Conversation with a Sib about Scapegoating

I wrote the poem Being A Scapegoat some time after this conversation. It was my way of saying it again, because the first time I was given time to articulate it, it meant nothing. It was the first time I could say it clearly and put it out into the world, asking someone to care.

My sister and I were in a car. We were on a long car ride and it’s purpose was family related, so perhaps she was receptive to hearing me. I don’t know what was different. Usually I would bring these abuse issues up and my siblings would not listen, would not respond, and would not care. It has been heartbreaking for me. 

This day she listened. She let me explain what being a scapegoat in our family felt like, what it did to me as a little child. I tried to explain it’s impact further in my life.

She interrupted me. She said well you can stop right there. She said I think I never understood before. I think that I only have a tiny idea of what you went through and never have before. I think that I don’t want to know more. I think I don’t want to understand this much. I don’t want to talk about this any further.

I never got one of them to listen before. When I would try they would stop listening even when they were in the same room. They would walk out either emotionally or physically. They didn’t want to know.

 I never got one of them to respond before. Not really. They would give me all their positive thinking pep talks, or try to diminish my pain or invalidate me. They never spoke from their heart. They never saw me and what they all did to me and spoke to that pain, to my humanity, that I mattered. 

What I didn’t ever realize is how heartbreaking it would be for one of them to listen and respond and still not care. I don’t think that I even contemplated that would ever be possible. I just never envisioned it.

I had tried for years to get her to understand boundaries, respect, survivor issues. I had tried to get her to care about me. Her and I had never been close.

She was the third person in my parent’s marriage. Though that cost her a great deal, she also received and coveted the special child designation. I was the opposite, I was the rejected child.

She spent time with my brothers, showing a marked preference for them over me when I was a child. I always thought that if only one of them had wanted me, it would have changed my life forever. None of my siblings wanted me.

Less than three months after this conversation, with many emotional and verbal abuse incidents I severed contact with my sister. It was a self-defensive act. I needed to be loved and treated with respect. I never got that from her.

Her home is where all the family members go to for family gatherings. I still see three of my other siblings, though that can be quite problematic, i.e. drug suggestion by brother. I see one of my adult nephews. The rest don’t seem to have the inclination to see me.  

Since I don’t see her I don’t go to any holidays there. I am alone for each of them. Even those holidays that were lonely, barren, and joyless were wonderful days compared to attending family gatherings.

So since the holiday came around recently, the old pain has risen to the surface. I’m sure it will be sad in August as well when I stopped seeing her because of a week of vicious verbal abuse that culminated on our mother’s birth anniversary.

And it still breaks my heart that someone heard my pain, knew my pain, and it didn’t matter, not one little bit.

6 thoughts on “Conversation with a Sib about Scapegoating

  1. Oh, darn. Except for the place, and a few other changes, my story’s the same one…(as in my “I Am I Said”)

    A few years ago, my sister agreed to join me in one of my therapy sessions for the purpose of filling in some gaps in my memory, as she is 4 years older than I am.

    She forced herself not to cry – it was awful for us both and when she left, the last thing she said to me was, “Don’t call me again, I have enough on my plate. I can’t handle your stuff, too.”

    That was it, all done with, gone. I spend nearly every holiday alone, too, except for Christmas and sometimes Easter. I know the pain, rejection, and immense betrayal you are feeling right now. I know that it always waits, just beneath the surface of every smile, of every breath, and of every heart beat. When it gets a chance, it glides gracefully to the top and sucker punches you into admitting you miss your family and that they could understand – just once.

    I hear you. Take care.
    Ivory

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    • Hi Ivory,

      I’m so sorry this happened to you. I’m so sorry that we share so much common history.

      I do spend most of my holidays alone, but I am working real hard on making them different, fun and worthwhile. At Easter I went out to breakfast at my favorite place and then went for a long bike ride, about eight miles all together. I was awake early and that was different.

      (Usually I stay up all night the night before and end up sleeping most of the day and kind of hung over from triggering and stress in the evening.) Then ate lunch out as well. Sat there for some time and read a book. One of my favorite things to do.

      I don’t think that I miss my family. I think now that I miss the family that I never had.

      I continue working on establishing healthy bonds with those who are capable of caring about me and have the time to do so. It is a much longer process than I ever thought possible. But I am confident that I am able and will continue to find others who have compassion and empathy for others.

      I like the process of making friends. As an extrovert it is something that I find a great deal of enjoyment in. I am finding that I have every reason to be positive about that process.

      I have a few close online firends who give me a great deal of love and care. They mean all the world to me. They really are my family by choice. I believe firmly that this is possible for all survivors and that we can have friends to spend time with and to celebrate the holidays that we draw strength and meaning from.

      When I first told my sibling and when I first wrote the poem I wanted someone to hear me, see me, understand me and feel for me. I got that from my best online friends. That made all the difference in the world. Now I find that I feel different about this issue. I am so hurt by my family of origin, and yet I know something has irrevocably shifted in my life.

      I hear me. I see me. I understand me. I feel so much love, compassion, and connectedness to myself and my system. I validate me. I would still like my first family to do that, but I know that I am moving on and away from them. I am healing and I want to be loved.

      Any day when I am with myself I know that I am with someone who loves me, someone who is safe and non-abusive, and someone who values and validates me. And that has made all the difference in the world.

      Good and healing thoughts to you.

      Kate

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  2. Kate, I’m also sorry to hear that you were heard but that it didn’t matter. Sadly this is all too familiar a tale, and one I share also. I wonder if it was too hard, too painful for your sister to hear this – rather than her not caring? May be not, but that was my first thought as I read your post.

    There are people out there who do care. I am fortunate to have one very close, very wonderful friend. She loves me and wants to support me, but yes, it’s very hard for her to hear anything about my childhood and she often dismisses me. I think it’s just too hard for her.

    Good and healing thoughts to you, too, Kate.

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    • Hi Kerro,

      I’m glad that you do have a close friend. I think that is wonderful.

      With non-family I cannot be really certain about why they don’t want to know what being a survivor is like. I can guess, but that is all it is a guess. Most of those types of people disappear from my life and I don’t know why. I don’t share much with them. But sharing even the labels that are attached to my issues: child sexual abuse survivor, multiple, post traumatic stress disorder, are cause for them to disappear. I am hurt by that and dismayed, but it is for the best that they go if they want to go.

      None of my family is direct and honest. So that adds onto the difficulty in communicating and interacting with them. With my family they are quite verbal after I engage them in these types of conversations. And I make evaluations of them based on body language, what they say, how they act, all kinds of things. So I believe that my family do not care.

      My sister has said that it hurts her to know any sexual abuse history. I don’t trust her with it, she has betrayed me in the past many times, including telling my mother and brother, who were both sexual perpetrators against me.

      I did not have any reliable belief that she would hear me or care about scapegoating, something that she actively took part in. With anything that she has done to me, she was unwilling to apologize, hear me, understand me, or care for me.

      At that point in my life a relationship with her under those limitations were no longer desired. I was asking her for years to change, to heal, in some small ways, I thought at the time. To stop emotionally and verbally abusing me, to stop scapegoating me to my other siblings, and to treat me with respect and to expect that of other siblings when they came to her home. She was unwilling to do any of those things, though we spoke of them many times together.

      She has never apologized or said she was sorry in any way for the abuses she has done to me over my lifetime. Any involvement with her was full of abuse and I was no longer willing to let her abuse me. I think this is all too common the experience that survivors go through with their family of origin. It took me decades to accept the obvious, she was an abusive person in my life and did not want to change.

      Thank you for your comments. I so appreciate them and you.

      Kate

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