All In The Family
My victim blaming experience was complicated because my abuser is not a stranger, he is my father. By the time I reached my teenaged years, we were estranged. But I could not break free of his abuse entirely because he was the gatekeeper for my mother.
Through my twenties and thirties, my father's abuse towards my mother grew, in pace with how he used my daughter-mother bond as a conduit for his abuse. My father's and my estrangement became more volitile as his psychological and financial abuse towards my mother worsened. The more I advocated for my mother, the more he tightened his grips of abusive control and assured me that he was doing it for 'mom's own good'. Although the police had to intervene on my mother's behalf several occasions, my father was never held accountable for his abusive behavior. The police would only charge him for severe physical abuse. My father knew this and he cunningly tread a line-- just giving my mom an occasional bruise-- and controlling her with psychological and financial fear that kept him safe from criminal charges.
By this time, I was in my mid thirties. Somehow, I had managed to earn the trappings of success: a solid marriage, a successful business and two beautiful babies.
My mother's life was a stark contrast to mine. In her home, my father had locked away all my mother's ID, so she was unable to leave him. He had sold all their joint properties and put all their assets under his ownership. He had isolated my mom in a gated condo, where he could control what mail and which phonecalls reached her. During this time, he did everything he could to sabotage mom's relationship with her past, including her relationship with me and her beloved granddaughters.
Although I was worried about my mom's physical safety, it was her mind that fell apart.
My father was able to institutionalize my mother without telling any family members where he put her. Because of the strength of privacy law, it was a real struggle to find her. I lived a two hour drive away. When I did find my mother, I was shocked to discover that my mother's dingy institution was not in their city. On top of that, my father instructed the staff to impede our visits. I advocated for my mother, and became the adversary of the administrators. Although I was the one who was trying to protect my mother's basic human rights, I was the one who was shunned. The result was my mother's expressed wishes to visit with me and her granddaughters were ignored, and my 53 year old mother rapidly slipped deeper into dementia.
I was frantic. Once my mother was institutionalized for a mental illness, the last shreds of dignity and self direction were stripped from her. Because my father prevented the flow through of my mother's medical information to me, or anyone in her family, we did not understand why my mother was losing her mind so fast. Time was rapidly slipping through my fingers. And the abuse had morphed. I had expected my father to abuse and undermine the wishes of my mother. But I was shocked that an institution would prevent my vulnerable mom from the basic human pleasure of visiting with her beloved family.
Not one adminstrator questioned the motives for my father's behavior or restrictions he had placed on my mother. Although intimate partner abuse is at epidemic proportions, it was me, the daughter who was ostracized. Not one administrator questioned my father why I could not be told basic information such as if my mom was having a good day or a bad day. My father's control was so severe that if my mother died, I was not to be told. And the administrators accepted my fathers instructions carte blanche.
I railed against what was happening to my mother. My father's control of my mother's life and dignity continued, even after I was able to prove that he had robbed my mom of her assets. It turns out that spouses robbing spouses is not a crime, and no charges were laid. Instead, silently, the burden for the cost of my mom's institutionalization shifted to the taxpayer's expense. And my father's abusive control of her-- doled out by the adminstrators blindly following his dire instructions-- flourished.
The only remedy I was offered was civil court, a slow moving and bankrupting option. Having no other options, thousands of dollars were spent on lawyers and the wheels of justice began to turn.
And this is where the strange part came in. My father had told everyone that I shared my mother's mental illness, claiming that it was genetic. Because my mother's illness was so severe, they pegged me as a 'raving lunatic' as well, and disregarded my warnings, even after each was proven to be true. The hurtful part was that because I too was labelled as crazy, by my father, this was used as the rationale for why I could not be with my mother and take an active role in caring for my mother.
My father's con was convincing because there was a seed of truth to what he had claimed. Unbenownst to me, (because of my father's privacy restricitons), my mother's diagnosis was in fact genetic, caused a single inheritable mutation.
It was when my mother had lost the ability to speak that a doctor finally told me to seek genetic counselling.
Immediately I sought help. I began to wonder if I was in fact the one who was crazy. I was suffering juggling a young family, a marriage and work on top of commuting to try to visit with my mother. My horror increased when I discovered that I was unable to test myself for my mother's illness without a genetic confirmation. I was unable to get this information because my father forbade it and his abusive directions were protected by privacy law.
My own mental health hung in the balance.
Finally, after two years of fighting on my mother's behalf while she lived in institutions, civil justice came my way. I legally ousted my father from all decision making from my mother. Again, since my father's abuse was not grossly physical, no criminal charges were laid. By this point, my mother was unable to talk at all, and was losing her mobility too. Even though I had won the case, I was still the biggest loser. Because of the administrators blindly following my father's abusive directions, my beloved daughters were unable to form positive memories of their grandmother.
I cared for my mother for her final year of life. Because of her advanced illness, she remained at an institution. Because my father had robbed her of all her money, she was unable to afford anything other than very basic care, paid through taxpayers. This meant that my mother slowly starved to death as she was unable to hire an attendant to feed her meals that I was unable to attend to her.
Over the course of three years, my mother had incurred a care and legal bill to the taxpayers I estimate at over $300,000 because of my father's abuse. Any legal recourse ended with mom's death.
In the end, if you talked to my father, he would claim that he was the victim in this. He would claim that mom loved him alone, and that if she was unhappy with him, then she would have left him. Because mom 'chose' to stay, this absolved him of any wrongdoing. To further add to my father's victimized view, he would claim that I was the vindictive daughter... a crazy girl bent on revenge for him, and that's why I humiliated him with court. He would say that the judge got him all wrong. He does not have extreme animus towards me, but would act how any rational man would act towards a daughter who would not obey him.
And now, absolved of any threat of crimal charges, and with his claim to my mother's assets intact, he is repeating his pattern of horror with his new mail order bride and her teenaged daughters.
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Dear Jen. I am so sorry to hear of the abuse your father exacted upon you & your mother. Your fight to protect and support her, whilst trying to survive your own experience in courageous and powerful and I am so thankful you were able to do that.
You and your mother experienced terrible abuse and I am so sorry that this happened and continued for so many years.
Thank you for sharing your story. If you think that you would benefit for support, please let us know and we will try to link you to services that could help. We believe you. x