Children of Abusive Parents: Any Attempts to Hold Your Parents Accountable?

I know that we have some Dopers here who suffered abuse, be it sexual, physical, whatever, at the hands of their parents.

I’m curious if, as an adult, any of you have ever tried to get an explanation, apology, or whatever from the offending parent(s). Or if you’ve even made your case, without expecting anything in return.

While my childhood wasn’t in any way abusive, there was one night when my stepfather, whom I love dearly to this day, for whatever reason let go of his scruples and beat me with a belt over a very minor offense. He never did it again, but he never apologized. I doubt that there is any benefit for either of us in me telling him that I still think about that night 30 years ago, and that I want an apology.

I put the woman out of my life. She has occasionally, over the last 10 years, attempted to contact me (note, she has not tried to contact any of my siblings that she did not abuse) and each time, her attempts have been ignored. She will (if I have anything to do about it) die without ever hearing my voice/seeing my face again, and will know that she is nothing to me. I do not care why she did the things she did, I only know that I cannot allow her in my life. So, I guess the short answer is “no.”

Demanding an apology is an exercise in futility. The person apologizing will likely resent having to do so, and you will never feel satisfied since you will doubt its sincerity. If you want to tell him about the impact it has had on your life though, I would, but without any expectations. With that said, I don’t think my childhood was necessarily abusive, but the term is subjective and other people believe that it was. I have a wonderful relationship with my parents now, and I thank them for everything they have done for me; but we have discussed what has happened in the past in a general (or occasionally joking) way. I have never wanted an apology, but when we have talked about my childhood we have come to a consensus that I was one asshole of a kid and that they perhaps should have handled things differently. I don’t blame or resent them for anything, but I did when I was younger. My old man was raised by a less than stellar man who also raised dogs, and thought that raising kids should be done the same way. For the record, his method was incorrect on both accounts. Considering that, what was passed down to me was not nearly as bad. I think in hindsight I should have probably been wupped on more than I was, but I don’t feel corporal punishment within reason is as evil as most people feel it is.

Short answer: Since I don’t hold them accountable, no.

Would it make a difference to anyone if their parent apologized?

No I didn’t hold him accountable because nothing would have come from it. I was merely one in a long string of people he molested, and he never thought what he did was wrong.

Kalhoun, I wouldn’t have believed him if he told me it was raining outside, so no an apology would not have helped. I’d have suspected he was playing yet another mind game.

He died in 1997 and I had not had any contact with him in the previous 10 years. I found out like eight years after the fact that he had died.

Whenever I use to bring it up to him I would get, “I was never the problem…” So there is no point. He is always right. I am always wrong. So I choose to focus my energy on the things I can control or have control over. My anger towards him. My resentment. The feeling of being cheated out of a normal childhood. I choose to forget the past and try to live in the now.

Instead of trying to hold him accountable and feeling frustrated and angry that my feelings aren’t being acknowledged; I am taking that same energy and moving forward. To prove him and everyone else wrong.

I will become something.

I know my husband has talked to my FIL about this at least once, and basically gave him an ultimatum–the alcohol or his son. The response was something along the lines of: “I can’t stop drinking anymore than you can stop being colourblind. You just have to accept that.” Owls hasn’t talked to him since.

No. I am sure that she wants to apologise so she can be absolved of what she did. Why else would she try to contact the only child in 4 that she abused and allowed to be abused? I have no desire to give her that. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t wish her harm (actively) but I just don’t care. She is quite literally nothing to me.

My parents actually apologized when I called them on it. It made a difference.

Secondhand story, here, FWIW: One of my best friends, when she was grown, sued her father for his sexual abuse of her as a child, and won, and got a money settlement. It took about two years from when she first saw a lawyer about it. Before, during, and after the legal proceedings, he maintained that she’d made it all up. She told me his apology was all she’d really wanted out of the case, and so she feels she lost.

I was emotionally abused and, while it was nowhere near as bad as what some folks here have suffered, it left scars. I’ve never confronted Dad about it or asked him to apologize. Instead, I’ve come to terms with him as he is and as he was, even if every man who’s ever loved me has wanted to deck him at least once. He did better by me than his father did by him and, if he ever found out how much harm he did, it would devastate him.

I have, however, walked out on him twice when I was visiting him and his behaviour started to get out of line. The second time was the day before Father’s Day. I also kicked him out of the room where I was getting ready to get mmarried when he started to say the same old things and make me even more nervous. He did walk me down the aisle and his memories of the day and mine are happy ones.

I’ve accepted that he didn’t mean to do the harm he meant to do, that he does love me in his own way, and I love him despite it all. On the other hand, if I’d gone through what some others here have gone through, I wouldn’t be on speaking terms with the people who did them to me, either. If a person’s unwilling to accept accountability, holding them accountable can be just a painful exercise in futility.

I think this is a better question.

My mother refused to apologize for years. She would either ignore or try to joke about it or claim I was exaggerating. I longed so hard-core for her to just admit what she had done to me all those years. I was 23 before I got anything like an apology.

Now my Mom is different, we are quite close, and to an extent we can talk about it. She has said more than once that she would change things if she could. She has called me in a state of moderate intoxication to tell me that I am much wiser than her and have always been more mature than she was and she has actually learned from my example how to find happiness in her own life.

But she can’t change anything. There will always be the years of pain–not just when I was growing up but when I was trying to learn how to be a normal adult–actually my early adulthood was the most painful time of all.

I don’t cling to it either, though. There’s a balance. Sometimes I grieve and sometimes I am angry, but mostly I just love my Mom. At the heart of everything will always be the simple truth that I love my mother and I always have. People don’t understand it–including those in my own family who have written her off–but they don’t know her as well as I do, don’t know the truth about the pain that SHE went through and don’t know how much she suffered even as she made me suffer. For every violent rampage there was a day she spent in bed sobbing and wanting to end her own life. She was lost.

Her comments about regret make me sad. I know she tried to be a good mother. It breaks my heart that she failed. It’s also sad that no matter how guilty she feels, she will probably never truly comprehend the full extent of the damage. For her to come to real terms with the truth of what she did to me would be so incredibly psychologically painful for her that to be honest I hope she never does understand.

Apology, no apology, nothing changes either way. We all live with the consequences of our parents’ actions, good or bad. And eventually we all figure out that we’re grown-ups now and have to take responsibility for ourselves and our own happiness.

My Mom was hugely abusive (thank Og she had terrible arthritis or she could have really done some damage). Then, when I was about 30, she got on the right medication and is a completely different person. Calling her on it wouldn’t do any good. I’d like to shout out a hearty ‘Fuck you Tom Cruise’ here.

No…I have sort of brought up some of it but they claim I am lying or they don’t remember anything or “it was for your own good”.

I don’t bring it up anymore.

I’ve tried so many times to call my mom out on all that she’s done. Even if not for an apology, just for some sign of acknowledgment that what she did over the years was wrong. To her, since she doesn’t see her behavior as being out of line, she is at fault for nothing . Whenever I bring it up, she changes the subject or warps it in some twisted fashion that makes sense to her but just puts me in loops.
If she was to apologize, it would really help. It would help to begin to heal the scars and help me to see her as a person trying to make amends. Right now, I just see her as a deranged individual who is crazed enough to believe that they are always in the right. As a result, I’ve put 1300 miles between me and her and I’m feeling much better knowing that she isn’t in the same area as me.

Holding my mother accountable for her emotional abuse is like expecting water to hold shape without a container; it’s impossible. I’ve tried though, seeking only her understanding and apology out of the deal. The only thing that’s come of it is more frustration from me and some of the lip service mentioned here by her.

If sincere, yes. As it stands, the whole ‘after thought’ -ness of it has about driven me further from any good relationship with her that’s even remotely possible. So I’ve just let it go (as far as she’s concerned) and try to focus on any positives. And whatever else I have that constitutes my life. Ultimately Homie, I think you have to find your peace with it no matter what and make it good enough.

When I was a kid I was a little bastard, no question about it. It got to the point that I had to write a daily report card detailing my own behavior. If it was bad or unsigned by the teacher I was guaranteed to get spanked when I got home. This went on for an entire year. My parents most assuredly beat the behavior out of me, at least three times a week.

To some of you that might seem abusive, and when I was that age I certainly thought it was, but now that I’m older I look back and I realize one thing, something that a lot of people cannot admit to themselves:

I deserved every single spanking I ever got.

I certainly held them accountable for it. In fact, I thanked them for keeping me straight. Without that I would be dead or in jail right this second instead of what I’ve become. I have yet to pay back on that account, by the way.

This is probably not the kind of post you’re looking for, but it’s important to note that not all of these types of stories end up as horror stories.

No. The important thing is that I got on with my life, and put the abuse behind me. It’s no longer my problem.

I’ve talked to my dad about some of the things, but others will never get broached. There’s only so far you can take it, only so much you can get out of it. Even if you feel like you might be healed by getting more, this is an illusion that in itself causes and keeps the scars alive.

At the age of 46, I’ve had to accept that I was never the son he wanted, that I can never make him really happy, and I’ll never have his approval. Still working out how to deal with that for my own self.

But the bottom line is that, if nothing else, he’s changed. He knows what he did was wrong, he’s sorry for it, he feels remorse. Even if he’s not capable of expressing it properly. I know it, I have that much.

When I tried to talk about things more than 20 years ago with my mother, she just made excuses and/or blamed everything on my dad. The only good that came of it is that I finally learned why I had such severe shoulder problems. It was because my shoulders had been repeatedly dislocated when I was a small child by my parents yanking me around. I have no memory of that.

But you know, although only my ex-wife has physically abused me in adult life, there are many people, mostly employers, who abused me in unacceptable, unethical and often illegal ways. For some reason I seem to end up with those kinds of people as my bosses. Probably because of where I started. But the message is the same: trying to hold them accountable for their actions is just as futile. People will always make excuses for their own wrongdoing, usually justifying their illegal or unethical deeds in terms of “I did what I had to do” or “it’s part of my job”, or the patented “you deserved it”.
I think the big reason why “forgiveness” is so important is that it allows us to release the pain of unfair events in life that we’re never going to get the satisfaction of redress or apology from. Because when we hold out for that impossible dream, when we continue to press our internal lawsuits against others, what we’re really doing is refusing to allow ourselves to heal until we get what we’re unfortunately never going to get.

And even knowing that, there’s a couple of people in my life that I’m still holding out against for either an admission of guilt or a very large truck load of Karma.

Mostly, to reply to Airman Doors post above:

I got some ass-kickings, too, for no good reason, except that I was a child with a voice against that crap. I was the eldest child, and when I spoke out against it in my family, I got some extra crap laid on for the trouble. Yes, that made me stronger, and has served to not take that shit in further life. There is a good graceful part that will survive, beyond all crap taken.

To the OP, yep, I have tried to come to understanding with my Mom, but, there are no apologies. She is too tied up with her self defenses to ever be aware of that outside her own needs. This is immensely sad to me, because she is a smart person, with so much to give if she could bust out of the bubble, and connect with others. She hasn’t,yet, and, I have to realize, as her oldest child, that I can’t make her do that.

That is painful, immensely.But, there is a point that you have to view your parent as a simple human being, with all foibles, and your self as someone who deserves the attention craved as a kid: the trick is to be able to give the kid in you a good chance, and the parent at least some perspective and compassion.