Who Is Responsible?

As a child, I learned to take responsibility for a lot of things.  Sometimes, these were the things that most youth learn in order to become responsible adults.  Yet, there are other things that I learned to take on that are clearly not my own – or at least it is becoming more clear that they do not belong to me.

I remember thinking that it was my responsibility to protect my mother from the wrath of my father.  He said ugly things, lots of ugly things, about her, and I did my best to hide them from her.  Not only this, but after I was molested by my grandfather, I remained silent because I wanted to protect her.  I knew that if my father found out that her father molested me, he would find a way to blame her – even though it was his fault for leaving me with that man instead of with my mom.

As a teen, I took on a new responsibility, that of the secret keeper.  I kept the secrets of my grandfather locked away inside because I was afraid that if I told, I would bring someone else pain.  My greatest fear was that someone else (especially my mother) had been molested by him, and sharing my pain would bring back ugly memories.  I knew what it felt like to remember, to loathe, to feel shame, so I did anything I could to shield others from the past.

What is even worse is that I even learned to protect my abusers from their own shame. For many, many years, I protected them out of respect for what is most people call “family.”  I felt it was my duty not to sully the family names by bringing out the ugly secrets that lay within.  I believed that bringing their offenses to light would destroy the world that family members considered safe.  I even felt, and still to this day somewhat feel, that to point out their shame would somehow be unfair because, they are “family” after all…

In my blindness, I enabled my family to pretend that nothing was wrong.  I was, and am still, fairly certain that my father would not believe that anyone in his “loving, Christian family” would be capable of causing such harm.  I believed that my mother’s family would turn a blind eye to the ugly truth, because they have a history (in my opinion) of sweeping things under the rug.  “Talking” is something they never truly do.

Where does this leave me?  I have not the slightest clue.  Sometimes, I want to call them all together and lay it all out.  I want to tell them about the dark and ugly secrets of which they are not aware.  Yet, my mind keeps coming back to the question, “What good would it do?”  I fear that my voice would not be heard – that their collective propensities for blaming someone else would end up making me look like the bad one and once more minimize my experiences.

I guess deep down, what I really want is for someone else to shoulder the responsibility for this entire mess for a while.  Yet all my life, all I have received from others are excuses.  Excuses as to why it is not their fault and why they should not be expected to bear the burden as well.

So, I keep shouldering the responsibilities, even if they are not my own.

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3 responses to “Who Is Responsible?

  1. One of my first steps in healing was to realize what I was responsible for and what I was not responsible for. I am responsible for what I feel, not for protecting my mom from her feelings. I am responsible for my own feelings like anger, rage, fear. I am not responsible for my dad’s rage or my mom’s hurt. I cannot protect my sister from life’s hurts. I can’t caretake my family. That keeps my children from growing up like my dad did to me. I am responsible for my happiness, not my husband or my children. I am responsible for my own adult reactions to people and to situations. I am responsible for setting healthy boundaries for myself and enforcing those boundaries.

  2. I understand what you are saying, the fear that if you sat them all down and confronted them, they would just turn it all back on you.

    But maybe you could try writing letters to each of them, laying out exactly what you feel and exactly where their responsibility lies. Even if you never send those letters, at least you would have a clear line in your mind of what you would say to each person. There is a certain kind of clarity that comes with putting pen to paper.

    I wish I could remove that burden of responsibility from your shoulders, because it is not yours to bear.

  3. Like all with childhood trauma, it must be me that is wrong and ghe adults must be right and protected. You have assumed a parent roll and by protecting your mother you have changed places. She is here to protect you along with your father.

    It takes time however I have learned through mindfulness that others are responsible for their own behavior. Familily is tricky when their is abuse and the dysfunction appears and develops.

    It is hard to heal being in the midst of the trauma with your family. I asked mine for help and received a we are not admitting to anything.

    Nice statement, they did not say I was a liar just we are not admitting to it.

    What are you doing daily to improve/ Do you have a therapist or a daily plan to heal and claim your life back. It is yours and not theirs.

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