I read a Huffpost article recently which suggested that denial is closely linked to hope and I thought I’d get into that a little. So many survivors face complete denial in the face of their disclosure, both from families of origin and the wider world – CAN it be hope that it isn’t true on the part of other people? Or could it be a combination of other things as well, or on their own?
Is denial about hope? Do we deny the truth (that our parent etc was abusive and harmed children) in order to hope that it is not true? Is it that the reality is so horrible and twisted that we’d do anything to make it not true??
The only hope I ever had was that someone would stick up for me at last and call my mother out on the way she beat her children, on her wringing my neck or banging my head against the wall by my hair. I never hoped she would love me and I never thought the abuse wasn’t true, I always knew it was true. I don’t believe that my siblings ‘hope’ it isn’t true either; even though they call me a liar, in the very next breath they say they just don’t want to acknowledge it.
Maybe hope works when people don’t know for sure ie they weren’t there. If it IS true, then what? What does the future look like for them? How do they cope with this Horrible Thing? In considering this, they may deny it. They may hope it isn’t true – and thus the cycle continues.
I saw in the press that senior politicians and police ‘spoke to’ people accused of molesting children and felt sure as a result that the matter was concluded. That’s blind hope right there.
Power and control
This is one of my favourites and the one I’ve seen most commonly with survivors – ‘I WILL deny your reality because then you can chase me around waiting for me to bestow my admittance upon you, but I never ever will, and I feel better because YOU then become the problem, not what I did to you.’
You can see how popular this one might be with abusive people!
Given that abuse in itself is about power and control, a lack of admittance may be another part of the abuse and one that can still be wielded.
I’ve found the best way around that one is to simply say, ‘I don’t care whether you admit it or you don’t. We both know what happened and I’m not staying silent anymore.’
Inability to face the truth; wilful denial of facts so as to preserve a falsehood for some reason to do with themselves
This is also a favourite of mine – the weakness of character whereby some people allow themselves to simply not face up to what is true. The facts can stare them in the face and yet they resolutely decide not to see them OR act upon them, and they shun the person who speaks of it.
I do get that it is hard and that ‘the truth’ may be unpalatable, but that’s just tough.
‘If I deny it then it never happened and I can just pretend everything is alright.’
This is no way to go through life. It leaves questions unanswered, risks wide open, wrong unmade into right, places in mind that cannot be visited. It is no way to peace of mind, honesty or goodness.
The only time I have any sympathy for this approach is with the survivor themselves, who may be facing up to some horrendous stuff. I don’t advocate stopping, but I DO advocate taking one’s time.
Ability to lie utterly to the self at the expense of the survivor
My friend’s friend’s dad had sex with her step-sister / his daughter and this friend still sees the Dad and has cut off the step-sister. So far so normal, right? But really, how the hell does that happen unless the friend has an ability to wilfully not consider the facts in her decision making? To wilfully avoid them so as to continue to relate to and love her Dad? Her Dad has committed pretty much the worst sin there is and yet she still loves him and has chosen him over her step-sister.
This is dangerous ground, and hugely unfair. It is not her step-sister’s fault that her Dad raped her; it is her Dad’s fault. Yes she would lose her pristine relationship with him, but haven’t his actions already caused that? Why is the step-sister the one to carry the blame and be shut out? This is just wrong every way round. In one of my recent posts, Sad Things and People, I see that people will cut off those affected by Bad Things, even though it is not their fault and the community will just close up around it as though it never happened.
Child abuse is a nasty topic that most don’t know anything about, and good for them. We would prefer to be like them, right? But we aren’t, and the topic is real and difficult. Just because people don’t like it doesn’t mean it isn’t true and we are fools to deliberately choose to step over peril as if it were not there. I don’t hold much truck with abuser deniers; I find them dangerous at worst and unhelpful at best, with not a lot of character in the face of life. Don’t count on them to lead, to see, to take right action because they will lie to themselves and therefore they will lie to you.
It is useful to think about why people deny abuse, but for me it’s someone else’s game, not mine and plenty of other survivors, and I believe we are better and safer for it.