From the Editor’s Mailbox: Smear Campaigns, Spreading Awareness, Maintaining Relationships With Abusive Parents, and More

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[photo credit: Kat]

As managing editor of The Invisible Scar, I’m always open to receiving your emails and comments. Sometimes, I get a flurry of emails on a theme or that have answers that benefit more than one person. I tackle those questions in a monthly post called From the Mailbox.

Here’s a look at the emails that hit my inbox and questions that led folks to The Invisible Scar this month. I’m jotting my thoughts regarding those questions, but do keep in mind that this site is not a substitute for professional advice. (For that, please find a good therapist you can trust.)

Here’s what’s on readers’ minds this month:

“How can I spread awareness about emotional child abuse?”

Dispel the silence. Let people know that emotional child abuse is real. It exists.

To paraphrase the writer Baudelaire, the greatest trick of the devil is to convince you that he doesn’t exist. That lack of belief in its existence allows evil to flourish. Evil flourishes when no one speaks against it.

You can spread awareness in many ways:

  • Write about emotional child abuse and share those articles online.
  • Write about your personal story in a blog. Many people do this under pseudonyms to protect their private lives. Be aware that writing a personal blog does open you up to receive negative comments because trolls exist on the Web.
  • Use your social media platforms to share information about emotional child abuse. Are you on Facebook? Share articles about emotional child abuse there. On Twitter? Tweet about it. You need not be the Debbie Downer of your social network, though; share articles about emotional child abuse and good parenting, tips for parental time-outs, how to speak to one’s children, etc. At The Invisible Scar, we focus solely on emotional child abuse because that’s why we’re all gathering here. But on your social networks, vary the content for your audience.
  • Be honest about your childhood when discussing it with friends and family. You don’t have to corner people at parties and go painstakingly through every detail, but be honest and brief in discussing it.
  • Reach out to people who are hurting. One of the greatest pains of suffering emotional child abuse is the feeling of being isolated, unwanted, and not understood. When possible, reach out in love and kindness and listening to those hurting. Just listening to someone who hurts makes an enormous difference in a person’s life.
  • Mindfully step in when you hear someone being mistreated.  You can speak up for others without attacking the parent; just be kind and subtle. A true story: Years ago, I was in line at the grocery store and minding my baby girl when a lady and her preteen daughter stood behind me. The lady looked at my baby girl and said, “Oh, she’s so cute! They’re adorable at that age. And then, they become THIS.” And she pointed to the preteen. I replied, “Every age is a good one. And how awesome that you have a girl who you can chat with and do fun things with.” And the lady said, “Hm, I guess” and grew quiet, and the preteen gave me the loveliest big smile.
  • Pray for survivors of emotional child abuse. People always use prayer as a last resort. “It’s the least we can do.” No, it’s the most. Prayer is lifting our hearts to God, and we can lift survivors of emotional child abuse in our prayers. The prayers may not change the abusers—God gave everyone free will—but the prayers can help those who hurt. Know that I keep all readers of The Invisible Scar in my prayers. Please keep me in yours.
“How can I maintain a relationship with an abusive parent?”

You can’t.

Adult survivors of emotional child abuse want to be able to have healthy, loving relationships with their parents… but their parents are toxic people.

That longing is a scar that adult survivors of emotional child abuse bear. It exists. The scar shows that the adult survivor was wounded. But it cannot be undone.

However, an adult survivor can make sure not to put himself or herself in a situation to receive yet even more scars from the toxic parent.

Of course, only you can decide whether to remain in a relationship with abusive parents. But at The Invisible Scar, we encourage No Contact with abusers. (The author of Cutting Ties: Knowing When It’s Time to Walk Away at Luke 17:3 Ministries has questions to help you make that decision.)

“Why is my mother emotionally abusive?”

The short answer is that no one knows for sure.

Some psychologists talk about a cycle of emotional abuse. A child was emotionally abused by a parent who was once emotionally abused by a parent who was once emotionally abused by a parent, etc. But if that cycle cannot be broken, then why is it? Why do some adult survivors end up not emotionally abusing their children?

Some scientists mention that it could be genetics. But then that doesn’t quite make sense either. Alcoholism makes sense due to the physical component of alcoholism. But how can there be a gene for being a horrific parent?

You can look at the specifics of your own family tree and perhaps get to a mild understanding of how this abuse has emerged.

But for the sake of healing, it’s best to not focus on the why.

“What can I do about smear campaigns against me?”

A smear campaign is more than someone just saying something rude about you. It’s the systematic shredding of someone’s reputation by spreading lies, accusations, and insinuations.

“False Accusations, Distortion Campaigns and Smear Campaigns can all be used with or without a grain of truth, and have the potential to cause enormous emotional hurt to the victim or even impact their professional or personal reputation and character,” states Out of the FOG.

“[Smear campaigners] hide behind a cloak of upstanding heroism and feigned innocence in an attempt to make as many people as possible think their efforts are based not on their vindictiveness, but on upstanding concern,” writes Light on her blog.

So, what can you do about it?

You may feel inclined to do some or all of the following:

  1. Defend yourself  by confronting the smear campaigner
  2. Defend yourself to every person who has heard the smear campaigner’s accusations
  3. Take the smear campaigner to court for slander
  4. Launch a smear campaign against your abuser in retaliation
  5. Ignore the smear campaigns
  6. Talk to your closest friends about the smear campaigns, the truth regarding them, and ignore the smear campaigner

Every situation is different. Only you can decide whether to do 1 or 2; that may depend on your relationship with other people who know your abuser. In a family situation, you may have some relatives who you still want a relationship with, and you may want to discuss the reality of the situation with them.

Option 3 requires that you talk to a family lawyer about the situation. As I am not a lawyer, I can’t offer an expert advice on this matter. Option 4 sounds like a terrible idea, which will only escalate the situation. I strongly urge you not to retaliate. Options 5 and 6 seem to be the best options.

As painful and terrible as a smear campaign is, it will weed out the false friends and lukewarm relatives from your life. Anyone who knows you and loves you will not listen to the reputation-shredding gossip. You will be presented with a very clear view of the battlefield, of who is on your side and who is on the side of the abusive parent.

Your army of friends and relatives who stand beside you may be very small. You may even find yourself alone on the battlefield, with the corpses of old relationships all around you. But you will not be shredded. You will still be standing, you will be alive in the truth. You will be stronger than you ever thought possible because you didn’t let fear or other people’s opinions of you determine who you are.

* * *

Living in the truth and light can be so hard at first for adult survivors of emotional child abuse. They’re used to live in a hazy, nebulous reality created by their abusers. Adult survivors are accustomed to trying to find value in who they are by seeking the approval of others and adapting who they are to others expectations.

But in awakening to the reality of the emotional child abuse, adult survivors can start moving towards a life in the light and truth. They can start extracting themselves from the entanglements of abusive relationships. They can begin to understand that it’s better to be seemingly alone in the truth than to be surrounded by liars.

Why did I say “seemingly”? Because you are not alone. You’re here among others who share similar experiences. And you matter.

[via Sarah Joy]

[via Sarah Joy]

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23 thoughts on “From the Editor’s Mailbox: Smear Campaigns, Spreading Awareness, Maintaining Relationships With Abusive Parents, and More

  1. Reblogged this on ChironLightMuse and commented:
    I have an issue with the domestic abuse , not being a consideration or the lack of support , mothering requires , and advising that alienated, thus abused child to just walk always inferring that is is Mom does not address the issues

    Of course, only you can decide whether to remain in a relationship with abusive parents. But at The Invisible Scar, we encourage No Contact with abusers. (The author of Cutting Ties: Knowing When It’s Time to Walk Away at Luke 17:3 Ministries has questions to help you make that decision.)
    “Why is my mother emotionally abusive?”
    The short answer is that no one knows for sure

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m not quite sure I understand your comment..

      I don’t assume that the mother is the abuser; I was responding specifically to a question in my inbox. In that email, the person used Mom, not Dad, as an example.

      As far as advising the abused child to just walk… yes. I encourage the abused to find themselves a safe place to distance themselves from their emotional abusers, and then, through extensive therapy, they make the decision whether to go No Contact or Limited Contact. But the first step is to distance one’s self from the abuser.

      Like

  2. Thank you for posting this encouraging post. I recently awakened to my scapegoat position, and now my entire life makes sense. I am proud to walk amongst the living-I am holistically recovering from PTSD and the toxic life that was repressed inside me for 43 years. It is possible. It isn’t easy, but it’s not impossible. I deserve a great life.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Barbie,

      You’re very welcomed!

      The awakening is so very difficult and painful… but worth it. I am happy to hear of your ongoing recovery.

      Everyone deserves an emotionally healthy life.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you so much for this post. The holidays are hard, as everyone rejoices in their own happy memories of childhood and present day familial warmth. Those of us who grew up abused and/or neglected feel even more freakish and alone this time of year. Posts like these are a huge source of comfort, validation and encouragement. Thank you again!

    Liked by 2 people

    • You’re very welcomed!

      And you’re not alone… Please know that your life matters, that you are a gift, and that the holidays are not always really what are represented on TV and movies.

      Like

  4. Thank you for this post. I searched for advice and support and found exactly the encouragement i needed. I’m happy with who I am now and glad I can finally make the cut off from my abusive dads ex wife and brothers. Emotional abuse is damaging. And speaking out is liberating. Reblogged. Its true that the abusers will get worse when you make the cut.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Sarah,

      You’re welcomed… Glad to be of help. And so very glad that you are getting away from abusive relationships.

      Peace to you!

      Like

  5. Hi, there! I would firstly like to thank you for this post and many of the others that I’ve just read in the last hour or so.

    Each blog I find on this subject is incredibly helpfull for their own unique reasons and this one is quite exceptional.

    I am going to make a criticism here, though, I hope you don’t mind. You are VERY good at handling the emotional aspect of verbal/emotional abuse. Very good. But I was left feeling a bit dissapointed reading this article at the “Why is my mother abusive?” question.

    Sure, you give a couple of possible options, but you do so very dismissively. And as a result I feel the question is not being taken seriously, even though I’m sure that’s not actually the case. I would like to suggest, at the very least, that you include some links to various analysis on abusive parents.

    There are answers out there, or at least attempts at answers. I would hardly say that no one knows for sure. Even if you may not completely agree with some of them you have a responsibility handling this site to point people in a direction that may help them individually.

    Like I say, I’m quite sure that wasn’t your intention. I just feel like a little more could have been done. If you can’t answer a question to a degree you feel is adequate, maybe someone else can.

    Thanks again, I do really like this blog!
    Lee

    Like

    • Hi, Lee.

      Thanks for your kind words regarding the articles here… and I can see your point in your criticism.

      I did not mean to sound dismissive of the question, “Why is my mother abusive?” It is a valid question.

      Research indicates that perhaps it is through learned behaviors, a family’s cycle of behavior, etc., but sometimes, abusers spring from non-abusive families. Why that is, we don’t know. And to be honest, I don’t feel that adult survivors of emotional child abuse need to worry why they were abused. All they need to know is: Children do not ever, ever, ever deserve to be abused.

      To spend too much time contemplating the question, “Why is my mother abusive?” would be to focus more on the abuser than the adult survivor.

      The adult *survivor* (not the abuser) is the one who needs understanding, healing, therapy, encouragement, support, etc. The adult child is the one who is hurting from all that has happened. The adult child needs to find the resources to understand what the effects are, how to get better, how not to feel so desperately alone, how to live a good and safe and healthy life despite the invisible scars of an emotionally abusive childhood.

      Reasons why an adult is abusing a child will not be explored too deeply at The Invisible Scar because NO answer will suffice.

      Exploring that too much can be a dangerous trap. For example, an abuser can say he insulted his child regularly because his child always failed to do his chores… So what? That does not merit abuse. Nothing does.

      I understand the longing of an adult survivor of emotional child abuse to understand why he or she was abused…. but the answer is because the abuser CHOSE to be an abuser.

      Research into the question of why abusers abuse is definitely needed; I encourage understanding by psychologists, therapists, and researchers… Understanding may lead to prevention of emotional child abuse… However, that research and focus is not at the heart of The Invisible Scar.

      Like

  6. At 54 years old I found this website and the anguish, mental torture I have always blamed on myself while giving my mother and older sister free reign to keep telling me I still need ‘treatment’ for my faulty thinking, well, everything makes sense. But I am now reduced to hiding, friendless and isolated in the back room of my mother’s sad old house. My sister has engaged in lifelong smearing of me and is also considered the golden one. I have been severely scapegoated since early childhood. My younger brother who was also neglected but not scapegoated, suicided in 1987. My mother is a narcissist, (and a hoarder, which is another element of complication) and my sister is an emotional bully, (who meditates and does continuous “shaman” activities in order to call herself enlightened, adding to her being viewed as the “healthy” one), who just showed up for xmas, and since she’s an active abuser, I am in despair and fear of self harming patterns reemerging for me. She has successfully extinguished any notions my mother had that I’m making positive progress, now that they’re together again. Thing is, I am stuck here for now, between cars (sold one, cannot find a good used one thus far). I realize clearly that my only chances for recovery and ending the lifelong harm they, esp. now my sister since mother is elderly, inflict is to have no contact. But I love my 19 y.o. niece (I am childless) so I’ve tried to broach the topic of the emotional abuse as it’s happening to her now. Past 2 days I no longer could just keep LC, and my sister’s using my avoidance to elevate the smearing activity. It’s a very small town and all the people here just adore my sister. Again, I stay hidden. No mental health options here. I am going to head east when I have the new car so I can find help and support. At this time I am completely alone and feel like a cornered scared animal. Please, anything you can offer in the way of how to navigate through an impossible situation like this is so welcomed! Also, initially I’d tried to pre-empt my sister’s abuse by loading her with positive comments with intent to maybe stir her conscience into not doing the smearing behavior. It backfired awfully, as she just used it for personal validation and had no insight at all about the way she speaks about me to others, not to mention the horrific campaigns/actions of the past. And since I have now asked for NO contact, it’s poor her that’s being mistreated by her nut-job sister. Though I have asked my mother to try to NOT speak to her about me, referencing the term ” triangulation”, of course that occurs, (sister staying in a different home, one of her friend’s, so our mother now goes to see her and they discuss me), and now she is saying well, does she, (me), want an apology? But the essence is that I’m to be humored with an “apology” just to get me placated, without any acknowledgement of the abuse. This not only feels demeaning, as per, but puts her on the continued high horse, “Look, I’m so enlightened that I can do that, if she feels she needs it”. But it’s meaningless to me because she does not, nor does my mother, really believe she’s done and is doing harm. Insanity is threatening to take over as I have NO ONE for support right now. Sub zero temps and no car to even leave town for a hotel. But ALSO it’s essential I find a safe and caring environment to avoid the self-harm I’ve historically used to “cope”. Please help me with references for specific therapists on the East coast whom I may contact to possibly have phone support with until I can become mobile.
    Most sincerely, and with gratitude if you’ve even gotten this far in this way too lengthy e-mail,
    S.

    Like

  7. In my journey to figure myself out, I had long ago realized that my mother was undeniably abusive (something I’d failed to notice until I was almost 50), and that her abuse could explain a lot of what I felt was now wrong with me. But it was only recently that I started researching NPD (Narcissistic Personality Disorder) itself in earnest, and it was like turning a floodlight on my past. It turns out my mother fits the NPD profile almost perfectly, and I can even speculate as to why she may have ended up the way she did, knowing her family history. And, as the child of an abusive narcissistic parent, I can see how I ended up the way I have, as a child of someone with NPD.

    I’d been avoiding my mother for years, as the only coping mechanism I had, but I recently made the decision to forgive her, and stop being angry with her. I made a trip to visit her in the nursing home, where she now lives as dementia continues to take her away. I told her I forgive her; I’m not sure it even registered, but I did it more for me than for her.

    I have not had children because I recognize, being the way that I am, that I would not do a child any good. Perhaps if I’d known earlier what I know now, things may have been different. But what’s done is done, and I stand by my choice to remain childless as the right choice to have made. I wish my mother had made that choice. She didn’t. When I asked her a few years ago why she’d even had children, considering how she treated us, she said “It’s what you did back then.” A lame explanation, but it is what it is. She really never should have had children, and I’ve had more than one therapist tell me that (though I’d already figured that out myself).

    But I can see that she was as much a victim as I myself am, in her case a victim of her situation and society in a time gone by. Don’t get me wrong: I don’t condone what she did, and I don’t excuse what she did. But I do forgive her. I do not know if I will ever see her alive again. But I’ve made my peace with that, and with my past. There is now only forward, and a continual effort to fight against what she made me, and to try to be a little different, to be a little better, for myself and, most importantly, for my spouse.

    Like

    • Thank you for taking the time to share your story… and I’m glad to hear that you are moving forward to an emotionally healthier life.

      Making peace with one’s past is very difficult, but it sounds like you have done so.

      Peace to you and your husband. Onward!

      Like

  8. Thank you for this post. Until about a year or so ago, I had no idea what a NM was. Okay, well I DID but I didn’t think MY mom was one. Being an only child, I thought the reason she was so hateful toward me was because I was a horrible person. I went to counseling and was labeled as “codependent”, which frustrated me. Codependent? I was using all my energy to break free from her, and manipulation was the only reason she remained in my life. Your post have been a wealth of knowledge and, along with speaking with some professionals, confirmed that I am definitely not codependent. You are all in my prayers! We can, and will, see the other side of this hell!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Agreed… Co-dependent is a ridiculous term to use when discussing the emotional child abuse of a child. A child is, after all, wholly dependent on a parent. And the parent is supposed to care for the emotional and physical needs of his or her child. It’s in the case of emotional child abuse where that is all distorted and twisted and made terrible.

      Abusive parents are hateful to well-behaved/naughty, ugly/pretty, quiet/loud children. In other words, because abusive parents choose to be so. The child does not deserve it… not as a small dependent child nor as an adult child of the abuser.

      So glad to hear that you are finding your way amid all that and growing into a healthier and better life.

      Thanks so much for your prayers. You are in mine as well.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I find this forum such a supportive place! I used to think as a child that I was alone. It wasn’t until I became good friends with my best friend of 32 years, that I realised that all was not right with my family. My friend’s family were and still are very loving. I’ve posted here previously and like many, I have been the victim of malicious lies. Years ago when my car was broken into and my wallet stolen, my mother accused me of doing it for attention. As she lived nearby at the time, I drove to her place (my mistake) and reported the crime to the police from there. To my face, she was very supportive but she lied about me behind my back. She not only accused me of the criminal act but ranted about the shame that I brought on her by bringing the police to her door.

    What really hurt is that the majority of my relatives believed her. I am a classic scapegoat and have always been blamed for all the family problems. I have sixteen burn scars on the back of my legs, inflicted by my parents when I was a toddler and everyone ignores that. They are absolved of their crime. My older brother even went so far as to say that I need to ‘get over it’ and realise that my mother didn’t do it out of malice!! Incredulous!! Talk about minimising abuse.

    I am now very content in my life and have very little contact with my family. I am getting married in September and none of them are invited. They are going mad over this. They treat me like dirt and didn’t even visit me in hospital last year when I had a serious life threatening condition but yet, they expect to come to my wedding. I am sticking to my guns and will not act on false guilt anymore. I wish you all the very best!

    Like

    • Thanks for your kind words regarding this site.

      No, you are definitely not alone.

      How beautiful to hear that you were able to find a loving surrogate family. Psychologists often refer to a “trusted adult” as a necessity in an abused child’s life…. A child needs a good and healthy adult (whether a school librarian, a coach, the parent of a friend) to help foster their self-esteem and their understanding of what is a good and healthy relationship. Having such an adult lets the child feel less alone and more cared for. Sounds like that is the treasure you have in your life.

      The classic scapegoat is a sad role indeed. I am so sorry for all that you endured. But I’m glad to hear that you have little contact with them.

      Keep strong! Keep safe! Keep working towards a happier and more emotionally healthy future.

      Know you (and your future spouse) are in my thoughts and prayers.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you so much for your kind reply, it means a lot.

        I am doing very well, thank God. This past weekend, my sister was home for a visit. She (along with my older brother, lives in a different country). I met her in a neutral environment but while pleasant, the hostility was obvious. I remember clearly how my younger sister was also treated. Due to her distress as a child, she regularly wet the bed. My mother threatened her in front of others, that her soiled underwear would be ‘nailed to the outside wall for all the neighbours to see’. This caused even more distress in my sister.

        Due to how she also suffered, I can’t fathom why she is siding against me over my decision to go ‘no contact’. She still accepts the abuse my mother dishes out, despite the fact that my sister is now 37 years old. She is sent up to me when she is home to pass on family messages and willingly acquiesces. I don’t understand this. I asked her that we start being sisters and stop seeing each other through the lens of our parents but sadly, this is not getting through.

        I’m getting on with my life and as you know, getting married in September. I have also made moves to start my own business and couldn’t be happier. I’m finally starting to not care who believes all the lies that my mother spreads. Thanks again for setting up this site, it is so helpful. Best wishes to all!!

        Like

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