My father is an abuser and I must stop him

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Dear Cary,

Thank you for deciding to keep your column alive. I am writing to you from Italy, a country you must have a special spot for since you even organize your workshops/retreats here. I am not Italian but it has little to do with my story.

I grew up in a troubled family. My father was verbally and physically abusive, verbally to my mother and physically to us, the children. He was and is to this day an unfaithful, dishonest person with some ugly habits.

I was 5 years old when my brother was born. My mother, for reasons unknown to me, chose to sleep in the same room with my little brother. I, in the meantime, had to give up my bed to him and sleep in the same bed with my father in a separate room. No one asked my opinion of course. But I think the abuse started even earlier, when my mother was still pregnant. She had to stay in the hospital due to some complications for a few days and I remember those days like a terrible, foggy dream. Those days were from hell. I was  tortured sexually by my father and physically humiliated in ways I cannot count. It felt like it was never going to end. I did not always remember this of course. The memories started to flow when I started meditating about 10 years ago. All of a sudden they started floating in my mind and didn’t want to go away.

For these 10 years I lived without saying much on the subject. It was there, it bothered me sometimes, but I kept it in a “faraway drawer” and did not do much about it. I had also been through a lot of dope, self-imposed isolation, eating disorders, mindless sex, destructive relationships and other awkward things prior, during and after this realization. But somehow they only felt natural.

I was scared of my father for almost as long as I can remember myself. He was always somewhere near waiting to hit or insult one of us. We were all terrified. My mother was one of his victims, but had herself grown up in a family situation where there was little affection and presence from her own parents.

I  first talked about the abuse with my brother a few months after my “realization.” I told my mother about it after a couple of years. She seemed shocked upon my confession but then something else came up and we never returned to the subject if not very lightly and briefly. This was about seven years ago. She did tell me that my father was abused as a kid and that he had told her this a long time ago when they were young.

I was completely unable to confront him for these years. I still freeze when I think about it. There is a part of me that is tongueless and powerless in front of him that remains mute and paralyzed.

My son is now the sweetest, most sensitive kid with a kind heart and a beautiful soul. I try to give him all my love and support it’s an everyday, every-second kind of commitment.

For some reason a couple of months ago my father decided that he missed us and wanted to visit. I didn’t invite him but I didn’t say no. However, right before his visit he had another terrible fight with my mother where he had hurt her badly and I told him not to come. I didn’t call, I wrote. I still had no voice. I had accused him of a few things that referred to the disrespect for my mother, confronting him in written form. He still came.

My father spent three days inside our home, never leaving his laptop, and I noticed him watching porn on mute one evening when my husband and I were in the living room with him. He only got out when my son and I left the house. I did watch his behavior, knowing what he is capable of, at least of what he was capable of with me. Some of his gestures were borderline and I tried to never leave my son in the same room with him alone, always going back and forth and keeping an eye on my father.

And then one day the three of us were there and I saw him put his hand under my son’s clothes. It was hot outside and my son was in his T-shirt and underwear. This movement, which I cannot judge right now as I was blinded by rage and despair, was done in such a sneaky and “nonchalant” manner that I exploded. I told him to pack his bags and leave my home. I told him I never wanted to see him or ever speak to him again. I also told him I remembered everything from my past. He only laughed (!!!) and denied it, in a very cynical, shameless manner. He didn’t want to leave. I kicked him out.

My mother tried calling the next day after finding out about the incident from my brother. I told her I did not want to be part of this mess anymore, that they should no longer try to involve me in their battles. I haven’t heard from her since, and I haven’t initiated any contact.

There are days when I feel sad and empty and like nobody needs me. I have my own life, my family, my job. But it is still so hard. And even though I know there is hardly a chance I shall ever speak with my father, my mother’s “silence” is so hard to accept at times.

What a mess I have made.

What have I done?

Thanks for reading this, Cary. I really appreciate being able to “speak” to you like this.

Two Hearts




Dear Two Hearts,

What have you done? You have fought back.
What have you done? You have saved your son.
What have you done? You have protected yourself and your family.

Now the question is, What must you do next?

No matter how we think about this situation, one thing seems inescapable: If your father has pedophiliac impulses that he cannot control, then he is a danger to children and families around him. If he is a danger to children and families around him, then he must be stopped. If you cannot stop him, then law enforcement must get involved.

This is heavy stuff. But the logic of it is inescapable.

I suggest you reach out for help. Do not attempt to deal with this on your own. It is too daunting psychologically. Do you have a trusted ally and adviser? Who do you know in the psychiatric, academic, political, legal, religious or law-enforcement community? Is there someone you can trust to guide you through this difficult matter? Contact that person. Arrange a meeting in confidence. Plan a series of steps. This is a hard matter to face but it must be faced. You will need advice and support — and I surely hope I am not your only source, for I am just a writer.

But in my terms, in the terms of a writer, here is what this means: In acting against the silence that your family teaches, in defying this man who has victimized you and others, you become a hero. In bringing justice to bear, you become a hero. In protecting your own family, you become a hero.

To become this hero, you must, in a sense, sacrifice your father. To save innocent people, you must sacrifice your father. Mythologically, psychologically, that is a nearly impossible thing to do. Yet that is what the hero does: She undertakes the nearly impossible. Why? To prevent the destruction of her city, of her life, of those around her whom she loves.

Naturally, one feels an animal reluctance to effect the father sacrifice. Naturally, one’s own body fights back, for one’s body believes it is the father’s body; the cells believe they are the father’s cells and that they cannot defy the father because they came from the father. But the calling of the hero is to defy the body and rise above its fears: the hero becomes more than the cells in her body; the hero shakes herself, remakes herself above and outside the body’s fears. Your body is not where your courage resides; your body will make you sleepy and lethargic, telling you to delay, telling you you are sick and anxious and weak; your body will do these things and you will have to fight through that. You will have to fight through that with your spirit, the magical, heroic part of you that can rise above the body and own the body and stir the body into warrior action, to rise above the cells, above the animal belief that your body belongs to your father.

Your body belongs to you. Your spirit belongs to you.

You will be afraid. But you can do this. You can do this because you love your son, your little boy. You can do this because your father must not be allowed to laugh at you and walk away after what he has done.

Here is also why you can do this: When we know what we must do and go where we must go and ask the questions we must ask, eventually, whether supernatural or statistical or enigmatic or material, whether  charted by prognosticators or the makers of Freakonomics or Malcolm Gladwell or astrophysicists I do not know, but when we go where we must go and ask the questions we must ask, somehow, eventually, justice is done.

I wish I could help you further but I am just a writer, a man sitting in a little room on the other side of the world, wishing that he, too, could be a hero.

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