In September of 2005 I hadn't fully realized that I had let myself think I had an ally in my sister. I didn't realize to what extent I had let myself trust her enough that she could hurt me. This was yet another time when she took my trust and gleefully stomped on it all the while acting like she was doing no such thing.
Here's how it went down.
I had written to my mother in May 2005 to tell her I was going forever no contact. This prompted an angry letter from my father on June 3, 2005. He was a knight-in-shining-armor intent on slashing up the enemy to save his distressed damsel. I, of course, was now the enemy.
I read his letter to my sister and told her I would be replying to it. She decided she was going to write a letter too. In it, she would explain her experiences with our mother knowing it would buttress whatever I would be saying because we had the same mother. She encouraged our cousin "Lee" to write a letter telling her story of our mom's dealing with her and my daughter to tell hers. This meant my father received four letters over the course of that summer from four females in his family telling their own personal stories of life with my mother. Without collusion these letters were all describing the same monster over the span of four decades. This, according to my sister, was ostensibly to help prove to him that I was not being unreasonable in my stance against my mother which was the accusation being leveled at me by my father.
She was presenting herself to me as a solid ally in my case against our parents.
My sister was on speaking terms with our father at this time. I was not. He was conciliatory toward my sister. Not me. The difference? I was the one insisting on holding my mother to account and I had cut off contact. These were the giant sins in my father's eyes, especially the latter. My sister had said some similar things to our mother as I had said in my letters over the last 2 1/2 years, only my sister was much less tactful (something she freely admitted), yet I'm the one who was evil. Two reasons: My parents were used to my sister getting in our mother's face; it was a whole new thing for me to confront my mother. Secondly, my sister may rage and complain at our mother but she never threatened to cut off contact let alone actually go through with it as I had. My sister had a long history of very disrespectfully dealing with our mother. I, on the other hand, had been respectful while being directly truthful. Yet I was being portrayed as being a bad daughter. I was being cruel. It was a curious double-standard that suddenly cropped up when I had finally, for the first time in my life, stood up to my mother. I guess my parents don't so much mind my sister's angry and disrespectful dealings with mommy dearest. Probably because she never effectively hit on the truth of our mother. I was hitting the nail on the head...consequently, they were mightily unhappy with me.
I was also demanding something no one ever expected from my mother...a real, unvarnished apology and reparations in the form of taking back the character assassination campaign she'd embarked on since she returned home after that fateful Thanksgiving 2002 visit. She had come to me with her non-apology apology. But the one thing that would prove the sincerity of that apology she refused to do. She refused to go back to the people she had slandered me and my family to and tell them she was wrong and sorry as she was privately telling me in the safety of a letter.
"I got a rock", to quote Charlie Brown.
My first letter to my father, which I sent on June 17, 2005, was me pouring out my heart. I made a full-out effort to appeal to any shred of compassion he may possibly harbor toward me. It was an attempt to reach him with both logic and emotion. This letter was an attempt to have a conversation with my father that we'd never had. He was judging me by what Worm Tongue was whispering in his ear about me. He'd never bothered to ask me personally what I was thinking. He was judging and condemning my motives by what my mother was saying my motives were.
I waited three months for a response. It was not worth the wait. In the course of a few paragraphs he met my appeal for his compassion with a brick wall of deliberate missing-the-point, history revision, choosing to twist one sentence in my lengthy letter to pretend I had hurt his feelings, focusing in on one word in my letter to pretend I was cutting him off along with my mother when I had made it clear I still wanted him in my life. He insisted I was being cruel to my mother with the things I had said to her in my letters. And a load of other crap too deep to sum up here.
I remember reading his letter through the first time and then throwing the damnable thing on the floor and stomping on it. He was being a bully. He was insisting I must disregard all the abuses of the past, of both myself and many other family members, and pretend my mother was really, really sorry as he was insisting she was. Yeah, I was supposed to take his word for how sorry my mom was.
My next letter was not conciliatory. I decided to take him to the mat. Here is a sample paragraph of that letter:
Your response of Sept. 10th makes it clear that, in spite of having more information, you still condemn my letters, you still condemn my need for distance from Mom. I had the illusion that if you only, for once, heard the other side of the story that your unconditional support of Mom could be mitigated enough so you could allow others to make their decisions about her without having to contend with your condemnation. I see the truth of it now. No amount of information, at this point in time, will change your need to condemn me (to whatever extent) in order to lessen Mom's culpability. I wasn't asking you to climb into the judgment seat and decide how to divi up blame between my mother and me. Labeling me as being "part of the problem" is an example of your condemnatory judgment of me in order to make Mom less culpable. It is blame shifting. Neither she nor you have yet to let the full blame and consequences for her actions rest on her guilty shoulders without any caveats or blame-shifting. Part of the consequences of a life time of abusive behavior is that she no longer gets access to me and my family. Your refusal to graciously grant me this basic human right to protect me and mine illustrates why I can't trust that anything is changed. You would still offer no protection to your family from the machinations of your wife.The words in bold directly above show that I had grasped the concept that self-defense is a right. It was a right I was holding to with all my might. I had been doing so since late 2002 as I dealt with my mother, and I continued to as I tried to reach a middle ground with my father.
Enter: sister. I read my second letter to my sister before I sent it to my father. She listened very quietly as I read it which was the first sign of her disapproval.
I finished reading my letter. She was still quiet. "Well?" I asked. "What do you think?" She assumed a school teacher tone with me like she had indulged the student by hearing them out and was now going to set the student straight.
Sister explained how my letter was very logical (a count against it in her mind), but it also seemed judgmental. She told me I was not going to win our father's heart by this rational approach (I was no longer trying to win his heart!). Also, I needed to leave him room to "save face". I had hemmed him in with my logic without any way for him to escape with his pride intact without acceding to my points. (!!??) Then she said my letter "sounded angry". She insisted I needed to examine my own motivations for saying what I was saying to see if any impure motives were inspiring my words. "Your letter comes across like you are trying to win" she stated without irony. Of course I was trying to win! I had the facts and truth on my side. Why wouldn't I try to win out against a bully?
I countered her every assertion. I did so fairly calmly and quite rationally. She maintained her position of moral superiority as the conversation continued. I was feeling a lot of things all at once. None of them pleasant. Eventually I began to cry. Frustration and overwhelm forced the tears from me. As I was crying I told her that our father was a bully and the only way for a bully to be forced to back down was to get in their face. I reminded her of multiple examples of his bullying behavior. I told her I didn't appreciate her telling me I didn't have the right to defend myself against the family bully! She started to waver.
Kathy's words below apply directly to what was going on in that conversation:
The victim NEEDS to know that he or she did what they could to resist their abuser! Don't EVER try to stop the victim from doing that!Sister was violating every "don't" in the words above.
Never, never, never preach prime-time morality at the victim making it a sin for him or her to yell right back at the abuser. Though yelling back may not be wise in all cases, it IS the victim's right. It at least lets him or her preserve self-respect through showing a backbone.
I then went on to explain to my sister that over the course of the two weeks it had taken for me to write this letter I had, of course, taken the time to carefully examine my own heart. I didn't appreciate her deciding for me that my motives were not right. I know my own heart. She backed down, but without apology. She still maintained her calm, school-teacher tone and said, "Oh, well, very good. That was all I was asking you to do. To examine your own heart so you were not speaking out of anger." I did not miss the moral superiority showing through that comment.
As I've mentioned in other posts about my sister, she pretends that anger is always a morally wrong emotion to have. If a person shows anger they are automatically in the wrong regardless of the rightness of their position. I knew this was how she thought even at this time. Therefore, I didn't confess to her that, yes, I felt anger toward my father. I knew I was justified in my anger and I knew I hadn't "sinned" against him in my anger. There was nothing wrong with my letter to him. It was a demand for justice. Yes, I was judging him. He was demonstrably wrong! My sister had fully admitted to the rightness of my positions, but I just hadn't said it in such a way that would allow my dad to get away with being wrong and not feeling like he was in the wrong. What a bunch of ... malarky.
I was rather confused by my very visceral reaction to my sister's words. It felt like I had been clobbered by her. I got off the phone with her and resumed crying. I had a hard time sleeping that night. I woke up looking like crap with puffy eyes and face, a headache, and feeling depressed. I wrestled with perplexity at why I felt like I had been hit by a train.
She had tried to take away my right to defend myself. If I insisted on needing to resist the family bully, my father, it needed to not look like resistance, according to her. This was a double whammy. It was not only taking away my right to self-defense, it was a betrayal. She tipped her hand. She was not a friend. She was another enabler of the family evil. I understood all these things intellectually at the time. Yet I was still wondering why it affected me so deeply on an emotional level. Now I realize it is because:
When you cannot resist, you at least have the comfort of knowing that there was nothing you could do. But when you have the power to put up some resistance and don't - when you in effect say, "Here, take me and do what you will with me" - you feel like an abject worm.Kathy is describing some very powerfully negative emotions which come about from being denied the right to self-defense either by others or by ones own self. "Unbearable shame" (for being forced to bend over for abuse when you have the power to resist), "ultimate degradation". Those are descriptions of tsunami-sized emotions which can be provoked in the victim by the abusers and the Holy Joes who insist the victim continue to offer themselves up for the pleasure of the abuser.
The SHAME is unbearable. No exaggeration: it drives people to suicide.
For, what does it mean when a person accepts pain for another's pleasure? That goes against the instinct for self-preservation. So what happens to the victim's self? The victim no longer belongs to him- or her-self. The victim is possessed by the abuser. Like an arm or leg of his for him to use or abuse as he pleases.
It is the ultimate degradation...
I contend that the damage the Holy Joes inflict is as bad, if not worse, than what the abuser dishes out. It would appear that is what Kathy herself believed by her descriptions above.
My father's letters had caused me to feel some anger and much determination. I was not overwhelmed by what he was attempting to force me to do because I knew I could and would resist. His letters could not provoke me to cry. I was not turned into an emotional wreck by his lies and assertions and history revision. I knew what side he was on. But a pretended ally, a supposed friend had the power to take my heart and wring it out. Because I had let myself trust my sister, she was able to mightily test my belief that I had the right to stand up to my father. My father who is an abuser. If for no other reason, he proves he is an abuser by insisting I open myself up to my mother's abuse yet again. All his compassion was for his monstrous wife. None for me. He proved to me that he approves of tyranny. I was being told I mustn't stand up to tyranny when I obviously had the power to do so.
Obviously, my sister had just as little compassion for me as my abusive parents had. I suddenly found myself having to hold onto my right to self-defense in the face of my sister's disapproval and moral condemnation. She, who held herself out to be a serious Christian, was trying to disarm me in the name of Christianity. That is a powerful club. To feel that one must risk God's condemnation as well as the condemnation of His supposed followers is a mighty tide to work against. It damn near overwhelmed me.
Once my sister had reduced me to tears, she seemed smugly satisfied. She made no apology for forcing me to plead my case with tears. She was righteously self-assured and pronounced me "clean" after she had successfully tested my soul. I was stunned by all of this. Who the hell was she? Why did she get to sit in the judgment seat to test my heart and then get to decide if my motives were right? Only after she felt assured of the purity of my motives was my letter now fit to send. You see, after this tussle, she said, "I think you should definitely send your letter." WTF? NOW, it is okay to send it? Obviously, this proved she could truly see nothing wrong with my letter. She could only condemn the content if I had written said content with some impure motivation. What a vile, egregious, and gratuitous grab for power over me she went for! This was a big red flag...and I took it as such.
From this moment I knew I would never trust her again. Ever. I quietly resolved to keep this viper well-distanced from me. It was six months later that she pulled her last stunt and found herself on the outside of my life. You know the rest of the story.
This post is yet another glimpse into the "sister" story in addition to an example of how degraded and desperate a person feels when some bystander takes it upon themselves to tell a person they must willingly submit to their abuser(s). The feelings in the victim are nothing short of cataclysmic because it is demanding the victim willingly submit to their own degradation. Your right to self-defense is your right. Not a right someone else gives you out of the largess of their heart and their whim. It is a God-given right.
What God gives is not man's right to take away.