Why Did I Watch the Abuse?

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Last night I was thinking about my history of abuse and how I grew up seeing so much of it. As far as physical abuse goes, I did endure some growing up, but it was much more common for me to see someone else physically abused in my family. There was a “scapegoat” in our family who seemed to be the target of much of the worst of the abuse.

Thinking back, I remember how when this abuse would happen, I would scuttle into the corner or hide in a nearby alcove, but I never tried to actually leave the room. Common sense would seem to dictate that when violence is happening, you would want to get as far away from it as you can, but I didn’t even try.

I questioned myself last night why this was so. I came up with several possibilities. First, perhaps I was afraid to leave the room because I thought it would draw further attention to me. My main goal when violence would erupt was to try to become invisible. Sometimes the rage would boil over and the physical and verbal abuse would extend to me if I happened to get caught in the crossfire, so I naturally tried to fade into the shadows. Sometimes, early on, I would try to distract and please the abuser in hopes of calming them down, but that never really worked.

Another reason I think I stayed to watch was because deep down I feared for the safety of the scapegoat and I wanted to make sure they didn’t die. There may have been some morbid curiosity tossed in there too, the way that human nature makes us crane our necks to see what happened when driving by a car crash.

Lastly, I think I stayed and risked my own safety because I felt responsible for trying to make peace after the explosion. I hated to see the division in my family and the anger and pain created by these confrontations. After the worst of it was over, I would often go to the victim and try to comfort them, and then I would even go to the abuser and try to comfort them. I would try to mend the rift between them, although obviously looking back with adult eyes, I see the utter futility of my efforts and sometimes feel anger that I felt responsible to hold the family together in the first place, as I was so little at the time (elementary school age).

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26 thoughts on “Why Did I Watch the Abuse?

  1. I too have experienced the same only I was in the position of the scapegoat. Like you I learned that Fear has a way of freezing us in place. Afraid of reprisal from the abuser with nowhere to run, even if we wanted to. The beauty here is that it seems these moments point to your true nature. Your compassionate heart was always present and this has been carried forward with a desire to mend what was broken, both inside and out. May your day be blessed.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I’m really sorry to hear that you were the scapegoat growing up. It is horrible to be targeted like that. Once the scapegoat moved out though (when I was around 15), much of the abuse did come to rest on me. An abuser has to have someone to abuse…

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      1. I ran away when I was 16. I was talked into going back home to explain why and when I explained that my stepfather was sexually abusing me my mother beat the living hell out of me and I was thrown out of the house and was shunned by my brothers and sisters. I was lucky to have been taken in by another family with the promise that I would finish high school. I couldn’t have done that without that blessing. I feel blessed to have survived and be a functional adult, but the effects of abuse are many and it take time and a focused attention to heal from those.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve been scapegoat and watcher in different circumstances. I think a lot of it is also leverage. There were times I had leverage and fought back with counterthreats and more active resistance. Then there were times I knew I had nothing and just froze. Freeze is a trauma response, too. You may have stayed because your brain just lost enough executive control you couldn’t much make a rational decision of any sort – you stayed because you could literally no longer executive the mind and body actions it would take to do otherwise. Don’t beat yourself up over freezing. It’s just as real as fight or flight – as is fawn.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I agree that our roles can change over time, even with the same abuser. Once the scapegoat in our family moved away, much of the abuse did start to come down on me because I was the only target available. I was never physically abused to a great extent, but mentally, emotionally, and psychologically I definitely was.

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  3. Sorry for your childhood. My dad was a violent alcoholic narcissist. Being the oldest he took my childhood, beat me criticized me constantly.

    We are not responsible for our first caregivers. Our minds were not developed and our trauma is entertained with our trauma.

    If you understand ptsd, our fight or flight or freeze mechanism fires. The mind has anxiety, with elevated bp, heart rate and pulse, tunnel vision and loss of fine motor skills

    Our defense mechanism has detected a lethal threat, an old memory, our ptsd,

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m very sorry that you experienced such an abuse childhood too. It is far too common 😦 Yes, I am familiar with ptsd and have been diagnosed with it both by my psychologist and my psychiatrist. I know it is a HUGE part of my struggles to this day.

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      1. Oh thanks for that but I would not change my childhood.

        It has made
        Me who I am, the opposite of my father.

        We
        Can be happy and heal.

        Gratitude and giving were instrumental in my recovery

        Liked by 2 people

  4. Our ptsd has been triggered.

    We heal by staying present while we let these judgments go. It’s called dissociation, leaving this moment to ruminate in the past or future.

    Letting these thoughts of your guilt or unworthiness frees you of this past suffering

    In this moment, right now, that past event can impact our life zero if you let it go

    Happiness only exists in this present moment

    You survived your childhood

    You have special traits or skills that help u navigate the danger

    You have kept going shows courage and willpower

    You have compassion, you are the opposite of your abuser

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I am so sorry to read about your terrifying experiences as a child! I weep for the child in you that continues to suffer from thoughts of it. The scapegoat is whole again and at peace on the Other Side, in the Grand Beyond, yet you are still alive and attempting to reconcile all you saw. I send you love and blessings for your continued growth and recovery.

    I have been abused and raped. I have experienced more bullshit than most can fathom. I wouldn’t wish those experiences on ANYONE.

    I have people close to me that have also been victimized and will remain silent forever.

    So, yes, I know the shame and anger. I know about what I speak. Omniscience always strengthens me.
    ❤️🦋🌀

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Luckily, I do not blame myself anymore. I have grown enough to realize I had no control over the whole situation and did the best I could at the time to simply survive. I do like to think about the psychology of trauma and surviving abuse, it helps me understand myself and others better.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I’ve been in DVO situations both as a child and as an adult. Now don’t get me wrong, most of the time I can be a friendly, easygoing person. But overall, I’m a very selfish person now. I don’t have respect for most people and authority figures. I’m friendly and disrespectful at the same time. I need incentives to obey authority figures, I need a good reason to respect anyone. For example, if I realise that a person is genuinely kind and won’t hurt me if I become their friend, I’ll be as nice as I can, not in an overly dramatic way, but I won’t show disrespect or anything like that. With doctors, I need a reason to trust them. One bad experience this year, has made me totally hateful towards them, so now I can only have emergency treatment, no ongoing, long-term care. I’m healthy now, but when I’m older, I’ll have to tolerate suffering in silence because I will not submit to medical care. I will practically need to be paid a million dollars to accept any medical person, whether it be a doctor, psychologist, etc. With the way I’ve experienced life in a negative way, I’ve been rendered incurable and untreatable. Any emergency care I do receive in future will not be followed up. I’ll simply not keep up my end of the deal if I’m to expect to receive ongoing treatment for whatever reason, for example. I’ll just not respond to appointment reminders, etc. The other thing I do to cope is, I don’t look out for anyone, only myself. Obviously if I realise that maybe I can trust some people enough to be there for them, I will be a friend to some. But as a general rule, I’ll be friendly-mannered towards most people, but not actually be there for them. Sorry for the long comment. I just wanted to explain how domestic violence has affected me. I also want to let everyone know to be cautious because DV is considered ok by most people, even though some of us knows that it isn’t so. Domestic violence is considered normal and a type of punishment for doing the wrong thing. It isn’t. Domestic violence doesn’t make people learn, it doesn’t punish anyone. It simply causes harm and destruction. People blame victims for it because they know they’ll get away with DV. And it’s wrong. Totally wrong! Why is it ok for the victims of DV to feel guilty for ‘doing the wrong thing’, while the abusers get to feel ok/good, about instigating the domestic violence? Just… Why? And I’m sorry to say this but, a lot of respected people in society side with domestic violence perpetrators. You’d think that respected community members like city Council people, police, doctors, public servants, you name it, would be there to help the rest of us. But sadly, most of these profesionals do not protect domestic violence victims and may even be abusers themselves. Now you know why I trust very few people and won’t respect authority figures most of the time.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s understandable. When I show disrespect to authority figures, I do it in a polite way, like saying ‘yes ok’ or something of the like, then disregarding advice and instruction. Yes, I see what you mean… It’s like people have to show that they can be trusted and they haven’t got alterior motives for why they’re helping you or advising you. Yep. As for me, I only regard what I’m told if I want to.

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