Notes from here.
“How do you reconcile your love for someone with the revelation that they have behaved badly?
[People asking this question] are in what is known as “secondary trauma,” experts say, meaning they were not the person… [attacked], but they experience a deep sense of betrayal from a person they thought they knew.
And it raises the question: What does someone do if a friend, colleague or loved one is accused of such a thing? What happens to that relationship?
In my FOO, you apparently dismiss the victim and pretend they are the problem, while making excuses for the perpetrator (“Susan was very upset when Dad died,” which is not only a lie but also a fucking slap in the face to me, because it was MY FATHER who had just died. And in the presence of whose body Susan was LAUGHING.)
“A revelation like this can be difficult to handle for anyone… It shakes us to our core when we learn that someone we are close to or we’ve known for a long time has [done something terrible],” Esquivel said. “It can cause us a feeling of ‘If what I knew before is no longer true, what is true now?’”
She said people might have different reasons to either keep or end the relationship… “Are relationships salvageable is such a tough question,” Esquivel said. “Depending on the relationship, both parties might want to salvage what’s there. [But] there definitely would be a great barrier.”
The best chance of saving a relationship is if a person offers a sincere apology both to the victims and secondary victims, is generally remorseful and works to make amends to the people they’ve hurt, experts said.
And, of course, figuring out if or how a relationship can withstand such a situation has a lot to do with the depth of the relationship in the first place.
“If a person feels like they can see something bigger beyond the behavior they might think it’s worth it to maintain the relationship,” said Dallas-based sex therapist Michael Salas said. “If there’s a core that’s bigger.”
I have to admit, I haven’t spent a lot of time over the years thinking about the possibility that my siblings may have been secondarily traumatized by the Susan Incident.
I can see where it would be difficult to have to acknowledge the truth of it, that your brother and his wife did something so appalling as to deliberately disrespect and then attack your little sister, right after your father died.
Of course, there’s also the bit where I WAS TRAUMATIZED BY THE SUSAN INCIDENT. If there is secondary trauma here, it should frankly pall beside the primary trauma. I was the one who was attacked! If they feel betrayed by the truth of what happened, how the hell do they think I feel about it?
Then again, if “Susan was very upset when Dad died” is taken as a good enough excuse for what she and they did, well, I can see where “The whole thing upset me a lot too” might well be a good enough excuse for everyone else trying to avoid the hard truths, and the difficult work of apologizing sincerely, being remorseful, and making amends.
It would not surprise me to know that their reaction to the whole thing is entirely about themselves. They definitely don’t care about my experience. So I don’t see why I should spend any time at all seeing their side of things. They’ve never made an attempt to see mine.
And that falls neatly in line with the fact that the relationships were never very deep or sincere in the first place. I longed for them to be, but that was never reciprocated. I was far more important and useful as a scapegoat, as a second-class citizen — not as a real, equal part of the family that I so badly wanted to be allowed to join.
Even saying “allowed to join” there is clearly symptomatic of the fact that I always knew I wasn’t in it from the get-go. My family membership wasn’t automatic, as it should have been. The biological fact that “I am their sister” ought to have been the “something bigger” that made it important to maintain the relationships, but biology is all it was. It wasn’t reinforced by love and loyalty.
I was actually required NOT to be a part of it, so they would have a place to throw their psychological garbage, and have someone to blame.
It’s a shitty thing to do to a baby, to a kid, to a sister.
Especially when done for the selfish reason so that others wouldn’t have to face their own music, their own responsibilities, the consequences of their own actions.
I truly don’t know if they aren’t mentally, emotionally, psychologically capable of doing that (after all, where would they get the tools to do it? Not from our mother. I think it would require serious therapy, which they’ll never do) — or if they simply choose not to. One of the great unanswered questions. But, either way, the outcome for me is the same.