Yesterday, I wrote about my dad, “He doesn’t understand people very well, and I think he doesn’t understand that what he does is harmful to [me].”
Patricia Grace, one of my blogging friends, set me thinking with her reply:“…doesn’t understand that what he does is harmful to you.” Yes he does, any adult knows not to rape or molest a child. “..selfish and irresponsible and thoughtless,“ how about diabolical, manipulative, evil and criminal?”
I read that, and it’s stuck with me today. I started to wonder, what was I doing? Was I trying to make what happened not so bad, so I can allow myself to be around my father? Was I trying to make it forgivable? Am I trying to understand how he could do that? Maybe I am just trying to create a narrative that I think fits with the different things I remember about him–the fun things and the confusing things. This has been turning around in my head all day long. I googled “minimizing child sexual abuse” and read a number of articles and research studies. I tried to write a couple of posts and then deleted them.
And then it occurred to me: minimizing or not, accurate understanding of my father or not, it doesn’t matter. The thing I am doing that is a mistake is that I am focusing on his experience, not the experience of the girl. I’m so used to doing that. Is he upset? Is my mom mad at me? My first husband, what did he want, why was he always so critical?
It doesn’t matter. That’s their experience, and it’s their job to worry about their experience. It’s my job to worry about my experience. My current experience and my experience as a 20-year-old, and a 16-year-old, and a 15-year-old, and a 12-year-old, and a 9-year old, and a 5-year old or whatever exact ages I was when my body was used involuntarily for other people’s entertainment. That’s what I want to focus on.
You wouldn’t think that was so incredibly hard, but it is. So often when I try to process what happened to me, I shift away from my perspective and start trying to understand what motivated the abuser. Why did he think it was okay? Probably he didn’t see the harm in it. So maybe it wasn’t really that bad. And just like that, I’ve minimized my own experience again.