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LeavesNoTrace's avatar

Was this covert sexual abuse from my father?

Asked by LeavesNoTrace (5668points) June 18th, 2017

Sorry to ask this question on father’s day, guys. And I hope you’re all having a good one.

I went no-contact with my abusive narcissist of a father four years ago after my mom died. For most of my childhood and adolescence, he physically and emotionally battered me and continued to be extremely heartless and nasty to me in my 20s until we had our final blow-out right before my mother’s death.

Whenever people ask me if he was sexually abusive to me, my usual reaction is to recoil and deny any such thing happened. However, now that I’m getting further on in adulthood, certain traumatic memories from the past are popping up, and I’m seeing them in a different light than I used to.

My father did not respect women and did not want a daughter in the first place. He often stereotyped women as being “hysterical” and “ninnies” even though he was a very emotional and irrational person with a tendency to overreact to everything in his life. He was obsessed with exerting power and having “respect” from my his family (i.e. being treated as an authority figure and with extreme deference at all times). When he failed to earn our respect through his actions, he would use anger and rage to get his way. I think he wanted to be feared more than he wanted to be loved.

One of the ways he would exert power was to humiliate me when he felt I had wronged him. Very often this was through insults and hitting, but there were a few times when it veered into very creepy territory as well. The only time I remember him sexually “touching” me per se was when I was about 10, and he was yelling at me for something. I didn’t have breasts yet and was wearing a bathing suit, and he reached over and twisted my nipple as hard as he could, leaving a nasty bruise for days. I was shocked and didn’t know how to react to that, and it still strikes me as bizarre.

Many other times, he would barge into my room when I was naked or getting dressed; screaming at me for something or another. Or he would force his way into the bathroom when I was showering and tear open the shower curtain to yell at me. This was usually in a fit of anger and would leave me an ashamed, sobbing, heaving mess. I distinctly remember trying to cover my naked body with my hands while he hovered over me with his 6’5 frame, calling me a stupid bitch for getting a poor mark in math or some other transgression. My grades were often poor thanks to persistent anxiety and depression that later turned into self-harm and suicide attempts; which only furthered his abuse.

He was also a pornography addict and would stay up all night watching porn sites on the family computer until 4 am. And he would make no effort to hide his habit or even close out the porn pop-ups when he was done. It wasn’t uncommon for me to log on to do an assignment the next day only to find a bunch of boob spam all over the screen. Keep in mind I was like 14–15 years old, so it was pretty disturbing to see this. He often objectified women based on their bodies and would make comments about my friends’ looks. He would also comment on my body in ways that felt invasive and inappropriate for a father to say to his daughter, telling me I should get a boob job if I wanted to find a husband or pointing out things I needed to work on.

I’ve only started opening up about some of this stuff to my partner lately but I’ve never considered it to be sexual abuse but he says it sounds like it was. Am I wrong?

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21 Answers

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Patty_Melt's avatar

There could have been sexual abuse and you blanked it out, but what you describe sounds more like gender abuse. He seems to have hated you for being female, and as you grew closer to being a woman, resented that.
He sounds like a terrible mess.
Personally, I wouldn’t hang onto labeling him so much.
He was deplorable (sorry minions) hateful, brutal. He is the one who needs/needed to sort out the what and why. You just need to find your own strength to live above and beyond that. You may choose therapy to assist you with that, but the unraveling is what he should have done, in order to be an acceptable father.

I am sorry you had to survive living with such a mess of a man, but survive you did. A toast, to your inner strength!

LeavesNoTrace's avatar

@Patty_Melt Thank you. I’m doing okay now for the most part, but Father’s Day and Mother’s Day are still tough. He definitely hated me for being female and tried to have my mom abort me for it. (I’m pro-choice BTW but that’s fucked up.) He didn’t know how to relate to women and leaned on toxic stereotypes in all of his interactions with them.

I think his behavior was rooted in fear and power and aggression and to make me feel small and helpless so he could better exert abuse and control. Walking in on me at my most vulnerable is kind like a predator ambushing a wounded animal.

I’ve used therapy in the past but didn’t talk about this for some reason. But my therapist did help me recognize that I was def. the victim of gendered abuse.

filmfann's avatar

Were his bathroom break-ins based on anger or sexual thrill? Either answer doesn’t reflect well on him.
I can’t see how bringing it up now will help you.
I hope you find peace.

seawulf575's avatar

As a father, I can tell you that it sounds like yours was a bastard. No offense to you at all. It sounds like he did not take his duties as a husband and father seriously, but rather used it to stroke a fragile ego. I’m not sure if what you described would be considered sexual abuse or not, but it is certainly not acceptable behavior.
My view of being a husband and father is fairly simple. My job is (was) to be responsible for my family. I’m old school in that I should be the head of the house, but I have a duty to be respectful to my wife. To do that I need to talk to her and understand her needs. My duty as a father was to raise my children to be healthy, confident, and honorable adults. I think I have succeeded since my babies are now 24 and are molding their worlds to best suit them. You don’t raise healthy, confident, honorable children by disrespecting them all the time. Yes, my kids did get yelled at when it was needed, and even got the swat on the butt if they needed it. But the goal of raising children should be to let them see what “good” looks like and make them understand why and how that should be.
It sounds like your dad missed that mark. I can’t begin to tell you why or what his drivers were, but he didn’t do his job as a father in my book. I think the big question right now is this: are you going to let this bad behavior by him rule your life or are you going to learn from it and make sure it isn’t repeated in your life? I will tell you that everyone brings something to the party and is worth knowing. You need to recognize the good in you, accept that as good, and let it be a blessing to others in your life. Don’t continue to give your dad power over your life.

si3tech's avatar

@LeavesNoTrace IMHO it was sexual abuse. Good for you for removing him from your life. I am sorry you had to experience such abuse. I hope you can heal.

LeavesNoTrace's avatar

@filmfann I think my previous answer addresses your question. The reason I’m bringing up is because it’s something that’s important to me.The realization that some of my father’s twisted behavior was indeed sexually abusive is pretty gross and distressing on top of the other trauma he inflicted.

For the record, my life is pretty good now, but my happiness has been hard-won. But that doesn’t mean that people can’t unpack their experiences from time-to-time.

flutherother's avatar

I’m sorry to hear Father’s Day brings up such horrible memories for you. It should bring up nothing but good memories. Your father’s behaviour towards you was very cruel and damaging and incomprehensible to most people but doesn’t seem to me to have been primarily sexual.

VS's avatar

I’m so sorry you had such a rotten dad. You seem to be doing well now, so kudos to you for the self-healing that has occurred. And good for you for removing him from your life. It sounds like he was just abusive. Period. I agree with the previous poster that it is probably to no avail to label what he was, other than a truly sorry p.o.s.
I am curious as to how he treated your mom and if you have siblings that were also on the receiving end of his ill treatment.

si3tech's avatar

@LeavesNoTrace Also IMHO it was not really covert. It seems much of this was blatant. God Bless.

anniereborn's avatar

It is absolutely sexual abuse.

anniereborn's avatar

P.S. Sexual abuse in most cases is not sexually driven. It is a power game.

johnpowell's avatar

Holy shit. You just described my dad and how he behaved with my sister.

“Get naked and on the scale, you have put on five pounds, no man will love your fat ass.” Then he would throw her into the bathtub until there was blood.

Soo. When he was drunk and on a rampage one night my mom shot him in the face.

I am not joking.

And yeah, it was sexual abuse.

JLeslie's avatar

Sounds like he had no boundaries and no respect for anyone. He must be a miserable soul himself.

You certainly were tormented and abused.

You can frame it however you want. I don’t think you have to call it sexual abuse, but it certainly can be categorized as sexual abuse. I’m kind of against pushing victims of this sort of thing to convince them they were sexually abused and try to pursuade them to remember more or call the incidents by specific terms. That’s my nonprofessional opinion.

I hope you can sort through everything so you can put it in the past as much as possible. It seems to me that you have done that in general. You always seem to me to wanting to look forward and you seek calm and happiness in your life.

I hope you can make peace with it all for yourself. You certainly were put through some bad times. Completely understandable that you feel traumatized by it if you do.

janbb's avatar

It seems more physical abuse than sexual in nature to me but it doesn’t lessen the horror.

marinelife's avatar

He certainly constantly violated your boundaries. Does it matter what it is labelled? It was wrong and abusive.

LeavesNoTrace's avatar

@johnpowell That’s horrible! Did your father die? I hope that the court fully acquitted your poor mom because if there’s ever a time to shoot someone in the face, that would be it! I hope you, your sister, and your mom are all doing okay.

@JLeslie Thank you. Yeah, I don’t plan on going around telling people that I was “sexually abused” or defining my life or even my youth by these incidents. As others have stated, it was 100% most likely done as a power play and to humiliate me because it was an easy way to do that. Unfortunately, it worked. My father was a misogynist with no respect for anyone and no boundaries for his nastiness, but particularly hated women. Everyone in our small town hated him and he made enemies wherever he went. Unfortunately, many adults in our community associated me with him and I got a lot of flack for being his daughter. It made life unbearable at times and I felt like a pariah. Luckily, kids didn’t care as much and I was able to make some close friends who helped me a lot. I think my youthful friendships saved my life.

To answer @VS‘s question, he also hated my older half-brother (his stepson) who is probably one of the nicest people on Earth and was a good kid save for a little mischief as a young teen. Luckily he is 10 years older than me and only had to spend eight or nine years living under my father’s roof. He has no contact with him but has forgiven him since he truly believes he was mentally ill. My younger brother was his “mini me” for a while and he tried to raise him to be just like him. While he was by far the “favorite”, I don’t envy him one bit. My father was less abusive but still nasty to him and put a lot of pressure on him to be however he wanted him to be. He was a real brat for a while thanks to the healthy dose of toxic masculinity he was raised with but has grown up a lot in the past couple of years he hasn’t been living with our father. He realizes now that our father was abusive and says he feels terrible for how he treated me. They have a tepid relationship now mostly because my brother pities him but he keeps him at arm’s length and sees him the minimum amount that he must.

I was terrified of my father and can remember truly hating him and telling my mother that I did at the age of 3–4. Sad that a child that age could even have a concept of “hate” but I really did. By the time I was five, I distinctly remember wishing I never had to see him again, but unfortunately, my mother remained unhappily married to him until her death at age 55 in 2013.

johnpowell's avatar

@LeavesNoTrace :: It was a fatal wound. My mom actually packaged us up and went to Mexico in a “oh shit what just happened” moment.

We ran from the law for about 6 months in Mexico and then she found a guy she trusted with us in Copala. She got back to the United States and was going to turn herself in. But couldn’t do it so she came back for us.

She took us to Tijuana and my aunt picked us up and she took us to her house in L.A. Then my mom hopped in boxcars for a year before finally being arrested.

But my mom did 9 months in jail until the sentencing. She was released a month later with time served. The judge agreed my dad was a monster. I testified repeating things I had heard like. “I’m rich and you are a bitch that can’t even keep my house clean.. No judge will let you have the kids if you leave”.. And, “I will make sure If you leave you and the kids will be dead in a week.”

So yeah, timed time served and I am glad he is dead.

jca's avatar

@LeavesNoTrace: What is your father like now that he’s no longer with his family? Is he living a productive life or what? I realize you haven’t seen him in a few years but I’m referring to as far as you know.

MollyMcGuire's avatar

Just stay away from your father; he brings nothing positive to your life. If you can do this and actually not be haunted by him and things that might have happened when you were little you will have the best chance at stability and happiness. Dwelling and trying to make him pay for whatever it was is counterproductive. Your hurt is yours regardless of how you attained it. It’s yours to deal with. So do that and move on with your own fatherless life.

dappled_leaves's avatar

He was trying to humiliate you on a sexual basis. It was sexual abuse.

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