Al­co­holic fa­ther beat up my abuser and I feel guilty

FAM­ILY LIFE

The Hamilton Spectator - - LIVING - GARY DIRENFELD Have a par­ent­ing or re­la­tion­ship ques­tion? Send it in a brief email to ques­tion@your­so­cial­worker.com. Due to the vol­ume of mail, not all ques­tions will re­ceive a re­ply.

Q: When I was young, my par­ents al­ways fought and my dad was an al­co­holic.

When I was seven, I was mo­lested by a teenage boy. It went on for two years. He would fon­dle me and I would have to mas­tur­bate him. When I was nine, my dad found out and beat him up.

I now know it was wrong for the boy to do what he did, but I still feel guilty for my dad beat­ing him up.

I have been to ther­apy for years about that, but I still feel guilty. Why is that? A: Grow­ing up as you did be­tween fight­ing par­ents and a fa­ther who was an al­co­holic, it is more than likely there was lit­tle at­ten­tion paid to your emo­tional needs. More to the point, not only were those needs likely not met, but you were also likely in a con­stant state of fear, never know­ing what was go­ing to hap­pen next be­tween your par­ents. It’s also likely there were safety con­cerns over which you had no con­trol.

In sit­u­a­tions where some­one is mo­lested by a per­son they know, phys­i­cal force is sel­dom used. In­stead, they em­ploy charm, at­ten­tion and ca­jol­ing. They start slowly and, over time, build a rap­port.

Given the lack of ap­pro­pri­ate at­ten­tion shown to you at home and the un­pre­dictable and scary en­vi­ron­ment you were liv­ing in, the pos­i­tive at­ten­tion from the teen would nat­u­rally be al­lur­ing and feel good.

Sadly, though, this at­ten­tion was part of his strat­egy to lure you in for sex­ual ex­ploita­tion. You may have in­ter­preted this as a small price to pay for his at­ten­tion and a di­ver­sion from what was go­ing on be­tween your par­ents.

When your dad beat him up, you felt guilty be­cause you liked the teen’s at­ten­tion and may have felt partly re­spon­si­ble for hav­ing, in a sense, col­luded with the mo­lesta­tion.

This is why sex­ual abuse is so harm­ful. Although you may have felt some­what com­plicit in your abuse, you are not to blame. You were vul­ner­a­ble as a re­sult of cir­cum­stances be­yond your con­trol. That vul­ner­a­bil­ity was ex­ploited be­yond your abil­ity, as a young child, to un­der­stand the true dy­nam­ics of the sit­u­a­tion.

The boy was ab­so­lutely in­ap­pro­pri­ate and took ad­van­tage of you. Your fa­ther had his own is­sues re­lated to al­co­hol and, likely, anger man­age­ment. It was a sit­u­a­tion ripe for dis­as­ter.

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