but show me something in this world that is (grin!). Good luck.

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