On family and love: It was not your fault.

When will we have the courage to talk about abuse that happens within families? When will we break the silence against the ones who are supposed to have taken care of us?

I was born in the 90’s. I grew up in a conservative country. Growing up, I was shown and taught that the family constituted a father, a mother, a kid(s), and sometimes a pet. I was taught this from T.V. shows I would watch, from the homophobic Church my family made me go to, from school exercises where they made us draw our father and mother and siblings and pets. Where they made us write letters for fathers on fathers day or letters for mothers on mothers day without ever acknowledging that some kids might not have a father or a mother but that that’s also okay.

I never heard a teacher saying that, you know? It would have been nice, for teachers to acknowledge that some kids might not have a father and/or a mother but that that’s okay. I hope more teachers do it. It’s hard to talk about our “situations.” In fact, my mother always told me to stay quiet about “our situation.” And when I didn’t stay quiet, I knew a punishment or reproach from her was on its way.

Our situation” was that my father had cheated on my mother and then proceeded to leave us behind (this is a very condensed version of the events but you’re a stranger reading this so you don’t need all the details), however as a child I didn’t understand why this should had been kept in secrecy, and I still don’t understand now. Why should I stay quiet about something that is true? Shouldn’t people be held accountable for their actions? Shouldn’t people serve as examples for others of what a good and bad parent should look like? Some might say that we should stay silent about “our dirty laundry” because it can affect our reputation. People can use it against you, and some people will. However, if the reason you stay silent is because you’re afraid it will ruin your “reputation” (a reputation should not be ruined because someone had a bad family) then that’s not a very good reason to stay quiet. People that truly know you as a person, will love you, regardless of what the chismosos or haters say. But people can only truly know you in the first place if you’re vulnerable enough to share with them “your situation” of life.

Now, I do agree that there should be some level of privacy to our personal lives, and it is our right to decide how much or how little we share and with whom. However, I don’t think staying completely quiet about “our situations” in life is conducive to social and familial progress either. It seems to me that when we stay silent about “our situations” there’s very little room for progress. I think that if we as a society discussed “our situations” more, that there would be more compassion, hopefully dialectic progress, and change for the better. Hopefully there would be more accountability on the part of abusers too. Abusers thrive best when their victims stay silent.

To me, it’s a relief to talk about “my situations” out loud. Whenever I’ve spoken out about “my situations” (with people who have respectful and caring dialogues with me) I have found that there are other people with their “own situations” too. I mention the respectful and caring dialogues part, because it’s important to note that one should not feel forced to share their situations with someone that does not make them feel safe. Again, you have the right to share as much or as little as possible, and with people who have earned your trust, and make you feel safe to do so. So, whenever I’ve shared “my situations” with people who act as mentioned above, I’ve realized that we all have different “situations.” By exchanging experiences, beliefs, traumas, and ideas, we open ourselves up to vulnerable and caring dialogue. I have learned that as humans, we have the capacity to understand things that were unknown to us, and the capacity to feel compassion, and help each other. People that know about “my situations” love me regardless of them, because in the end, the people I have in my life, are people that love me because of who I am, not because of the circumstances life has thrown at me.

It’s really important to note that there are some “situations” that are just not your fault. If your situation is that your father abandoned you and your mother is toxic and gaslights you, that is not your fault. If your situation is that your father/brother/uncle/aunt/sister/grandparent or all of the above abused you and your mother (or no one for that matter) did nothing to protect you, that is not your fault. If your sister’s husband raped you, and your parents did nothing to defend or protect you, that is not your fault. If your parents made you eat food out of a dog bowl as a form of punishment, that is not your fault. If your family disowns you because of your sexuality and/or gender, that is not your fault. If your family does not respect you, if your family does not treat you with dignity, if your family cannot accept their mistakes, apologize, and truly learn from them, that is not your fault.*

Parents are the people that shape children’s worldview. Is it really a surprise that there are so many people that live their lives angry, violently, and are just bad towards their family, loved ones, and strangers? When will we decide to break these cycles of violence? When will we have the courage to talk about abuse that happens within families? When will we no longer accept abuse from parents towards their own children because they are their authority? When will we talk about how family relationships affect children’s mental health and personalities? When will we break the silence against the ones who are supposed to have taken care of us? When will we talk about the pain they leave inside of the children until adulthood? When will we talk about the lack of accountability and responsibility? When will we say no more?

*These are all true “situations” of people in 2019.