The Denial of Abuse

14 Aug

When I was growing up anything bad was not shared outside of the immediate family.  Skelton’s were closely guarded and locked away in the closet.  Bad marriages – people stayed together.  Domestic violence – women wore thick pancake makeup to hide the bruises.  Sexual, physical, or emotional abuse by parent to child was never mentioned.  Any other sexual or physical abuse by family members to the child covered up.  Mental illness was hidden.  Families had to be perfect.  All of that was the reality during the era I grew up in – good families did not tell secrets out of school.

But all that has changed.  The stigma has lessened if you are a victim (at least for now).  Rape victims are not picked apart in court for what they wore or how many men they dated prior to the rape.  Victims are much less victimized when they report the abuse than they were even half a century ago.  Progress.  Women are believed and taken seriously and the abuser taken away to jail.  Times have changed and will continue to change for the better hopefully.

But – and you knew there would be a but, in adoption any peep that all was not perfect creates an unwillingness to believe the victim, if the victim is the adoptee.  In adoption the suspicion is placed on the adoptee for causing the abuse to happen.  The adoptee just didn’t adapt.  The adoptee is just angry or has issues or is mal-adjusted.  It is the adoptees fault.  No one wants to believe the adoptee who was the victim of abuse – be it parent to child sexual abuse, physical, or emotional abuse, or any combination of the three.  No one wants to believe that a sibling would sexually abuse a sibling, or that a cousin or other relative would because you know we aren’t really related. 

No one wants to talk about it because that means adoption is not all sunshine and roses and the best thing since sliced ham.  It means the process of weeding out those who are not good enough failed.  Not only did the process fail but the education precluded information relating to sexual abuse by family who are not related and how that can create an excuse all on its own.  The system let the adoptee down and the adoption community compounds the victimization of the adoptee by not believing or worse yet, dismissing it as if it couldn’t really be that bad.  The adoption community is not willing to talk about it and make it okay to talk about it.  Because if they did talk about it, it would mean that just like in biological families there are good families, mediocre families, bad families, and families that should never have been granted the right to own a dog.  It would take adoption off the pedestal that the community wants to pretend it has a right to.

But isn’t it time to recognise the system set up can and does fail?  That we as an adoption community can also fail to support the victims?  How many headlines do we need to read before we stop blaming the adoptee for what went wrong and start believing that it can and does happen? 

How long before it is okay to talk about all the different types of child abuse that happens in adoption to the adoptee?

How about we start believing and listening to the victim and not look for excuses?

Note I am primarily speaking about domestic infant adoption but of course there are overlaps between all types of adoption. 


Posted by on August 14, 2011 in Adoption, adoptive parents, biological child, Ethics


Tags: , , , , , ,

14 responses to “The Denial of Abuse

  1. Dannie

    August 14, 2011 at 11:03 pm

    excellent post. Anytime a victim is not believed, it is a dark day.


  2. The adopted ones

    August 14, 2011 at 11:13 pm

    Any ideas on how to get the conversation started and talked about outside of this blog?


    • Dannie

      August 15, 2011 at 3:25 am

      hmmmm….well in the midst of the criticisms, there are a few that get enlightened…it should be discussed more in public forums even though I know how it is in some :/ …… April is both the month of child abuse and sexual assault awareness so the topic of abuse is viable and it can be told in a factual manner…..the fact that an adoptee was adopted is a fact, should not have anything to deter from the abuse that took place. Guest blogging is an option…..or giving other bloggers permission to link back to the blog is always good too 🙂

      definitely shouldn’t be a topic to get swept under the rug.


      • The adopted ones

        August 15, 2011 at 12:55 pm

        Some will get it and not feel threatened. Others will never get it sadly.

        Great idea about April – hopefully my brain remembers. Guest posts and link backs are great too and perfect – I just assume people will link if they want to.

        April gives me time to get my act together…


  3. cb

    August 15, 2011 at 12:13 am

    Good post.

    Abused adoptees face a dilemma when trying to talk about adoption. As soon as they mention that they have been abused, their opinion on any other aspect of adoption is then considered void – “I’m so sorry you had a bad adoption, that has obviously clouded your judgment on every aspect of adoption so I am not going to listen to a word you say”.

    I wasn’t abused – I never felt unloved or unsafe – but my childhood was no better or worse than many brought up by biological parents – my parents were human like everyone else – they had good points and bad points. However, if you want your opinion to be considered valid by APs, you are at no time allowed to show any chink in your APs armour.


    • The adopted ones

      August 15, 2011 at 2:07 am

      CB – both points are right and you know that really paints adoptees into a very small corner. No change in attitude can be made when truth is not allowed and only adherence to rah-rah happy dappy good times is allowed. Victimizing the victim all over again instead of looking into the reality. I have to face the fact that adoption isn’t going to go away and family preservation will not be the major objective – especially with the extreme fundamentalist christian movement gaining ground in the US to the point where it is getting close to becoming 1950 again – no birth control – no help for single families…and that means more laxity in the processes and the vicious cycle will repeat again.


  4. cb

    August 15, 2011 at 12:14 am

    Btw I believe that not telling your child they were adopted is a form of abuse. I realise others may disagree.


    • Dannie

      August 15, 2011 at 3:52 am

      if you look at the definitions of abuse the 11th one (in a long line of definitions) is “deception.”.


  5. Raven

    August 15, 2011 at 4:03 pm

    I’ve met way too many adoptees over the years, including my own son, who were abused by their aparents. The subject drives me absolutely crazy…and I go ballistic just thinking about what my son endured. Of course, I get the major share of the blame, since I surrendered him to adoption to begin with.


  6. Catherine

    September 1, 2011 at 1:13 pm

    Very interesting..

    I was adopted at birth, the first story I was told was how my a-parents bio kid flipped me out of the bassinet with the rim of the basinett hitting my head, they took a pic of the bruise on my 4 day old head, the a-parents bio child would walk up to strangers in the mall, grocery, anywhere in public and try to sell me to anyone who would listen, she would hide me in my stroller inside of the round clothed racks and walk away telling a-mom someone had stolen me, she would push my stroller out in front of cars in the parking lot, on numerous occasions she would scald me in the bathtub when my a-mom would go answer the phone and she was left to watch me.. The a-parents thought it was so cute and adorable for their bio child to do such things to her little sister.. It esculated from their, my a-fathers grandfather sexually abused me from the time I was 4 till I was 8, I told and nothing was done to stop the abuse. They would allow him to tuck me, by himself, in at night where he would run his hands under my nightgown and use his fingers. I was told I was making it up.. My a-parents sent me to counseling, I told the therapist about the ongoing sexual abuse, he confronted my mom and told her that he would have to report it to the authorities.. My mom grabbed me by the arm and took me out front of the office and told me that If I didn’t tell the therapist I was lying they were going to take me away and I would not have anyone to love or care about me AND that my a-father would be mad at me for allowing his grandfather to touch me…
    I found out I was adopted at 4, a neighbors kid told me that my “real” mommy didn’t love me and that I wasnt loved because she had given me away.
    When the a-parents divorced my a-moms boyfriends would hit on me, make extremelt sexual comments and suggestions to me and then tell me they would kill me if I told which I did tell and once again I was the liar… I would continue; however there is not enough time or space. As I was always told I was adopted and I am the one with issues…


    • The adopted ones

      September 1, 2011 at 1:18 pm

      Catherine – I am horrified and saddened by what happened to you. The denial factor blows me away – I do not understand how a mother can do that. How are you doing now?


      • Catherine

        September 1, 2011 at 1:42 pm

        I still deal with what has happend to me on a day to day basis. My husband, #3 is a wonderfully awesome man and is very supportive of me, my feelings, my trust issues and my “blue days”.
        It kills him to see me blaming myself, beating myself up and blaming myself for what I have lived through.
        I was fortunate to speak with someone I grew up with, her family was very close to my a-family. She witnessed what I endured. It was very nice to be validated after being told I was crazy, lied made it all up for attention, etc..
        He father , now 82, called me and apologized for not doing anything to protect me as a child.
        During our conversation he told me things that I thought no one had ever seen happen to me or knew about these things.. He apologized for the fact that my a-parents didn’t care about me… It was rather surreal, almost like he was asking for my foregiveness..


  7. Catherine

    September 1, 2011 at 1:44 pm

    Sorry for the spelling errors…


    • The adopted ones

      September 1, 2011 at 1:49 pm

      I am sure he was asking you for forgiveness, he would have had to live with the fact that he stood by and did nothing and that would eat away at you. I imagine it also validated your feelings and brought tremendous anger at the same time – he knew and did nothing. I am glad you have someone who understands. That makes it easier when you are not alone. Abuse leaves so many scars and wounds that never quite heal.

      Spellng errors don’t matter – the human brain still reads the words…



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