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Why is it so hard for one to open up about an abusive past?

How to you summon the courage to share? What are the reasons that one may keep such terrible things locked inside? How does one overcome this fear of sharing?

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    May 17 2013: Shame and guilt. Feeling like you are not worth anything to whomever is abusing you which leads you to feel almost as if you deserved it. I can't speak for everyone who has been abused, but I know these are my reasons. Now I feel better though, and I do share my story, and I feel that it is nothing I should be ashamed of. If I can confidently speak about my history, others will feel like they can too, or maybe they will open up to me.
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    May 29 2013: Mmmm, Kate how does one answer your questions without divulging too much. I think for me, it is the fact that some people are still alive, and although I am a grown-up I still fear repercussions and perhaps fearful of what they might do next.

    Also, I think - or at least some of us - wonder what we may have done to cause it to happen to us. While we are a victim, we cannot help but blame ourselves. Other times we struggle to keep it together and not be the same as they were.
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      May 29 2013: Dear Brian and Juan,
      We can divulge as much or as little as we feel comfortable with Brian. It is not unusual, that as adults we sometimes continue to carry the feelings that were instilled in us.

      Brian, I suspect that you were not in any way the cause of abuse, and it is quite common for an abuser to try to make the victim feel responsible. That is a common part of the cycle of abuse, and one of the main elements in keeping people quiet about it. The abuser encourages and reinforces shame in the victim, which causes victims to be hesitant or fearful about revealing the information. Remind yourself that you WERE NOT TO BLAME. Remember that it is a common practice for abusers, in an attempt to keep the victim quiet.

      I do not agree with your statement..."Sometimes the best the world can do for you is declare you insane and leave it at that!"

      Unfortunately, when we live with abuse and violence, there are sometimes feelings of insanity, so for the world to "declare you insane", simply reinforces the stigma. I'm wondering if you were making a joke?

      I don't understand how that video makes you happy, nor do I perceive a connection with the topic.
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          May 31 2013: Sorry you perceive that I "lumped" you together Juan. While my salutation is to both of you, I addressed each of you seperately. I had no intention to "zing one" at you with "a bank shot!"

          I simply do not agree with your statement...."Sometimes the best the world can do for you is declare you insane and leave it at that!".....and I told you why I disagree...there is no judgement on my part.

          I also clearly said..."I don't understand how that video makes you happy, nor do I perceive a connection with the topic." own judgement.

          I have owned a couple of guitars, and I've seen the video (as you went viral!).
          OK.....I get your connection...."he faced...abuse...and used his skill to push back and overcome" it....thanks for clarifying your connection:>)
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          May 31 2013: Juan,
          Again, I do not agree with that statement I wrote..."Unfortunately, when we live with abuse and violence, there are sometimes feelings of insanity, so for the world to "declare you insane", simply reinforces the stigma".

          I am very sorry about bad things happening to you and your family, and I agree that sometimes we live with consequences. Again....sorry about challenges and consequences you and your family seem to be experiencing.
  • May 16 2013: Kate, I just stumbled across this talk by Jackson Katz, who had some interesting things to say, and it reminded me of this conversation:
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      May 23 2013: Thanks for turning me on to this talk.

      In the context of the original post above, Jackson doesn't directly address the issue of why it may be hard to share abusive experiences; but, it does frame the issue well with concepts that should be considered before we ever confront Kate Roseler's question. Although I have not yet read all of the comments on this thread (just those posted before this one) I did notice that some of the comments assumed abuse against women rather than abusive situations in general. I found that curious, and typical, and ironic.

      [edit] It's kinda disappointing that this powerful talk from 2012 is not directly accessible through a search here on the primary TED site.
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        May 24 2013: Johnathon,
        Abuse of women may be one of the more common abuses, and that may be why people address it? You mention bullying in your other comment, which is a form of abuse. When I speak about abuse, I am speaking about all forms of abuse and violation of the rights of people for various reasons.
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      May 24 2013: Lizanne, that is a GREAT talk....thanks for the link!

      I volunteered at a shelter and family center years ago, and began to realize that we can support and educate victims about abuse, and what about the abusers? Katz addresses this question very effectively in his very insightful talk!

      My experience with victims, motivated me to volunteer with the dept. of corrections, interacting mostly with offenders of domestic violence, co-facilitating "cognitive self change" sessions in addition to other programs for 6 years. A very large percentage of the men incarcerated have been sexually assaulted and abused as children....usually by members of their own families.

      So, as Katz says, this is NOT simply a woman's issue, it is an issue for our whole society. I totally agree that men need to be part of the solution, and it takes good leaders, both men and women to speak up about the abuse and violation of human rights of ALL people.

      Thanks again for the link to that very good talk!
      • May 25 2013: Jonathan and Colleen, I'm so glad you both found this talk inspiring. I actually came across it via a friend of mine, who posted it on Facebook! I didn't realize it wasn't searchable here on TED! That is odd...

        What really grabbed me, was when Katz was talking about the abused women, and everything SHE could've done, should've done, etc. All focus is on the abused person, when the attention needs to be turned towards the abuser! So logical, especially considering what you have seen through experience, Colleen.

        I think I mentioned it somewhere here, but I will take the risk of repeating myself because I find it so extremely important. I read the book "Reinventing Your Life", a self-help reference based on schema therapy. I learned so much about the patterns we create as a survival mechanism, but that those patterns that we develop to help us survive, can sometimes be destructive. Someone who was abused as a child, like the examples you gave Colleen, can develop a pattern that will cause him/her to abuse later in life, unless he/she is aware of that pattern... Its truly fascinating, and sheds so much light on this subject!
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          May 28 2013: I liked it a LOT Lizanne, because Katz talks about a very logical, reasonable, aspect of abuse and violence. We often focus on the victim with self help advice, educational programs, support groups, etc., and we fail to recognize what might help to change the lives of abusers!

          Both the victims of abuse AND the abusers are low in self confidence and self esteem, which may be one reason an abuser will often try to convince us that s/he is the one who is abused.

          I agree Lizanne, that many patterns created in a person's life are defensive mechanisms which are often destructive. If a person is not aware of the patterns, s/he will continue to repeat the patterns over and over again. It takes a willingness to explore and evaluate all aspects of the violence and abuse cycle.
      • May 29 2013: Yes! And that awareness needs to be exercised every dingle day. What helped me with awareness, was a Mindfulness training. Becoming even more mindful of myself, taking that deep dive 'into the lake of me' helped me see how my own defensive mechanisms were in fact destructive, that I was in fact my own abuser, to a certain extent.
        I don't think anyone really wants to confront themselves when they may know they need to, but the rewards of doing so are truly phenomenal.
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          May 29 2013: I agree Lizanne......being mindful of our thoughts, feelings and where they come from helps a lot.

          We sometimes tend to run the same dialogue over and over again with our thoughts. We need to mindfully change our thoughts. Perhaps that is what you mean when you say..."I was in fact my own abuser, to a certain extent"? We sometimes take on the "script" the abuser gives us, and reinforce in ourselves the information the abuser is providing.

          If we feel shame because the abuser has reinforced the idea the we are the cause of the abuse for example, which is common, we can immediately change the thoughts to I AM NOT THE CAUSE....I AM NOT TO BLAME.

          I totally agree that to "dive into the lake of me", is difficult at times, and I have always found the rewards of doing so to be beneficial.

          One of my favorite quotes, which has been posted all around the house at times...
          "To stave off drowning, dive down, embrace it. The sea will spit you back, astonished!"
          (David Brendan Hopes)
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    May 2 2013: Sometimes it is not the fear of opening-up and sharing, but instead the fear of being viewed differently.
    Personally I have a disability and once someone finds out about it, often I’m no longer me, I’m the guy with the disability. ”Hi Don, how’s it going” becomes “Hi Don, How are you feeling”, so please if someone shares their past or health issue, don’t change how you think about them or interact with them.
    • May 3 2013: Don, I can imagine how frustrating this is for you. I can relate.
      People have this need to put everyone in a certain category, don't they. Suddenly, your disability becomes your identity.
      My own mistake was that I had become quite good in playing the role of the 'crippled victim', which is what I thought people expected of me (that's my own 'life trap', I over-adjust!) But I agree, prioritizing someone's limitation is not taking them seriously as an individual.
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        May 5 2013: " your disability becomes your identity . "
        true words ! i think this is the main reason why most people don't talk about terrible things locked inside ; nobody likes to be identified as " disable " especially emotionally disable .
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      May 16 2013: Excellent point Don!
      One of the first comments on TED for me, was after watching the Jill Bolte Taylor talk about her stroke, and I mentioned that I had a near fatal head/brain injury years ago. The reason a friend sent me the link to that video is because I had some similar experiences as Jill's.

      Immediately, a couple people started using that against me in their arguments because they said I was obviously brain damaged, crazy etc. etc. TED is the only place I ever ran into that though.

      Luckily, I had been guest lecturing at the university and speaking with various other groups for years, I am pretty clear and confident about myself at this point (the injury was 23 years ago), so the words of someone who is angry and lacks compassion don't bother me. If a person was less secure, however, I imagine it could be challenging.
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      May 17 2013: well said
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    May 23 2013: Haley Goranson touched on what I think is the core of why it is hard for people to open up about abuse, though I would add that the individual shame is matched by social judgement, as Don Anderson pointed out. All of us humans tend to be full of prejudices and rationalized judgements.

    Opening up to others requires vulnerability that can be taken advantage of. We come to realize this early on through the petty cruelties we inflict on each other in childhood, when teasing and bullying are common coping mechanisms. Unfortunately, as adults, many of us adopt a stance of exploiting the perceived weaknesses of those around us, whether friend, foe or indifferent. Such people can make the vulnerability required to share pain into a source of additional abuse. Avoiding such abuse is natural.

    Summoning the courage to share a hurtful experience can be a process of small steps, beginning with acknowledging the abuse personally, to one's self. The next, and possibly last, step might be to reveal the abuse and the emotions it stirs up to the most trusted, loving and compassionate person the abused knows. Although it may feel safer to make such a revelation to an unknown who has no personal investment, such an exchange tends to rob the abused of the potential for further acceptance, grace and empowerment by someone who is personally invested in the abused's well being. That's not to say it can't be helpful; but, rather that it might be less effective. [All of this blather is my personal opinion based on my own baggage, not any professional or intellectual grounds, of course.]

    It seems to me that if one can take a moment to say that the can heal then one can repeat that moment until it becomes a part of them. Just as we can become inured to pain and abuse, we can condition ourselves to feel worthy of more and better in our lives. Once we afford ourselves such compassion we can then extend it freely to others that they might benefit from it.
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      May 24 2013: I agree Johnathon, that opening up to others, requires vulnerability, so trust is a factor when discussing abuse. Most of the time, trust is compromised with abuse, so I believe that sometimes, before people are ready to speak about it, there has to be a certain amount of healing and restored trust in people. As you say, allowing ourselves to be vulnerable, can sometimes open ourselves to more abuse. That is why I think that trust has to be rebuilt to some extent before some folks are ready to talk about it.

      I also agree that taking small steps is important....test ourselves.....test those we might talk with....see how it feels. It is possible to begin revealing snippets of information, and if it does not feel good, we can stop the process, or change directions. (Your "blather", as you call it, is very insightful my friend).

      I agree that when we start with small steps with people that we trust, we can build on that until it becomes a "new" part of us.

      You've made a lot of good points, and one of the most important, in my perception, is compassion for ourselves. When people are abused, their/our emotions are often controled by the external force. When we are healing, we often look for compassion externally as well, and just as we may have become dependant on the abuser for our emotions, we then may become dependant on someone else for help us heal.

      We may find people we can trust, who have compassion, and one of the healthiest things we can do, in my perception, is be compassionate with ourselves. It is important to strengthen ourselves so if we talk about our story, and some people are NOT compassionate, it doesn't matter. Make any sense?
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    May 2 2013: What I feel ,firstly it can be due to societal "stigma" people don't want to open up.
    Secondly , avoidance from reminding self, something unacceptable happened sometime back.
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    Jun 1 2013: Most of the time its easy to hide the emotion and look happy rather then talking about them. Even if you open up you may not be sure if anybody will understand you. According to me, our language is not that developed to explain human emotion properly. You might be feeling sad and you can not quantify it.
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    May 31 2013: I was in an abusive marriage.... For me I started really letting people know when I saw that there weren't many men talking about being victims in abusive relationships... and with that said I think one of the biggest reasons people don't talk about it or share their experience is because for what ever reason we think no one wants to hear it... Its some how not important enough to share.
    As a male when i told people i was divorced it seemed like there was alot of judgement, so when some asked what happened i would just say it was an unhealthy relationship... then a few i guess would pick up on my meaning and say something akin to its good you got out... and this frustrated me especially since in comparison women seemed to be more able to talk about it.
    then going online I found only a few people trying to raise awareness of "Male Battering" followed by a slew of insults and ridicule...

    so, i say if it happened it happened... and sharing what happened to you may help others deal with what happened to them, it can also help others realize and escape whats happening to them.
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      May 31 2013: Sebastian,
      I think sometimes people have difficulty hearing the stories of abuse because they don't know what to do about it, and that may feel frustrating, so it may appear that they don't care. Some people DO care and will listen.

      Although I volunteered in a shelter for women and children, we often had abused men call in for advice. There is also sometimes abuse with same sex partners.

      I agree that sharing our stories may help others to deal with their experiences, and may facilitate people making healthier choices regarding relationships.
    • Jun 1 2013: Sorry to hear about your experience; I've had the same for 50 yrs! I recommend "Lovefraud" blog site as well as Dr. Rob. Hare's books. He's the leading expert on psychosis. But they all say that it's good to educate others even if they chose to call us "crazy"! 10-20 symptoms everyone should know.
  • May 31 2013: in my case, it is not. :) i have let go of it and i have moved on. i guess for some people, the scar is still there and it hurts them to open pandora's box, letting all those bad things come back to life. recalling everything is for them, reliving every single happening.
    • May 31 2013: I'm happy that you are free :) Congratulations, I hope you have a wonderful life.
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      May 31 2013: My wife was once a young girl like you. She was when I met her. And I suspect that you and she share many similar experiences. Even the bad experiences in some way. My wife is Filipino. My family is Filipino. And my child is half-Filipino. But it is the Filipiino half that makes our child so special to us. You live in a beautiful country. You are surrounded by a very special nation. Please be Filipino. Always. And believe. It is always Filipino to believe.

      You are young. You are beautiful. And you are free. And because you are young, you have a future. Don't waste that gift. I am glad that you know about Pandora and her box. Keep that one closed. Put it away. But keep it safe. That is the story of Pandora and her box. But especially keep that box closed & safe & hidden away from everyone but yourself. And don't be like Pandora and open it. That was her mistake. You are the protector and guardian of that box. So be careful. But be alive. And be free. God gives you that blessing when you are young. And it goes away when you are old. You are strong today in ways that you do not understand; but you will when you are old. So think about that. It can be so hard to be strong, when you feel yourself getting old.

      So please keep yourself well and safe. Be smart, not stupid like so many others. One day when you are old, you will find that box again. And on the day you find it, you will learn something very important about how you have lived your life. For when you find that box again, you will find it open. And that will be a mystery, because you did not open it yourself. And if you have lived well, and have done all that I say, and all that you know you should -- there will be a treasure there inside that open box.

      You are young. You are beautiful. And you are free. Live well. And find for yourself that treasure some day. Remember what an old man tells you today. And be that treasure. Isa akong Filipino, pagpalain kayo ng Diyos
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      May 31 2013: Study hard. You had to do a lot of work to gain entrance to U.P. U.P. is still one of the top Universities in Asia. Chemistry is hard. So stay on top of that. And promise yourself to earn the good grades that everyone tells you are important. They really ARE!

      Oh, and sorry I can only give you my blessing in Tagalog. If I could, I would say it in Cebuano. My mother-in-law speaks Warai (Visaya). I asked for help but she's busy making lunch. So I have to leave her alone. Lunch is coming, so good-bye and good-luck.
    • Jun 1 2013: The scars remain no matter how much you try to forget.
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    May 29 2013: I think it could be that the person feels ashamed or embarrassed for allowing another human treat them with no respect and no love. Especially after leaving their abuser, few people decide not to talk about it because the issue does not physically exist anymore. However, most people forget that the biggest damage is psychological. I know from having friends and family members experiencing similar situations. The psychological damage can follow a person for a very long time.

    There are many other reasons, but I think this is one of the most common.
  • May 29 2013: I personally have never experienced the lack of courage to share past abuses. It is cathartic and the basis of most psychological counseling. However, if I were the abuser rather than the recipient of abuse, perhaps this would take far more couraage as one would have to admit to a character flaw which needs correction. This brings up the issue of fear (of being found out) which might inhibit our desire to share. Just a thought...
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      May 29 2013: It's a good thought M-L Reifschneider, because generally, one who abuses, lacks self esteem, confidence and courage. Sometimes, one of the underlying dynamics of abuse, is that an abuser can feel superior by abusing another person....putting them down, so to speak as they try to elevate themselves. This feeling is generally very superficial and can be on several different conscious or subconscious levels.

      Rather than consider it a "character flaw", how about thinking of it as a learned behavior because I think that is generally what it is. Most abusers have been abused.
      • May 31 2013: Again Colleen, I urge you not to make statements like this, from your comments it's clear that your an intelligent and caring person.

        But saying.."Most abusers have been abused", already makes the abusee a further victim, and in my previous reply to your kind comment, I have to say.....I dont believe it is written in stone.

        As I said, abusee's can have a depth of character and a determination of will that allows them to overcome even the most horrific of circumstances.

        And they can break this cycle. They can choose not to abuse. They can choose to be better.

        The abusee, you see in my book is the one with the inherent power, and we need to support them in gaining that freedom, in gaining their self worth, because they are worthy, we really need to support and vocalize that support, not only individually but as a society. We need to reinforce at every turn that - abused people - have our help, what ever help they need.

        We need to stop reciting stats that we and they have the power to overcome.

        Because once free...Everything is their choice, their options are limitless, that should be ours and their goal.
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          May 31 2013: Thanks Tify,
          I try to be as compassionate and caring as possible. I also ask you to be respectful and accepting of my way of dealing with the question, as you have insightfully stated in a previous comment...

          "Tify Ndanoboi
          1 day ago: "...with respect there is no one right answer...."

          It is a fact Tify, that most abusers have been abused. This does not, in any way justify abuse, and many people who have been abused DO NOT abuse.

          I do not believe this statement "makes the abusee a further victim", and I'm sorry you feel that way.

          It is information that is available and has helped me understand more of the underlying dynamics of abuse. There is no intent whatsoever, to further victimize anyone.

          I absolutely agree that abusers AND victims of abuse can change and break the cycle. In order to do so, it helps to have all available information.

          I have done my best to support victims of abuse for many years Tify, and I agree that it is very important to do so. Part of the support we can offer is information. Knowledge is power, and with more knowledge, we can sometimes move through the impact of abuse, and encourage and support others in that journey as well.
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    May 24 2013: "Why is it so hard for one to open up about an abusive past?"

    Maybe because of the present situation and that not enough time has passed.
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      May 24 2013: Very true Anna....opening up about an abusive past takes time, and it is important to patiently give ourselves compassion, empathy, and to build (or rebuild) confidence and self esteem.
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    May 23 2013: I know some victims and coupled with shame is a frequent feeling by society and victim that it was the victim's fault. In sharing, it takes a desire to help others. It also seems difficult for people to believe that it actually happened in the way described. The evil that some can do is somehow beyond our ability to accept of others. These add to reticence to share. Abuse is often surrounded by system failure: individuals who did not act; those in charge of ensuring a safe environment who failed; and those in charge of checking safety and of fixing things in the aftermath may fail. General trust can be destroyed -only avoided if people act responsibly in the first place, rather than fall into a pattern of irresponsible behavior that enables abuse.

    To fix? Therapy, obviously, and safe people/safe spaces are key. Also, time and timing: those under stress are more close with feelings or those who have not yet come to terms. I suspect there is a fear that disclosure will somehow come to define the victim so education of the non-abused is important to help them show belief and not be prejudiced against the abused. Once educated, if one falls abused, they may have different reaction and different expectations placed on others than currently. Compassion as a trait we expect of each other generally. How can society become more compassionate and responsible?
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      May 24 2013: Chris,
      You ask..."How can society become more compassionate and responsible?"

      One of the first steps is awareness, which has begun. For a very long time, abuse was not talked about, and as you seems difficult for people to believe that it is actually happening as described.

      It used to be common to think that abuse only happened in certain socio-economic segments of society, and we know that is not true. I think, in some instances abuse is "normalized", and that prevents people from addressing it. People sometimes don't know what to do, so they do nothing. As you say...abuse is often surrounded by system failures. I have volunteered in a shelter, family center, correctional facilities, and been a case reviewer for kids in state custody. We were seeing all the same families, going through these systems for generations. You mention some of the reasons why the systems fail.

      I believe that our communication systems are going to help with awareness, because one very common underlying factor with abuse is isolation. If we can be aware and communicate our awareness, we may have a chance to become a more compassionate and responsible society.
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    May 17 2013: I honestly think some people want to in a sense leave things behind. Sometimes it may hurt to "open up" and take another look at the scars. And maybe they haven't even fully healed yet so it seems sensitive when others touch on the matter.
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      May 22 2013: I agree Thaddea. It is easier sometimes to try to leave some things behind. The challenge with that concept, is that everything we have experienced, is part of us, so to try to leave it behind, and ignore the impact it has on our lives, I think complicates the challenge.

      I agree that it may feel sensitive when others touch on the matter, which is why we, as individuals, probably will not face something until we are ready to face it, and we are all different in that respect. For what it is worth, I started to feel better when I began to speak about my experience, and that may not be the same for everyone....I just want to share my own perception and experience.
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        May 23 2013: itis almost remarkable how negative things can help us grow.
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          May 23 2013: It is indeed remarkable Thaddea.....when/if......we recognize that possibility.

          Many of us have experiences in our lives that are not pleasent, and may challenge us to the bottom of our hearts. We can hold onto the confusion, frustration and pain our entire lives, which becomes a burden, weighing us down in every aspect of our life......and/or.....we can learn and grow from the situation by moving through it to the best of our you think so?
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    May 16 2013: Hi Kate,
    There are some good comments already on this thread with insightful understanding of why it is difficult to open up about an abusive past.

    It was difficult for me to talk about what happened in my home, because it felt so odd, crazy, dysfunctional, and horrible. As a kid, I imagined that families were all like the Brady Bunch....caring, loving, kind, helping each other all the time, supporting each other and comfortable with their family.

    I was comfortable with my mom and 7 siblings, and our father was very violent and abusive. As a kid, I didn't realize that this behavior was common in many families. As an adult, I volunteered at a shelter, and the stories I heard over and over again were unbelievable. When I realized that the behavior was MUCH more common than I ever suspected, it gave me the courage and motivation to speak publically about it, which I did for many years, in addition to volunteering in the shelter.

    I also volunteered with the dept. of corrections doing programs mostly with offenders of domestic violence.

    There is stigma. We do, as children living in challenging circumstances block things from our minds and hearts. It was when I was speaking with collage students and facilitating discussion groups that I started remembering quite a bit that I had blocked because of the fear. As the students asked questions, it stimulated memory of situations that were difficult to talk about. There is pain with reliving the experience, there is fear of judgement and labeling, shame about unacceptable behaviors, that as a child, we had no control of.

    What I discovered when speaking about it however, is that most people are kind, accepting, and compassionate, which gave me the courage to continue speaking about it, and it was healing for me.
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      May 17 2013: Thanks for sharing, you’re a shining example of how an abusive past can be vanquished to being just part of the past, and joy and success can be in everyone's future.
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        May 17 2013: Thank you for sharing as well Don. One of my messages, is that WE CAN move through the challenges of having lived with abuse. It IS part of the past, an experience I learned from, and hopefully can help support others in a similar journey.
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        May 22 2013: Yes Kate, it is a common response, and I think it is a built in protective mechanism. Perhaps we only remember certain things at a time when we are able to deal with the memory? Healing, may continue for our entire lives, as we explore information.

        In my 20s, I thought I had it all figured out....I understood many things on some level, and I thought....ok....I'm done with that!

        In my 30's, with more exploration, more information, understanding and acceptance, I I've got it!!!

        In the 40s.....similar...more exploration, information, understanding, etc. What I started noticing, is that each new discovery gave me the motivation, confidence and courage to face more, with myself and others who were on a similar journey.

        So, you get the close to 70 and still exploring, which I will be doing until I take my last breath.

        Healing does not usually happen overnight, because we can keep delving for more and more information if we wish. The first steps are sometimes difficult, and once we get the hang of it, I find it fascinating and empowering, as well as healing:>)
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        May 22 2013: Thanks admiration:>)
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      May 31 2013: It is interesting that you point out that you did not discuss these matters in part because they felt odd and crazy and you thought other families were like the Brady Bunch. Just as commonly, I would think, and I expect this has been reported already in this busy thread, kids don't share things because they think what they are experiencing is very common and what all children experience at home, so why mention it?
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        May 31 2013: Good point Fritzie, and as far as I am aware, I don't think this has been addressed in this discussion. It often depends on what a child is experiencing in their neighborhood.

        My siblings have a different perspective than mine for example. When they were young there were many large families in the neighborhood, and apparently, there was abuse in a lot of them. My siblings often say it was happening everywhere in the neighbor, so they didn't think anything about it....they thought it was common.

        By the time I was born 9 years later, I was the only little kid in the neighbor because most of the kids had grown up, so all the other houses were pretty quiet.
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    May 2 2013: Society keeps people in line using the "shame" factor. One step might be to write it all down. Take a step back and imagine it as someone else's story.
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    A wal

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    Jun 2 2013: Thanks Colleen.

    Kate: It's because I didn't come foward just after it happened and I'm kicking myself about that. Oh I definitely won't be seeing them again. If I saw him I'd kill him. I wasn't in contact with them anyway for other reasons by the time I remembered. I blame her for letting it happen, which is maybe a bit unfair. She's not guilty of anything but being a twat. She knew nothing about it, but she refuses to accept it now. I don't think she would have accepted it back then either, she'd have accused my Dad of putting me up to it.
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    A wal

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    Jun 1 2013: I was abused by my step dad when I was eight. The feeling was indescribable. I spent a lot of time after that in shock. I tried to come forward but couldn't. In the end I repressed it. It felt like I was dragging a huge weight behind me whatever I did. It still does to some extent, but it made me stronger. 18 months ago I remembered what happened. It gave me a nervous breakdown. The abuse feels recent. It's like I've picked up where I left off. The worst thing for me is knowing how much that changed my personality. I would have been a much nicer person now if it hadn't of happened, or if I had the courage to come forward sooner. I kept putting it off. I didn't even know you could repress memories at the time. I would have been capable of forming long term relationships and I don't think I would always see the worst in people or get wound up so easily. I told the police 6 months ago but there's not enough evidence for it to go to court. You don't seem to stand a chance unless there's multiple complaints. I keep wondering what would have happened if I had remembered when I was still living at home and still in touch with him and my bitch-twat mother. If I had confronted him with her there it would have been obvious from his reaction that he's as guilty as hell. She only believes what she wants to be true unless it's so obvious it's undeniable. I don't think it's ever something I'll even start to get over. I've been having counselling and I'm about to start a new specialised counselling but I don't know if it will help. I can't even cry. I haven't cried since I was 11, although I did shed one tear when David Tennents Dr Who died (: (no joke). It gave me a split personality and every time I start to feel like the pain's coming to the surface I switch over to psycho mode. I'm not sure whether it's a gift or a curse. It makes me able to think in ways I wouldn't be able to otherwise. I don't think it's something I can ever get over, although compared to some I had it easy.
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      Jun 1 2013: A wal,
      I am so sorry you had that challenging experience. One thing you say is..."I would have been a much nicer person now if it hadn't of happened"

      A wal, it happened, and it is sad that it happened. However, you probably didn't have a choice as a child? As an adult who now understands more about it, you can be the person you want to be.

      "...or if I had the courage to come forward sooner. I kept putting it off. I didn't even know you could repress memories at the time." (read some of the comments on this thread)

      We usually deal with this issue when we are ready, willing and able to address it. You didn't know....that is totally understandable. There have been comments on this thread about repressing abusive, violent experiences.....did you read through the comment thread?

      When we repeat the sayings....."I could have been"....."I would have been"....".I might have been"....etc.,.......we continue to keep ourselves in a victim catagory.

      Believe in what you are doing with counceling.....we never know for sure if it will help, and we can always try......belive in yourself my friend.
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        A wal

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        Jun 1 2013: I've read some of them. I will read them all but not all at once. Small doses. It's just hard to take that I very nearly came forward to a teacher (I just couldn't even bring myself close to telling a family member) but I bottled it at the last second. Things would have been very different if I had come forward back then.

        It's not as simple as being the person you want to be. It took me along time to undo some of the damage when I was growing up, although I didn't know what the damage was from back then. I knew something wasn't right but didn't really question it. It's weird looking back at all know. In a way it doesn't seem real. That's a defence mechanism that they're going to try to strip away. That should be fun.
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          Jun 1 2013: Hi A wal, and thanks for your reply. The only reason I suggested reading the thread of comments, is because sometimes when we hear other people's stories, we realize that we are not so "different". You are wise......small doses!

          Yes....things may have been different "back then", and give yourself credit to know that you were not ready. I honestly don't think that we deal with this "stuff" until we are fully ready to do so. Lots of times, we have blocked the memory for a is painful to remember.

          I didn't say that being the person you want to be is simple.....especially when we have an abusive background. You know how you say....small doses? That is absolutely true. We can START becoming the person we really want to be when we start facing it.....make any sense? It took me a long time to be the person I wanted to be too A wal, and I can confidently say that it is possible, and you are worth it!

          I understand what you say....""in a way it doesn't seem real". I have flashbacks sometimes, and I think/feel similar.....was that real? Yes, and it doesn't scare me anymore. You hang in there my friend.....ok?
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    Jun 1 2013: People subjected to abusive, controlling, bullying or aggressive people live with psychological chains. No one can remove these chains except the person themselves. The chains feed the person with feelings of shock, fear, guilt, depression, anxiety, anger and shame - so they are very powerful indeed.

    If the person is strong enough to over come their own psychological chains the emotional release and sense of freedom and peace is enormous. Life can be lived once more.

    No amount of help, love, cajoling or shouting can make a person let go of their own psychological chains. Some people never let then go. Denial helps to mask the symptoms of these chains, but denial can never rid a person of them.

    The chains are undone by free will - a relinquishment of the need to control, an acknowledgement of the wonder of life and an acceptance of 'what is'. When people take back their own power the chains melt away. They have no power at all.
  • Jun 1 2013: Because an abusive past is an insecure past. We don't like to share our insecurities. It makes us feel that we will be seen as being lesser to others by sharing our insecurities. And they're memories we would rather not think about, so talking about them seems like it would bring those abusive memories back even stronger than just thinking about them to yourself. I'm not afraid to share my own story, so I can't say I know this for sure, but it to help someone to open up to their abusive memories, telling them very clearly that you care for them, you don't want to judge them, and you'd like to see them improve in any way possible. And physical contact helps people feel more comfortable, so this may sound strange, but touch their upper arm softly with your hand. People are more likely to trust you. It's a sign of care and emotional support. There needs to be more than simply talking. Physical contact can have a great effect on a person opening up and being trusting. Showing empathy, emotional support, and maybe some level of physical contact (not always the physical contact is needed. Contact may even trigger the memory fear if the contact is similar to the abuse they received.) is helpful to encourage someone to open up about an insecure topic for them. In short, help them feel secure if you want them to share an insecurity.
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      Jun 1 2013: Austin,
      Physical contact does not always help people feel more comfortable for the reason you insightfully may trigger memories of previous abuse.

      Many people have been beaten, molested, inappropriately touched, sexually assaulted, etc. Touching is NOT recommended.

      Also, in certain cultures, touching (other than intimate relationships in private) is offensive, so touching may be offensive because of someones abusive history, and/or because of a cultural belief.
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    May 31 2013: The values ​​of this society encourage us to dominate, in all areas.
    The excess of domain, is the cover letter of the abuse, in all areas.
    Moderation is not a apptitude ​​in the first world, like it or not.
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    May 17 2013: The main reason is that the abuser does not want them to open up about it.
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      May 17 2013: Another good point Pat! As kids, we were always told..."what goes on in this house, stays in this house...don't tell anyone about it", and the warning was often delivered with threats if we ever did talk about it outside the home. If there is intervention, the abuser may lose the control s/he has over the victim.
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        May 17 2013: Not wanting to get caught is the primary reason that abusers kill their victims and why snitches are despised. Either way this can encyst that area of a person's life. IMO it would be cathartic for the OP to talk with someone about the incident.
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          May 17 2013: Agree Pat, and now there ARE people who are listening! When I was a kid, there were no shelters, and anyone who reported abuse (medical professionals, educators, etc.) were opening themselves to a liability suit. I went to 12 years of catholic schools, and a couple times I tried to talk with a nun or priest about what was happening in our home. They told me to keep quiet about such father was a good man!!!

          Sometimes, my mom would give me a note which asked the nuns to please feed me and let me sleep that day because I had not eaten or slept in the home. Do you think any of those nuns wondered why a 6 or 7 year old kid could not eat or sleep in her home???

          Now, medical professionals and educators are required to report abuse if they even suspect it, so that has changed for the better.

          Also agree about snitches being despised. Those of us who recognize abusive behaviors are not well liked by abusers, because I think they sense that we recognize them.
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        May 17 2013: Colleen you could not have gotten worse advise from the Nuns, ironically the road to hell is lined with good intentions.

        This is one part of regulation I agree with.

        Complacency or tacit agreement with the status quo are the epitome of evil.
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          May 17 2013: I KNOW that NOW Pat, but as little kids, we were told the nuns and priests were god's representatives, they had all the "right" answers because they were so holy, so we were supposed to listen to them and obey! That was one of the first contradictions I started seeing in the church even as a little child. We were taught to love and respect each other.... and.... it's ok to abuse and beat up people you supposedly to love?

          I, and 7 siblings went to catholic schools, and over all those years, there were many signs of abuse, which were ignored. One of my brothers fainted at a football practice because he had not eaten for 3 days. The coach took him to his own home and fed him, but nobody asked why he had not eaten. They would have found out that our father decided that week that the grocery bill was too high, so he put a chain around the refrigerator, and we didn't

          You're right...complacency and agreement with the status quo is another reason it is difficult for people to talk about an abusive past. If everyone around them (parents, educators, religious leaders, etc.) is accepting the behavior, what is a little kid to think?

          That was one of the factors underlying the sexual abuse of kids by priests. There were quite a few cases in this area, and I read some of the testimony. These kids were told to obey whatever the priest told them, and do what he wanted. One 65 yr. old man said he KNEW it was wrong, but his parents had told him to obey the priest, and the priest reminded him that he would go to hell if he didn't obey!

          The concept to obey, no matter what, is detrimental to kids. They need to be taught to think, feel, act and react, and NOT simply obey!
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        May 17 2013: The most important thing is to LOOK, I might of mentioned it a few times?

        But basically I agree
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          May 17 2013: might have mentioned it just a few times...LOL:>)
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        May 17 2013: You would think I was trying to get someone to study grammar?
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      May 17 2013: That is so true; one of the first things abusers do is insulate their victims from family and friends.

      As Leslie Morgan Steiner said in her TED talk,
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        May 17 2013: Agree Don....isolation is a big factor with abuse.
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    May 7 2013: The mind protects itself by blocking out things that are painful to remember. To remember the abuse, one cannot disengage the pain. Many people of abuse don't want to remember, so they bury the abuse and develop coping skills to live as if the abuse never happened. In some cases, they become the abuser so they feel in control.
    Don Anderson presents a very good point. You become what other people know about you. People want to present themselves as strong and positive so they hide anything that they perceive as negative.
    Adriaan Braam also presents a very good point. People often feel that they did something to cause the abuse. There is guilt that goes along with the abuse that the person wants to put behind them. Again, they want to forget so they block it out.

    I don't know if you ever overcome the fear of sharing. In a loving environment, a group can reinforce your need to share, but the fear is attached to the pain that you encounter when you choose to share. The group needs to be responsive to that pain in a positive way if they want others to share their story. If the group is not led by someone who understands the dangers of negative feedback, the group will shut down and no one will share. It is important that the group leader is proactive in maintaining a positive environment.
  • May 2 2013: Hi Kate,

    I once read a book called "Reinventing Your Life" by Jeffrey E. Young and Janet S. Klosko, which helped me understand the concept of " 'lifetraps' - self defeating, self destructive patterns of behavior that are essentially comfortable (but damaging) recreations of traumas we have suffered in childhood or early adulthood..."
    We tend to subconsciously keep these 'lifetraps' intact, even when they are destructive. For example, if someone has an abusive background, that person may seek an abusive relationship in order to maintain that 'lifetrap' of being abused! It's actually a survival technique, based on how that person reacted to circumstances in childhood.
    Only after becoming aware of the pattern, can one break out of it. But because these 'lifetraps' are so deeply rooted, and created as an aide to survive, I can imagine it is extremely difficult for people to view them as a problem.
  • May 2 2013: I somewhat learned about this in my psychology class a few years ago, as well as my personal experiences. Psychologically a person is capable of "forgetting" about a horrific experience (abusive past). When someone goes through something they can mentally delete it out of their minds, allowing them to move on. The down fall to this method is that you never grow from the experience and you haven't accepted the fact it happened.

    The second method is people "acting out". I saw an episode of criminal minds where the man was physically abused by his coach. 25 years later he found out his son was abused by his swim coach; He then began to murder people he felt was a threat to children, doing society justice. Me personally, I take bad experiences and flip them into a positive trait for growth and maturity. Nobody ever wants to revisit their past!
    • May 29 2013: In reply to the first paragraph. To generalize and say it's a down fall of the method, is quite simply put a vastly oversimplified generalization, that obviously comes from someone who is teaching a class, and has no practical experience in that matter what so ever.

      Now that may sound harsh, but it deserves to be, because generalizations like that - do more harm than good.
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    Jun 1 2013: The fear of remembering it, see it again, feel it once more when they had enough.
    Everybody keep saying them to open up and let it out But they fear of if they'll open that door, they maybe not be able to close it.
    One method to solve this, is "Distraction". If you try to communicate with them not on that subject and keep them busy on something else, that matter will fade out and lose its power. After that they can interact with it and handle it.
  • Jun 1 2013: Sometimes people don't understand the dynamic that was going on and they find out or figure it out later in life. Take "passive aggression" for instance. When I was a boy I had 7 younger siblings. The one next to me in age was a girl and my parents would tell me how protective I was of her before I was old enough to have my own wherewithal. Then my sister developed a pattern of needling and pestering me incessantly. It went on and on and sometimes I just couldn't take it any more and lashed out with a back hand slap across her hands or arm. It would them bring my parents down on me brutally. My sister would lie and put on an act and say "he keeps on hitting me". I never initiated any hostility with anyone and none of the other 6 youngers. But they always took her word and beat me with belts and things. They never punched me though or tried to injure me. But I hated them for it. Then one day my sister was up to her routine again and I just had it and again gave her a rap to tell her that she's past the point and I'm willing to take a beating rather than put up with any more. My uncle saw only me slap her in the arm and the bastard brutally punched me full force in the stomach. I was 10 and he 30. Everyone saw and was shocked. I was hurt deeply. 40 years went by before I realized that what she was doing is called "passive aggression" and even lower animals like chimps and bears do it--they "frame" their siblings and get the parent to be their proxy punisher. My sister acted contritely as we aged and though she never directly apologized her actions of always remembering my birthday and Christmas and sending me something made me feel that she was sorry. I forgave her because I understand it's a very primitive thing that even lower animals do to get power. But I will never forgive my uncle because what he did was criminal. He assaulted a minor not under his care in a way that could have killed me. And instead of apologizing he brought it up years later to hurt me with ag
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      Jun 1 2013: I'm sorry that you were beaten James. Beating someone else is not the way to break the cycle of abuse.
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    Jun 1 2013: Mostly, they're trying to forget that part of their life and pretend it never happened. By talking about it, they're acknowledging it, therefore making it real.

    I've seen people who never, ever talked about their abuse, and functioned relatively normally...But under certain circumstances began having flashbacks and regress to the age/state of mind they were in during the abuse, and began exhibiting the behaviours and emotions they did when they were abused--similar to an emergency responder breaking down and crying when he smells burnt coolant or a soldier hitting the dirt when a car backfires--for condifentiality reasons I cannot disclose anymore.

    As far as how does one overcome the fear....Some do, some don't. If they want to talk, they'll talk, otherwise they'll take it to their grave and no one will ever know.
  • May 30 2013: Psychological experts (i.e. Dr. Robert Hare, Dr. Mary Ellen O'Toole etc.) say it has not yet been determined how much of abusive behavior is caused by the environment ( and might possibly be altered) and how much is genetically determined (cannot be corrected.) That seems to be undecided at the moment. Probably dependent on the degree of affliction. I personally have been tragically surrounded by psychotics my whole adult life ( first my hubby of 23 yrs. and then by my 5 children) and the outlook is pretty dismal. First from the standpoint that it it seems to be a growing affliction in today's society (Hare's "Snakes in Suits", cults, Hitler, CEO's, sports and political heroes, increasing kidnappers, rapists, murderers etc), and secondly, "treatment" is rarely sought as abusers feel they are inherrently superior and need no help.
  • May 29 2013: The question(s) are inherently loaded, with respect there is no one right answer, and assuming as the questions do, ie How does one 'overcome' this fear of sharing? Or as stated "have the courage" automatically makes the person who feels they don't want to share, for whatever their reason, now some what further inadequate too.

    Personally I think that those type of questions and inherent assumptions, also are a form of abuse, as they don't offer nor respect the "individual" and the right that they have not to be labeled, as an abusee, nor as inadequate, nor lacking in courage for not "opening up".

    I think we have to respect and understand the individual's right to speak "if and only if they want to". Not for force them, nor to pre-load the questions, giving the abusee yet another form of torture, and negative set of emotions to deal with.

    And by such questions, lest one think, I am being an abusers too, of those very people whom have already been abused, and yet who's wish and choice it is to remain silent.

    And while some may say I'm being pedantic in this reply, I'd remind those people that a form of mental abuse commonly employed is to continually remind the abusee that they are lacking, that they are inferior, that they have no courage, and that they cant cope, and will fail.

    And that the questions posed to them about their experience, should be extremely carefully analyzed before they are spoken or written, less they further get the same reinforcement they've already experienced.
    • May 30 2013: It seems to me that most forms of fear should be addressed, to "clear the air and conscience if nothing else. Fear is obnly good if it seerves to protect oneself honestly and not used as a sort of smokescreen. If our consciences are clean, then what do we have to fear?
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      May 30 2013: You make some excellent points here, Tify. There are indeed reasons people sometimes choose not to share that are not related to fear or lack of courage.
      • May 31 2013: Could you give an example of reasons some people might not want to share emotions besides
        fear or lack of courage? Naturally it's an individual's right to remain silent or not but that was not the question. It just seems to me that this atitude of fostering "clamming up" has so many negatives, especially in our current society espousing a belief in "to each his own". The release and subsequent discussion/thought of individual ideas and information cannot but help foster increased intellectual growth for that individual's healing, fundamental understanding (empathy) and bring humans closer together. This is sorely missing in today's individualistic and mercenary society. We are being "fragmented" to death and humans NEED each other as a very basic need. Are we not thereby transfering this need to be loved/understood into ignorant channels such as the social media? Food for thought.
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      May 31 2013: Tify,
      You've brought up another good consideration....people certainly do have the right to not be labeled, thought of as inadequate, or lacking in courage for not "opening up". It is very important to respect each individuals choice.

      You are absolutely right Tify, that a form of abuse commonly employed is to try to convince people that they are lacking, inferior, etc. I sincerely hope you did not perceive that reinforcement in this conversation.

      Kate, the facilitator of this discussion, mentions "terrible things locked inside", which suggests to me that she is asking how to maybe "release" what is locked inside. Generally, when we have terrible things locked inside, it often adversly impacts our life. Individuals have choices regarding how they/we deal with it, and as you insightfully point out, it's important for us to respect each person's choice. Thanks for the reminder.
      • May 31 2013: M-L Reifschneider:
        To force someone to talk about a situation they they dont want to, really does not always work out they way you assume, in that it 'cleans the air'. EXAMPLE: The person relives the horror that was forced unwittingly upon them. Only to start feeling a maelstrom of rage, the likes which are rarely seen, that forces the abusee into a spiraling state that demands satisfaction and retribution, with dire and catastrophic consequences for the whole of society - not just the abuser. What your not realizing is the mind may well eradicate those memories, to allow the person to function as best they can, in fact quite normally in society. And to force people to unleash their own personal hounds of hell is not always the best of ideas, if only once they are off the leash there is no controlling them, and that you'd better fear.

        Thanks for your comment, it's a pity the creator of the questions cant revisit and edit them, I would feel very bad personally if I'd put them up there, I'm sure it was done with no malice, but words in these cases have a huge part to play.

        Again thank you for your comments, as said to Fritizie, my concern is not for me, but i thank you for taking the time to think that it maybe, but no, my concern is based on someone who maybe for the first time is finding their freedom, and coming across this, I'd hate to think the impact it may subconsciously have, and the very reason for me saying these things, even though they may come across as syntactically pedantic.

        Colleen your right, it can adversely impact one life; If it's ever talked about it needs to be with a professional with keen skills and understanding, thats where a person if they choose should look, and not to be afraid to change their mind if they feel it's not the right route for them. And if not, then a depth of character and determination of will to overcome is needed to lead a normal and productive life, where most will never know it exists.
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          May 31 2013: Tify, people who initiate a thread absolutely can, and often do, edit what is in the question box.

          As with other comments in a thread, people can edit their own as often as they like.
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    May 29 2013: Kate , it pains to remember the abusive past. Why one would do so?
    If it helps to share than why not?
    Do you think it helps to share?
    • May 30 2013: Because it 'clears the air' so one can move forward in life unencumbered.
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    May 29 2013: Leslie Morgan Steiner provides great solutions and mentoring.
    Her TED Talk and comments attached to that Talk are at:

    Hope this helps.
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    May 29 2013: We are happy and adjusted when we live in the present.

    Digging in to the past brings back the same memmories which makes you miserable.
    And if you are happy now ,nobody will advice you to harp upon the past .
    To resolve some conflict a psychiatrist may like you to revisit your past
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      May 29 2013: I agree Adesh that we may feel happy and adjusted when we live in the present.
      I also believe (and have experienced) that digging into the past brings back difficult memories. I have also experienced the feelings of unresolved "stuff", which was influencing my life experiences.

      Although digging down for the purpose of understanding and resolving can be challenging, I find that coming out at the other end of the exploration is beneficial, because we then understand many of the dynamics of abuse, and in my perception, it gives a better foundation for continuing with the life experience in a better way.

      We can do the exploration in ourselves, with guidence from self help books, with professional help. etc. There are many ways that work for different people.
  • May 6 2013: One of the reasons could be that the victim may feel they were part of the reason it happened. This may more often apply to being sexually abused. Partly because that so often is done by a (loving??) family member.

    I know of one situration where the girl did not really know how bad things were, untill other kids talked about it with leaders at Girl Scouts, and she heard their reactions.

    Sharing is, i think, only done if that would make the situation better for the one doing the sharing.
  • May 3 2013: Pain of re-living that experience. Fear of how you will react. Concern for how one might act when it comes up. Maybe a belief that you are past it and don't want to open up the pain and "go down the rabbit hole" again.

    I have had the experience of watching a person face their abusive past, literally face to face, and it terrified the person who happened to be in front of a large group at the time. Her response was excessively violent and it scared her. No one knows how they will respond and it scares them to face these things.
  • May 2 2013: Is it bad to forget something that is bad? Apparently there is not universal agreement. But I have observed that people with problems often loop around, around, and around these problems. With your mind and in cost accounting Maybe it's good to move on. Godspeed.
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      • May 3 2013: Everything has a cost - I believe focusing on something bad that has happened in ones life may be harmful. This seems to be the belief of the founders of neurolinguistic programming. If I am wrong, do not hesitate to correct me.
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      May 24 2013: George and ZX,
      I believe it depends on how one uses the information. We can loop around and around, as you say George, and continue to victimize ourselves by reliving the situation. AND/OR, we can genuinely explore all aspects of the situation to understand all the dynamics.

      For example:
      It is common for a victim to believe s/he is responsible for the abuse, and the abuser has often reinforced this idea. So there are often feelings of shame/guilt/stigma for the victim.

      S/he can go around and around with this piece of information and continue to victimize him/herself.

      OR, s/he can recognize the fact that s/he has nothing to feel shame/guilt/stigma about. You see?
      That is only one piece that contributes to the dynamics of abuse, and if we begin to recognize many of the underlying dynamics like that, we may stop going round and round....

      So, George, I agree with what you write..."focusing on something bad that has happened in ones life may be harmful".

      It can be continually harmful when/if we focus and relive circumstances without learning about the underlying factors which contribute....make any sense?

      I agree ZX that when feelings are not accepted, it may feel like denial of their selves. Which is why it feels vulnerable to open up about abuse.