How do you avoid intrusion from abusive family?
March 2, 2017 3:36 PM   Subscribe

I have cut ties with my immediate biological family many years ago as they were very abusive to me. They sometimes come out of the woodwork and it upsets me a lot. I am lately getting email from old contacts (that they know) saying they are worried about me and just want to know if I am okay. How do I handle this?

My parents and siblings physically, mentally, and sexually abused me. I have not seen them in many years. They are all alcoholics and drug addicts, some have recovered (I think) but are still lying and stealing. They have used my social security number to open credit lines in my name and forged my signature to take money from the bank.

I have emails from old friends (who I'm not in touch with anymore) who have said the family just wants to know if I am okay. This is really upsetting for me. I know they lie to these people and tell them they don't know why I have left home or stopped talking to them. I think anyone who is reasonable would see through this but I know these perceptions are complex. I also know that these contact attempts will snowball and are usually associated with needing something (drugs, money, etc.)

I have a few questions:
1. How would you respond in this situation? I know the family is manipulative and abusive and I feel sad for the third parties they are involving. I don't want those people to be manipulated or worried about me but I know that if I reply they will pass it on and the requests for contact (and other chaos) will escalate. When I am feeling more compassionate I feel sad for them as maybe they feel guilt but the truth is I don't think they do. (Example: I told my mother my father molested me and she said she knew about it but didn't think she could leave him). I think this is not okay but I still feel some sadness for her because I think she must feel bad, somewhere deep inside. So it is like I am being guilt tripped into feeling sorry for them again. And I feel sad because it is like they will still and always control my freedom.
2. Parents are getting older and not in good health. I know they will die eventually. I don't think I will feel anything but relief when it happens. But as I have NC with them for many years, I don't know how I would know or what I would really do. Have you gone through this? What was it like for you? I am also trying to get pregnant and wonder about how I would tell my future children about this family.
3. I would be happy for any other suggestions you have. I have been diagnosed with PTSD from my childhood and generally it is under control but it is hard for me to think clearly through things when these things come up, so I am sorry if this is not making sense. (I have had therapy in the past but it is not an option right now unfortunately...) Thank you.
posted by shamefulsock to Human Relations (11 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Been there, done it all.

Don't reply, don't worry what these folks think. They should not be contacting you because this is none of their business, TBH, so they are meddling undercover. Delet, ignore, mute, hide, block - whatever is appropriate.

My son is about to turn 6 years old and he really isn't that interested in knowing about my estranged family. He knows that they're not particularly nice people and we are not in touch. He's seen old photos I showed him, I don't hide anything, I just act like it's no big thing.

Internet hugs. This is a non-issue. More therapy to help you process residual grief and anger, they've already robbed you of enough time and happiness. Take back your life. You can do this. You're already so courageous and have come so far. Leave this far far behind. You're amazing.
posted by jbenben at 3:57 PM on March 2, 2017 [17 favorites]

Are you interested in staying in touch with these old friends at all? It sounds like probably not, since you say you're not currently in touch. If that's the case, can you just change your email address, share the new one only with trusted sources who aren't in contact with your family, and move on? If you really worry about missing an email from someone sent to the old account, perhaps you could designate a close trusted friend or partner to go back and check the old account once a month or so.
posted by rainbowbrite at 4:16 PM on March 2, 2017 [2 favorites]

How often do you speak with these old friends and how often do they send emails? If you're getting one or two emails every few months, then I would do as jbenben said and just ignore. However, if you are getting them more frequently, maybe send out a mass email to all of them and say the following:

I am no longer in contact with my family and have no wish to rekindle contact. All future requests for contact or information on behalf of my family will be deleted and ignored.

Then block away.

In regards to how you deal with the eventual death of your abusive family member I don't know what to say. When my prick of a paternal grandfather died after an estrangement of 15+ years my sister and I went to the funeral and ended up connecting with a bunch of extended family members. They all turned out to be wonderful people and were able to share more stories that put some of the crazy behavior in context. So there was some good that came out it. As for telling a young child, I agree you only need to say that the relatives in question are/were not and so you don't talk to them anymore. As your child gets older you may want to have more indepth conversations, but they don't need to know anything more at such a young age.
posted by brookeb at 4:24 PM on March 2, 2017

I am sorry you are going through this. I know how hard it is to think clearly when these situations occur.

You owe your parents nothing. Not one thing. You may feel sorry for them, but that doesn't mean you have to do anything about it. Sit with the sorrow and process it in your own time, in your own space. This is you putting on your own oxygen mask. They've had their chance at life, you have yours. Take it and don't look back.

And, if you can, filter these emails into another folder that is not obvious. Then you can look for tmessages from these old friends if you wish to, but are not forced to.
posted by Thella at 4:25 PM on March 2, 2017 [5 favorites]

It really depends how you feel about the old contacts. If they're just that, nothing more, then ignore this entirely. If you care about the old contacts, I'd respond along the lines of, "Sorry, not interested, not ever. I would like to stay in touch with you, but only on condition that this is the last time you pass on any messages from family. If you can't do that, I am sorry that I will not be responding to you again."

I hope you already know this, but just want to remind you that you have no obligation to explain yourself at all. I will add that I personally am not a believer in forgiveness or forgetting, and specifically don't believe you have any obligation to a) do either or b) explain why you aren't interested in doing either.

My maternal grandmother was awful to me -- though I did not endure the kind of abuse you did -- and I cut off contact as a child. My mom would periodically tell me I'd be sorry when she died, but when she finally did, I was delighted. I would visit her grave to dance on it. Seriously, if you don't want contact with your parents now, you'll be relieved when they die.

And you explained this perfectly.
posted by bearwife at 4:41 PM on March 2, 2017

If you don't want to be in contact with these people, you can probably set up your email to automatically delete any messages from them.

I'm sorry you are dealing with this.
posted by bunderful at 4:50 PM on March 2, 2017

I suggest you start a journal. You need to sort out emotional reactions from strategic decisions on how to handle this. Emotional baggage can get in the way of clear thinking as to what is really the best logistical choice. It sounds like that is a big part of why this is so problematic for you.

You need to worry less about the past and more about the future. Especially since you are trying to get pregnant, you need to worry more about your health and welfare and that of a future child than what these people might feel or might want.

It can sometimes be good for the victim to have some compassion and understanding for the reasons the perpetrators did what they did, but only insofar as it helps you make peace with your past and lay your demons to rest. You need to guard against it being an opportunity for them to keep hurting you.

Whatever reasons your mother had for staying, she did make a choice. It might help to strengthen your resolve if you try to imagine two paths before you: One where you also have to justify to your own child why you stayed in contact with people knowing they were likely to hurt your child and another in which you explain why you chose to cut your family off and protect that child.

That might make it far easier to do whatever you need to do to shut this down instead of leaving the door open for some reason. If you don't know how to draw the boundary for your own sake, thinking of it in terms of drawing the boundary for the sake of your child may make things a lot clearer in your mind as to where you say "Oh, hell no!" and stop feeling apologetic or second guessing yourself.

I am so sorry for what you have endured.
posted by Michele in California at 4:59 PM on March 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

These are people who feel comfortable carrying messages to you from your family despite knowing that you have cut contact. They didn't ask you if you wanted to hear from your family or what the situation is or why you've cut contact. I'd say don't trust them, filter their email to a specific folder if you want a record of it or to trash if you don't, and go on with your life.

For anyone you do trust, say something along the lines of "I have had to cut contact with my family for personal reasons and I would appreciate it if you did not tell them anything about me. If I wanted them to know how I am doing I would get in touch myself. Please stay out of this very personal matter." and then if they don't back off, cut them off too.
posted by bile and syntax at 5:03 PM on March 2, 2017 [8 favorites]

You don't need to do anything at all except take care of yourself and your new family of choice.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 5:09 PM on March 2, 2017 [5 favorites]

I agree you don't need to reply to these people at all.

If they were actual friends who were worried about you, they would have reached out without prompting from your abusive family.

Sometimes leaving an abusive situation means you've gotta cut ties with anyone in their circle.

Unless I'm missing something about who these friends are, I just wouldn't respond at all. Filter the messages to a separate folder (don't delete them, in case you need them for legal action.)

(I don't speak to an entire side of my family and am familiar with the guilt-trip "we're worried about you" crap. You don't have to respond.)
posted by Crystalinne at 1:48 AM on March 3, 2017 [4 favorites]

Those go-betweens are not going to be crying themselves to sleep at night wondering if you are ok. I'm sure they will get over any mild curiosity that doesn't get solved and live to see another day. You don't owe them anything.
posted by Foam Pants at 12:35 AM on March 4, 2017 [2 favorites]

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