Posted by Kate.
OK, ladies, grab a drink and clear out some time, this is gonna take a while - it's a long story, even by my standards.
Right up front, I was raped when I was 12. It was a violent thing, nasty, and I ended up with rather severe PTSD. Part of the messed-up-ness was because he told me the standard, "If you tell anyone, I'll kill you and your family," which I believed wholeheartedly. So my parents didn't find out for three years, and then it was during a fight that I kind of threw it at them. They were shocked and upset, as you can imagine. I didn't fully grasp it then, but now with children of my own, I have an idea of how completely devastating that would be to hear.
At my mother's insistence, I went to two therapists, once each. The first was a family therapist, who first met with me alone and told me, "OK, when your parents come in the room, I want you to tell them why you kept that secret for three years." I was a pissed-off 15-year-old, totally not ready to work with her or get healthy, so needless to say, I clammed up and refused to go again. The next one sat knee-to-knee with me and said, in that stereotypical overtherapisty sicky-sweet kind of way, "Tell me everything that happened." She was literally in my face, and her eyes looked like ET's eyes. Again, I clammed up and wouldn't go back. After that, my mother stopped trying to get me to see anyone, and she never, ever mentioned anything about it.
And that's how it continued for the next 17 years. Once in a while I would make a vague reference to it, she would become visibly uncomfortable, and one of us would change the subject. Fine, I can't blame her there, that Mom-guilt has got to kick in, blah blah. I did get therapy - two full years with the same woman, when I was 21-22. And took medication then, and generally worked harder than I've ever worked in my life and turned a lot of things around. I got healthy, basically. Eventually. It just so happens that this June will mark 20 years since the attack, and I am grateful for just how good my life is, even when it's hard.
Anyway, fast-forward to last weekend. When we were visiting her house, I took the kids to the zoo and left Willem at my mom's house doing schoolwork. He and my mom were alone in the house, and when he took his lunch break, she kind of cornered him. It started appropriately enough: "I'm really concerned about Kate, I hope she's getting treatment, I want you to know that I'm always here, if you or she needs a place to get away for a while..." A little pushy, in spots, but not unreasonably so, coming from a mom.
Then she brought up my blog, which she does not read, has never read, refuses to read despite my assurances that it is public and written with the knowledge that anyone might visit. But because of two factors, I've been much more forthcoming and descriptive about the rape in recent months. One, I've reached a stage in my life where I feel a need to stop treating it as a secret, shameful thing, and can share the details because it might resonate with somebody, might even help someone, somehow. And two, because I've been so depressed, I have been way much in touch with my unhappy memories. Whenever you're feeling something of a certain intensity, it's going to remind you of other times in your life when you've felt similarly.
So, my sisters read my blog once in a while - not every day, but when they have time and interest. Which is fine, I don't mind them stopping by and I don't expect them to be daily readers. They read one of the more graphic posts, maybe in January or so, and Sarah (my 22-year-old sister) was upset about it. She's very empathic by nature, so it makes sense that it would have hit her hard. She went to my mother with it, because she was afraid it would hurt me more (this is before I was even on an antidepressant, much less having it start to work).
So (GAWD this is a long lead-up, but I can't figure out how to explain it differently), my mother mentioned that all to Willem, about how intense the post was and how it upset the girls, and how "they never visit the blog anymore now" - which is untrue, I haven't noticed any change in their frequency of comments. And then.
She said to him, my husband of 8 1/2 years and most trusted confidante, who has seen me go through the worst of the PTSD and come out on the other side... she said, "You know, the longer Kate goes on believing that this happened, the harder it's going to be on her. It never happened." And she repeated, "It never happened."
Willem told me the next day - he didn't want to mess up the weekend, and rightly so. Because it has really, really messed me up. (Again, thank God for Zoloft, if it hadn't kicked in I would be a blithering, sobbing puddle.)
And, to make it all MORE fun, I called her on Monday to talk to her about it - I'd have called her when I found out, but we were in the car with the kids and didn't get home until 11:00. I just don't believe in letting things fester too long, and I knew this was something that wouldn't just ease up if I gave it some time - it was going to eat away at me until I talked to her about it. She denied ever saying that. She says that she told Willem, "I don't know the details of what happened, because I wasn't there, and nobody except Kate knows those details." But I've known Willem a long time, and conversed (and argued!) with him over a lot of years. I know that he very rarely can remember the specific words that someone used, he gets the broad idea but can't quote (I can, neener neener) but when he does remember, he is always right and very firm about it.
Which means my mother is lying about her words, and apparently she either believes that I am lying about the rape, or that I am delusional. I know this, not just think it, because later in the week I talked to Sarah about it - I wanted to let her know that I knew about the weirdness with Mom and that she could always come to me with any questions she might have, just to get both sides of the story. She jumped at the chance to ask a few questions (mostly, "Why didn't you tell me earlier?" to which the answer is, I wasn't ready to share earlier, plus you haven't been an adult for all that long.) And then she said that Mom told her the exact same thing in January, before I could tell her about the Willem-interaction..
I have confronted my mother with it, and it just went nowhere. She is so completely defended against this, she has all of her lines and reasons all figured out already. And I have no idea who else she has told.
I can't wrap my head around this. I can't understand why she feels the need to share her disbelief with others. What bothers me isn't that she disbelieves me - I can't control that, obviously. There's no way I could "prove" it to her, and I would never force her to listen or read all about it. What bothers me is that she has chosen to seek out other loved ones and tell them about her thoughts. Now I have three of the closest people in my world involved, with Willem and Sarah telling the same story (and without having talked to each other about it) and no motivation to lie about it, and my mother denying it completely... both the initial act and her subsequent statements.
I'm someone who copes best with situations if I have some idea of why it happened... I don't need to agree with the why, I just need to understand it. But I don't understand hers. My best guess is that she believes something like, "If something like that happened to my 12-year-old child, I would have noticed something wrong." My parents always labeled me as overdramatic, and apparently she is now forgetting the hypersexuality, the panic attacks, the refusal to sleep in my own room because there was only one door to escape from, and so on. So it has become a measure of her own parenthood - if I truly was raped, then that means she didn't do everything right, at least in the follow-up, and she can't live with that. Or something.
I imagine that it's just too painful for her to imagine that she missed that. I have long since taken responsibility for my own actions - and my own bad choices, like chronic lying and hiding the experience for many years - and have had to let go of any resentment I might have had that she wasn't psychic or perfect. I know she did the best she could at the time.
Sigh. If you've made it this far, thanks for hanging in there. It's a lot, isn't it?
I wish I could just let it lie, smooth it over... because apart from this, our relationship has really grown strong in the past few years. But it has really been gnawing at me. And I just can't see how it would be healthy for me to ignore the sense of betrayal and hurt I'm feeling right now.
So, what do I do now?? Given that I've already had two very long, unsuccessful, unpleasant phone calls with her about it and have gotten precisely nowhere.
And how do I understand this better? Because she's denying so much that I'm not getting any sort of guidance from her, about why it serves her better to disbelieve and tell others than to believe, or to disbelieve and keep it to herself.
She has been very hurtful through those calls, critical of me (ohbytheway, she also doesn't believe that I ever went through any sort of therapy for this), comparing me to her emotionally abusive coworker, talking about how "Now I can't just relax and be myself around anyone because I'm afraid I'll be misunderstood and punished for it" (an excellent attempt at a guilt trip, I have to admit).
My mom is a lot like me in a lot of ways - she can come across as almost too assertive, intimidatingly confident, very self-assured, even when she's not feeling at all like that inside. She Does Not like to be caught or accused of making a mistake or doing something hurtful (not like any of us do, but she's especially defensive about it), even if it's something small like being chronically late or confusing the day's plans.
Anyway. Enough. Sorry this was so endless, but it feels better to vent and organize it a little... I can't blog it. I don't want my sisters feeling any more in-the-middle than they already do, and I just don't feel the need to preemptively defend myself there - but I really could use some insight.
PS: As an update, after writing the above, I decided to wait until I had something to say before calling my mother again. A month went by, and I finally called her on Mother's Day, mostly to let the kids talk to her. I kept my side of the conversation quick and light, no more than polite. Apparently this signaled to my mother that everything is A-OK now, all smoothed over, like it never happened. She calls me a few times a week "just to chat" and hasn't even obliquely referred to any of this. I've continued to be polite, to call if there's something I need to know (she's hosting my sister's high school graduation in a few weeks), and to wonder what this is really all about. I'm not angry, or even overtly upset anymore, mostly just disappointed and baffled. And I still don't know what to do.