This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
One of our most basic human needs is to live in relationships where we can give and receive love.
This remains an area of considerable tension for us. We are uncertain about what to do with our
childhood family situation. In some respects we want reconciliation and reconnection with some
members of our families. Yet this has met with mixed responses. Some women have been able to
reconnect and can now talk about their past in a calm manner with family. Others have been met with
open hostility. It is clear that it can be an unsafe option to reconnect with our childhood family if they
are abusive. Yet it is difﬁcult to sever these connections because we hope that our primal need for the
love of a parent might be fulﬁlled.
We need to weigh up whether our healing can afford the setback that rejection triggers in our
personal growth. Rejection leads directly to feelings of despair, shock and sadness. We believe it’s better
to wait until we are stronger in our new patterns of living and responding before we return to such
There is no place in your life for any person who is abusive because they delay your healing.
If you are going to attempt to reconnect with your childhood family you need a safety plan
before you attempt it. You may never have to use the plan, but it’s not easy to think up a plan
when you are hurting from a bad reaction. It is at these times that your brain will click into old patterns
of responding and before you know it, you may be drinking or using again. You may never have to
put your safety plan into action, but you should know which support people to call and their phone
numbers. It may help to bring a friend with you. If that’s not possible make sure you have organised
a friend to phone you or meet with you afterward, so you can debrief. Have the names and phone
numbers of two safe counsellors or support people you can call, programmed into your mobile phone
before you go. If you don’t own a mobile phone, borrow one from a friend and learn to use it so that
you can take it with you. If you cannot access a mobile phone, buy a phone card and take it with you in
your wallet with phone numbers for your support people listed on the back. You may also want phone
numbers of places like Crisis Care (see Appendix A). Crisis Care can give you shelter for three days in
case you are unable to return to your home. In those three days you can get professional help, so that
you are in a safe place at all times.
Reconnecting with Our Mothers
For some women the reaction of our mothers at the time of our sexual abuse remains one difﬁcult area
to make sense of. We asked, ‘Where was my mother when all this was happening to me? What caused
her to respond in the way she did?’ On discussion we found research documentation that says child sex
offenders use speciﬁc strategies to isolate the abused child from the rest of their family and especially
their mothers. They trick them into abuse situations and the most common tactic sex offenders use
is to cause a division and feuding between the mother and her child . The perpetrator creates
the context in which the child and the mother become blind to the undermining role he plays in
their relationship . This understanding has helped some of us to reframe our perspective on our
mother’s position within our life story in such a way that reconnection has become possible.
Reconnecting with Our Children
There is signiﬁcant pain in working through relationships with
children when they remind you of your shortcomings. For some of
us the pain is still too raw to be able to contemplate reconnecting at
present. Some of us never cut ties with our children and they provide
a great source of love, joy, comfort and inspiration. Reconnecting
with our children has meant we need to give them space to express
the emotional pain they may have experienced when we were not as
fully present in their lives as we would have liked to be.
For some women in our group the addictions we had, meant
that our children’s lives have been impacted by this experience.
Some of us have reconciled relationships with our children
by asking them to forgive us for the fact that we were not as
present as we should have been, or for other issues that may
have caused them to suffer. We are talking about this and
helping them to understand the reasons behind our former
attitudes and actions. It is part of their, and our healing, but it does comes at a personal cost. The
realisation that our children still love us has been both humbling and good for our self-esteem.
As our knowledge, understanding and insight grow we can see our children hurt themselves in similar
ways to what we did. Some are reliving patterns of violence in marriage, some are using addictions
to cope with life. This is one of the most painful aspects of our recovery. In some ways it continues
to make us feel disappointed, confused, sad and guilty. We really want to be able to rescue our kids,
but we know it’s not possible, just as it wasn’t possible for us to be rescued. This continual reminder
of the impact of our behaviour on our children does cause us sadness. We understand that we
could have done things differently had we known then, what we know now. We gain our strength by
continuing to turn to others to speak about our pain. We want to be the parents that we would have
wanted, and that our children deserve. We want our children to learn from our mistakes, by being
there and helping them. We want them to see that we will not do to them what our childhood family
did to us, which was to cut us off if we were ‘misbehaving’. We are trying to be role models to our
children by living our own healing journey one day at a time, sharing with them a more hopeful way
of living and trying to create a future that becomes stronger and healthier. We try not to dwell too
long with regret and remorse, instead we use that energy to make our current relationship with our
children loving and nurturing. We want our children to see that there isn’t a hurdle that they can’t get
over, if they have support. In reconnecting with our children we are trying to provide them with as
much loving support as we can.
We met and she got some painful
stuff off her chest. It’s been going
around in her head. She needed
me to be able to hear that and see
I could still be in her presence. It
was amazing, but oh so painful. I
was able to say that was me using
alcohol but it is not me now. I
am sorry for the pain my drinking
caused you. I think it was a healing
thing for us both, but boy did it hurt.
Chemicals create a synthetic barrier
between your mind, body and spirit.
You can’t relate honestly with your
kids. I talk about the past with my
kids. Only last weekend I told my
daughter, ‘I really do apologise for
not being there when you were 14
and 15, but I’m here now’.
We are ﬁnding joy in the simple aspects of nurturing and being with our children. For many of us,
violent partner relationships hinder our ability to access our children. The ability to reposition our
partners in our thinking, as weak and unable to manipulate us, has facilitated our reconnection with
our children. As this woman reﬂects:
I’ve got the power to do it. I’ve got the conﬁdence to do it. To actually speak to him…I’ve got
the courage and the strength now because I can see he’s really quite pathetic. He is. Since
then it’s been really great, waking up in the morning and going into the kitchen and making
sandwiches for lunch, getting breakfast ready, making sure the kids clothes are done, just
keeping the house clean, even doing shopping and things. Just being there for them and
meeting their needs has been really, really good.
The most important aspect of reconnecting is to proceed slowly and continue to maintain control of
the situation by establishing and maintaining boundaries. When we see just how far we have come in
one year, we are hopeful that our healing and motivation to keep working at changing our behaviour
will enable our children to grow. We can use the insights we learnt from the past to renew our
relationships and make them more compassionate and loving in the future.
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?