Themes of Estranged Parents' Forums
"Abuse Is Rare"
The members of estranged parents' forums agree that abuse is an acceptable reason to estrange your parents. They also have high standards for what counts as abuse.
What situation from a childhood would explain estrangement from your parents?
This is my list:
1) Leaving them alone for days on end with no food.
2) Letting men have sex with them or selling their bodies for sex or porno.
3) Beating the hell out of them.
4) Burning them with cigarettes.
5) Exposing them to and giving them street drugs.
They're very, very clear that abuse has to be severe to justify estrangement. Mild physical abuse isn't enough; you have to beat the hell out of your kids or burn them with cigarettes. Abuse of legal drugs like alcohol doesn't count. Moderate neglect doesn't count, just neglect so severe that the kids would be lucky to survive it.
Emotional abuse isn't a legitimate excuse—too easy to claim, too hard to prove, too likely an accusation to have been leveled at the member in question. Many members of estranged parents' forums have divorced abusive spouses and freely describe their exes as emotionally abusive, but they find estranged children's s claims of emotional abuse highly suspect:
Who declared your parents as "emotionally abusive"--you? Or was it some pop psychology book you got your hands on to make yourself feel good about your behavior, and blame your parents for all your problems so you don't have to assume any of the responsibility yourself? And, what exactly did they do to earn that label? Did they keep you from wearing jeans with holes in to school? Were they late to pick you up from piano lessons twice in seven years? Did they make you feel guilty about something in order to get you to comply with the house rules? Heaven knows, you should never have to experience any negative emotions in your life.
The term "emotional abuse" is thrown about a little too freely these days. Those "hurt", "damaged", or "victimized" children" who complain about having had some negative feelings about themselves or having been disciplined via some less than perfect parents' use of guilt or shame to gain compliance devalue the term "abuse", reduce their own credibility, and diminish those children who suffer true physical, sexual, or emotional abuse. Those truly abused children would laugh in the face of many "hurt children" whose biggest challenge has been to deal with a few "self-esteem" issues. Is there any one of us who hasn't had "self-esteem" issues at some time in our lives?
Estranged parents pose themselves as arbiters of what's true abuse. After all, the majority of them were abused:
My siblings and myself were beaten with an ornate thick western belt for 13 years by our step-father. My mother never beat us but didn't stop him and stayed with him all those years. My mother died in this tiny Arizona town...over 300 people at her memorial service...She was well-liked here. I couldn't bring myself to talk at the service. Was afraid the damn would burst. She too was a child abuser.............
My mother would have an issue with me, would make it all up with me and then, when my dad came home, rev herself up into hysterical crying and sic the old man on me - with the beltd - of course.
i used to be beaten with a belt by my father for any reason he could find. i think he & my mom got off on it. No one ever tried to help us kids, and i know the neighbors knew, but he was a local big wig so no one wanted to cross him.
Stories like these are usually followed by, "but no matter how bad it got, I never estranged myself from them because we're family."
Therefore, when estranged adult children say they were abused, the members of estranged parents' forums are skeptical. One adult child posted,
Let me give you some background information. I am 38, I have extremely low self esteem, think about suicide daily, never had a long term relationship and cant sleep at night.
All this because of constant abuse from a lady who called herself my mother(and a father that watched it happen). I was tormented daily, told I was stupid (even though I got all A and a few B), told I was not good at anything (so not true), punished if I spilled milk, beaten with a belt if I did something a bit worst. Told I would never succeed in life, told that no one would ever want to marry me(even though most people think I look like a model). Words can hurt forever, I cry daily because I see other people that have a normal life and that is something I will never have.
To a chorus of agreement, a member responded,
Do you think she actually "enjoys" hurting you? But yet, she comes to family functions--what the heck for? And why single you out of all the people in the world?
Evidently, she has made a marriage work--because of the fact you say that she and your dad have remained married all this time--she evidently is "welcome" at family functions because she is invited and shows up. So, she DOES know how to make various types of relationships work, right?
You say you see her at family functions--I am really perplexed that a person you describe seeks any value in "family functions"--are you honestly saying that it's only you that she has targeted in her life--or does she show up at these functions and proceed to destroy everyone there with her abuse? There were never any "good days" at all in your childhood? Not one? There were never any good memories, good events? She was non supportive in 100 percent of everything you did, right?
I really am just trying to get the right picture here, and it doesn't make sense. Maybe you can help make this more understandable by giving a bit more detail. I understand the "belt" thing--but at your age, parents were still using corporal punishment--and it wasn't considered abuse--and could it be you were just hit with the belt, and perhaps not actually, really, beaten?
And, you handed her a report card with A's and B's and she actually said that was stupid?
One last thing, I am not trying to project any blame on you, I am trying to understand where you get your beliefs.
The fact that a person is estranged is enough to make their account suspect. After all, the forum members have a multitude of accounts of estranged children making abuse accusations that the parents know aren't true. Why should self-identified estranged children be any different?
And, after all, most of the members were abused by their parents, so they know that true stories of abuse are very rare.
A Seriously Abused Child Responds
Members of estranged parents' forums claim that adult children of abusers who were really abused agree with the members' assessment of what counts as abuse:
Those "hurt", "damaged", or "victimized" children" who complain about having had some negative feelings about themselves or having been disciplined via some less than perfect parents' use of guilt or shame to gain compliance devalue the term "abuse", reduce their own credibility, and diminish those children who suffer true physical, sexual, or emotional abuse. Those truly abused children would laugh in the face of many "hurt children" whose biggest challenge has been to deal with a few "self-esteem" issues. [emphasis added]
On a forum for adult children of narcissists, a poster who goes by "fucktheseshitheads" recounted an episode with her parents that stunned even the members of this hard-to-shock forum. In a followup post (trigger warning for mention of rape), fucktheseshitheads wrote a PSA that stands as a response to the comment above:
On my last post, I got a lot of comments along the lines of "Well my situation is nowhere near as bad as yours, but ..." and it's my opinion that this kind of thinking is no good. I think that in a supportive space like this, there is no place for a continuum of bad parenting. We've all had it rough. We all deserve better. Our experiences are valid, and they are no more or less valid compared to anyone else's. My parents love to justify the abuse they inflict on me by telling me that THEIR dad would have beat the shit out of them for saying/doing that (aka standing up for myself.) THEY would have found their ass on the street for X, Y. I should be grateful for MY mother because at least she's not a drunk like HIS was blah blah blah.
Like, yeah, I could have had some complete sicko Nparents who literally kept me in the basement and tortured me like a plot of an SVU episode. They didn't, obviously, but my parents are still awful and caused me a lot of harm. At the core of it, all of us - ALL OF US - from someone whose mom is rude and on their case about being fat sometimes to this hypothetical SVU parent scenario - are suffering because we have been betrayed. The people who are supposed to protect us did the opposite of that. They did that to us willfully. I don't think it matters how that hurt has manifested itself, just that it's there. Our parents want to hurt us sometimes, and they do.
Abusers want to make you doubt yourself by co-opting other people's hurt. Mine are so good at deflecting that I had no idea they were considered to be some of the really bad ones until I made that post.
So don't let them.
Whatever your experiences have been, you are wiser from them.
Whatever pain you have felt, it is sufficient.
You need no credentials to tell your own story.
Many thanks to Reddit member fucktheseshitheads for permission to reproduce her comments.
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