Thursday, January 15, 2015


Something was said today in one of my Facebook groups that got me really thinking about this question. We were discussing how some victims of incest, or any childhood sexual abuse. do manage to "get over it" enough to move onto productive, fulfilling lives and others never "get over it" at all. They live out their lives, if you can call it "living", in non-stop agony, self-recriminations, and self-hatred.

The topic had come up in relation to the slower-than-hoped-for sales of my second book, "Learning to Love Myself".  I thought victim/survivors would embrace a book that shows a positive outcome after sexual abuse. My first book, "No Tears for my Father" literally flew off the shelves, but this second book, which is actually a much pleasanter read about rebirth and recovery is being passed by. Don't victims want to heal? Don't victims want to believe a happy life is possible after all? Is all they were looking for in that first book was reassurance they weren't alone or validation for their feelings?

This got me thinking about my own father. Why was my memoir of incest titled "No Tears for my Father". Was the word "father" in the title accurate? I hated the man who abused me. He had no right! But he was my father. And because he was my father, despite what he did to me, I couldn't 100% hate him. 

This is one of the greatest ironies and agonies of incest between father/daughter or as it does happen, mother/son. There is that bond, the loyalty to the family, that transcends all the horrid aspects of sexual abuse by a parent. The victim, the child, loathes what is being done to him or her, can't understand it, wishes it would stop, but deep down, they still love the parent who once hugged them, loved them, cared for them, gave them life. Even in my own case, when my father wasn't doing the deed, he would talk with me, care about me, counsel me. At times, he seemed to show me more love than my mother did. In hindsight, looking at it now over the great distance of 46 years, I know that in my case, and I speak here only of my case, my father did love me. It was a bad love for me, but he genuinely loved, and was in love with me. Yes, it sounds yukky and it was wrong. But it's the only excuse or reason I can give for his behaviour. 

So, that brings me back to the title question: is it possible to love and hate your sexually abusive father? Yes, because we don't actually hate the person; we hate the situation, and we transfer the hatred of that situation onto the person. Perhaps that's why people stay in abusive relationships of all kinds: they still love the person; they hate the situation, and until they find the strength, as I ultimately did, to get out of that situation, they also hate themselves. And at the same time, we are so overwhelmed with guilt, not just over what happened to us, but guilt over both loving/hating that person, it makes it all that much harder to heal.

Learning to love ourselves after getting out of a situation like incest or child sexual abuse is probably the hardest part of recovery. It's harder than facing the flashbacks; harder than the horrid nightmares; harder than the feelings of shame and fear of telling others the ugly truth. But if we can find the courage, hopefully through therapy or the love of another person, to face all those things, we can finally reach the state I did in my book, "Learning to Love Myself"

I hope those of you reading this post will one day decide it's time to read a book about the other side of child sexual abuse that relates the rebirth and self-discovery of the beautiful human beings we all are, children who once endured so much pain, but came out on top to love themselves and others again.