How do I confront my father about utterly fucking up my life?
July 20, 2017 3:31 PM   Subscribe

tl;dr I am my father's only daughter and he molested and tried to rape me when I was a teenager. IANAP but I think it is safe to say my father has fucked up my head and by extension my life and I want to confront him.

Back story: I was completely and totally in love with my father as a kid like any little girl would be. He was my hero, alas, I couldn't see then he was a deadbeat dad and couldn't understand why my mother loathed him so much. Her feelings toward him however didn't stop me from thinking he was the best dad in the world even if I only saw him months at a time.

Ffwd to my teenaged years, still enamored with my absentee father, the opportunity had arisen for me and my sibling to spend a vacation with him and his wife (us being old enough to make that kind of decision and all). I was ecstatic to finally be able to be with my him, every little girl's dream. The vacation was uneventful and was approaching its end. While my sibling was stoked to go back home, I wanted to stay and was allowed to.

It was after I was alone my father started playing inappropriate touching games with me, sleeping in my bed with me, wanting to spoon me while he was erect and so on and a host of other despicable things that I was too afraid to speak up about even more so when he warned me not to tell anyone. He subsequently tried to rape me when he took me on a trip.

I eventually moved back home with my mother and never spoke to my father again neither did I speak of the events that took place till I was 18 -when I confided in a boyfriend who felt it was his duty to tell someone who ended up telling my mother- and have never been spoken of since. My father and I lost contact and I grew up not speaking to him. He contacted me when my child was born and we have been in contact ever since.

Every time we speak I have memories of the things that he did to me but can never verbalize my feelings toward him about them. I keep coaching myself on how exactly I will go about expressing the hatred that I feel for him but I cannot. I seethe with anger when we talk because, how can you be so blatantly hypocritical wanting to dispense advice about how I should be living my life, about standards, and so on when you and I both know how utterly despicable you are. I don't know how to approach him with this issue without being disrespectful, something I think I am well within my right to be.

I am distrustful and vulnerable and attribute a lot of my terrible decisions with men to the experience I had as a child with my father. We have NEVER discussed this and I have never discussed it with anyone else since that boyfriend. I am currently interacting with someone whom I think is the guy I want to be with for the rest of my life, but the events of my past are haunting me on a daily basis and I am very wary of this guy not because of anything he has done, but my mind has already painted him as a monster.

I want to confront my dad and call him out on his BS and tell him how much I hate him, and how anxious I get about relationships, tell him about the shitty decisions I’ve made in partners and my life because of the fear he planted in me since then. How do I go about this? How do I overcome these feelings? At thirty something these feelings are wearing on me like never before. I keep seeing him in my head over and over, I can’t concentrate on anything else and am scared to even attempt serious relationships. Help please. My question first and foremost is how do I confront my father? Should I confront my father?
posted by Whatifyoufly to Human Relations (28 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
I don't know how to approach him with this issue without being disrespectful

Wtf? Why would you want to be respectful?

The man tried to incest-rape you. He's done nothing to indicate remorse, much less atonement. Try this: "Dad, I have been living with the memory of how you tried to rape me for years now. This is long overdue, but I'm finally old enough and big enough and clear enough to say it: I regret letting you back into my life. You sicken me. Do not contact me or my child again."
posted by fingersandtoes at 3:37 PM on July 20, 2017 [79 favorites]


I want to confront my dad and call him out on his BS and tell him how much I hate him, and how anxious I get about relationships, tell him about the shitty decisions I’ve made in partners and my life because of the fear he planted in me since then.

Not only is this a huge emotional minefield, what's unspoken here is what you expect or imagine his response to be. Validation, confirmation, apology are just as likely as denial, casting you as a liar or worse, and rejection. I beg you to please, please explore all of this with the support of a therapist before confronting your father.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:43 PM on July 20, 2017 [102 favorites]


I guess I am wondering why you want to confront your dad versus just cutting off contact -- and obviously making sure he is never around your child. If you really want to do it, I would ask yourself what you're hoping to get out of the interaction. Making him apologize or feel bad or what? Because unfortunately I think the chances of that happening are very low -- probably most likely is he's going to gaslight you and pretend it never happened or you misinterpreted something. I mean, the man is a child molester/attempted child rapist, assuming he is a normal person who would have normal person-reactions of remorse, apology, etc. seems unrealistic and just setting you up for serious disappointment.

I would look into therapy -- there are sliding scale options out there -- to work through some of these issues on your own. That won't be easy, but at least you are in more control of the process and there's more of a realistic chance of this working out versus expecting your dad to be someone he obviously isn't. I would think one goal of therapy would be working toward cutting off all contact with your father, if that's what you want.
posted by rainbowbrite at 3:47 PM on July 20, 2017 [7 favorites]


Stop speaking to him. If you need to confront him before never ever speaking to this criminal ever again, fine. Get a therapist to help you do this. Contact RAINN or other support professionals.

You are wonderful, you will INSTANTLY feel better when you stop talking to this person. Show yourself and your child how much you matter by seeking help and cutting this person from your life forever.

Put yourself first. You can do this.

- Hey. A note here about wanting to confront this person that hurt you... Let your anger fuel your first steps in seeking help, but understand at some point you will have to let go of the shear unmitigated hate towards this man and his actions. You know that phrase about taking poison yourself and hoping it kills the other guy? This is in play. You have to feel these emotions and honor your truth. When you take steps, you will begin to heal. This is an overview, others will provide specific resources, I will say that nothing gets you unstuck until you stop interacting with this person. It's as easy as blocking him everywhere and never speaking or acknowledging him ever again. Grieve this thing like he's died, because the relationship died when you were a teen with the first violation. I'm sorry for what's happened and I wish all the strength you need is available to you going forward.
posted by jbenben at 3:55 PM on July 20, 2017 [9 favorites]


First, please try to breathe and feel your toes. It's such a hard situation and I know that sounds dumb, but the repetitive thinking sounds very much like adrenaline.

Second, protect your child. You probably are but if not - no contact with your father. I recommend this overall.

Third, you can always confront your father at any time, but you cannot UN-confront him. So I would slow down and take a little bit of time with this decision. What you are describing to me is very very familiar and I was involved in a family confrontation of my abuser (it was also crazy on the part of my family and I was not given a choice) and he admitted to a bunch of things and sort of apologized it did not help me, not because confrontation never helps -- it might -- but because it was the wrong time. It messed me up on top of being messed up.

It was the wrong time because I needed therapy first. As most people would.

I strongly recommend therapy first.

You do not have to live with the intrusive thoughts and the fear that this will mess you up forever, you really don't, but you will find it much easier to get there quickly with solid professional help. Women's centres or crisis lines in your area may be able to help you access help.
posted by warriorqueen at 3:57 PM on July 20, 2017 [10 favorites]


Confrontation, if even advisable, comes pretty far down the road in the recovery process. Because here's the thing: he already knows what he did. You will not be telling him anything new. He's not going to say "oh my god, I never realized that was wrong, I'm so glad you mentioned it!"

He's never going to say he's sorry, either.

He's either not sorry, because he's too sick to be sorry, or he's so sick he's rewritten the story for himself so that he has an excuse, which still comes down to not being sorry. If he was sorry, if he had a brain tumor or terrible illness or alien control microchip that made him do it and he didn't know it was wrong then/didn't know what he was doing and only knows it's wrong now, he'd have told you.

And even if he was sorry, even if he's surprised to learn that what he did was wrong, it doesn't undo the damage. It doesn't make you better. It doesn't fix what he broke. He is too broken to ever fix what he broke.

You are the only one who can repair or mitigate the damage to you. The only people who can help you are people who have only good intentions for you (which cannot, by definition, ever be your father), and ideally the primary ones will also have training in helping you. Those people can help you unfuck your life.

The first thing they can help you do is escape him. You're probably holding onto some semblance of a relationship just in case this day you imagine comes and he takes it all back and makes it go away. That's not going to happen, so there's no need to continue with the relationship. Because: He contacted me when my child was born and

No. No no no no. No. Do not ever allow him in the vicinity of your child, not for a second of his life. You know why. End this relationship. Get help. The confrontations you need to have do not require his presence or knowledge.
posted by Lyn Never at 4:30 PM on July 20, 2017 [106 favorites]


Please seek counseling before you attempt this. It is not going to go the way you (secretly) hope it goes. Therapy is going to help you SO much when it comes to actually processing all of this disappointment, pain and rage. I speak from experience - my mother's second husband did everything you describe and more and I benefitted immensely from talking with a professional. Am I 'fixed'? oh, hell no. Probably won't ever be, but I no longer feel that all-consuming rage.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 4:30 PM on July 20, 2017 [6 favorites]


Listen to Lyn Never- she speaks Truth.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 4:34 PM on July 20, 2017 [5 favorites]


You know how AskMe's standard answer is "therapy"? In this case I think it would be super helpful for you to work through this with a therapist. You could work on both just your feelings of betrayal and mistrust, but you could also work through a script and a plan for how to carry out this confrontation, if that's the way you decide to go. Most importantly you can work on a plan for self-care after the confrontation, especially if your father has the typical response, which is total denial and accusations toward you of lies, defamation, and/or that you encouraged his behavior.

I'm so sorry that this happened to you and that it's still causing you pain. I wish you peace and closure.
posted by vignettist at 4:48 PM on July 20, 2017


"He's either not sorry, because he's too sick to be sorry, or he's so sick he's rewritten the story for himself so that he has an excuse, which still comes down to not being sorry. If he was sorry, if he had a brain tumor or terrible illness or alien control microchip that made him do it and he didn't know it was wrong then/didn't know what he was doing and only knows it's wrong now, he'd have told you."

Or he's the Worst Person in the World, and Feels Terrible, and Only a Monster Would Not Forgive Him, and Frankly It's a Little Odd You Haven't Already Done So.

None of these outcomes will make you feel any better, OP.

If talking to him at all makes you crazy--and why wouldn't it, since you're effectively having to pretend that there is something normal about your relationship with a person who raped you repeatedly as a child???--you can stop altogether. The Internet hereby grants you permission to cut him off, if that's what you want. And then go see a therapist. You need someone to help you unpack all that's happened. You're never going to move past what happened if your only way of processing it is to keep talking to him like everything's normal.
posted by praemunire at 5:14 PM on July 20, 2017 [6 favorites]


Another vote for Lyn Never's excellent comment. Best, best, best to you.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 5:14 PM on July 20, 2017 [4 favorites]


The hell with being 'respectful' to him! Who CARES if the child molester gets his little feelings hurt?!?

I'm sorry to say that confronting him will almost certainly not do any good: he's far more likely to gaslight you and say that either nothing like that ever happened (it's all a figment of the crazy girl's imagination) or else if it DID happen it was something you tried forcing on him --- he's never going to admit he was less than perfect.

Pretty much the best thing for you is therapy, plus cutting him totally out of your life forever. But if you do decide to keep in contact with this animal. Please, PLEASE, never ever leave him alone with your child.
posted by easily confused at 5:31 PM on July 20, 2017 [1 favorite]


One other thing, as an addendum to my comment, is that it can be incredibly dangerous to confront a pedophile, especially one so bold as to continue to have a relationship with his victim, assuming they are ensuring their safety by continuing to manipulate and control you.

You really have no way of knowing what's going on under the surface, and people who abruptly have their delusions challenged or who are afraid of repercussions for their actions can hurt or kill to preserve their status quo. And it's not just you who might be in danger; he could choose other victims in order to punish or silence you.

You really need the guidance of a professional before deciding to do this.
posted by Lyn Never at 5:56 PM on July 20, 2017 [26 favorites]


Nope. It doesn't help. In fact, you may hear something that will add an extra layer of trauma as he tries to make excuses for himself. Exactly as Lyn Never says, and if he knew it was wrong or was capable of seeing anyone but himself as the victim, you would have heard long before now and he would not have contacted you without saying he was sorry and knew that for what he did he deserved to be cut out of your life. Instead, find a therapist to express your anger to, to say what is left unsaid to him in a safe setting miles away from him without engaging with him at all. This is much safer, better in terms of processing feelings and does not give him the opportunity to hurt you again, and believe me, that is a real possibility if you take the risk of confronting him, you may hear something terribly hurtful on top of everything else and it's a false assumption to think you can be invulnerable to anything he might say.

Also please get all the help you can with undoing as much of the damage as possible in your life and your current relationship. Cut off contact with him altogether or as much as you can for your own health and well-being, and do keep him away from your child.
posted by Flitcraft at 6:04 PM on July 20, 2017 [7 favorites]


I highly recommend Kathryn Harris' memoir of paternal incest Kiss, which had many painfully similar echoes to your story.

As with everyone above, go no contact and talk with a therapist. You have enormous trauma and wish it to be healed, but the secondary loss of incest is that you are in a way forced to orphan yourself to survive and then have to grieve that loss as well.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 6:38 PM on July 20, 2017 [3 favorites]


What result would you want from this confrontation? If it's just to speak the truth and then sever all ties with him, you could accomplish that. But you're going to fail if you're looking for a sincere apology, an admission of wrongdoing, or any understanding of your feelings. He's shown time and again that your feelings mean nothing to him. He has no respect for you as a person.

If you really need to let him know how his vile actions have affected you, write it down. Write everything you're feeling, without calling any names. Just talk about the things you've experienced and how they've made you feel. And then put it away. Look at it in a few weeks and change or add anything you want. Consider not sending it to him. Wait a while longer. If you do send it, it'll be more effective than saying it all to him out loud, because you won't be trying to express yourself while you're anxious, furious, and in pain.

There's no reason at all in favor of continuing to communicate with him. If he apologizes, it will be a lie.

As for being respectful -- I think you can be most effective if your words are calm and factual, and if you firmly and directly say that you no longer wish to hear from him. Don't do this out of respect for him, but out of respect for yourself.
posted by wryly at 6:45 PM on July 20, 2017 [2 favorites]


I, too, have an abusive father and let me tell you that nothing was gained by confronting him and explaining the impact and damage that his abuse/abandonment/lifestyle had on me. It went from denial all the way to victim-blaming, and beyond. It was utterly traumatic and in a way worse than the abuse itself.

I tell you that not to scare you away from doing this if you really want to, but to acknowledge that I was totally unprepared for this outcome. I really thought if I just explained to him how wrong it had all been, that he'd see the error in his ways and apologise and we'd move forward in this new, healthy, honest way. That is totally not what happened. I wasn't ready for what actually happened.

Are you ready for whatever might come out of this? Because if not, I advise you to at least hold off until you are.
posted by sm1tten at 8:19 PM on July 20, 2017 [19 favorites]


You're so vulnerable right now. I don't think it makes sense to open up to him. He won't say the right thing. That's why people are recommending therapy first, so that you can be prepared and have someone on your side, so that what happens doesn't hurt or destabilise you. I'm so sorry you're having to deal with this!
posted by salvia at 9:42 PM on July 20, 2017 [3 favorites]


I recently had a confrontation of sorts with a family member about a similar thing. The response was anger at me, saying I was ridiculous, confused, was using the "repressed memory" concept to manipulate, oblique threats about sabotaging my career, and complete and utter denial, along with a fair share of attempts to turn the conversation back to himself and HIS thoughts about the situation. I didn't expect much else, but it still deeply hurt me, and was in itself traumatizing. Please, please seek support for yourself from a qualified therapist who has experience working with folks who have experienced sexual abuse. You sound like you are having some very intrusive thoughts/memories. A therapist can support you in building skills to manage thoughts about trauma. You can seek out community MH in your area, or find a therapist that takes your insurance on the Psychology Today database, which will even tell you their specialty areas.

I cut that person out of my life, and its been about a year. I feel so, so much better and healthier and happier without that ghost feeding on me. Be well.
posted by fairlynearlyready at 9:57 PM on July 20, 2017 [6 favorites]


I can only speak from my own experience. You MUST talk with someone, just starting with part of what happened. (It's like being nauseated: you resist and resist, but actually do feel better after you throw up.)

Although everyone says Therapist,Therapist my experience is good luck, but don't expect too much. A number of people become therapists because they need help for themselves, and incest is so disturbing, a lot of therapists want to help you push the crap down rather than work through it -- my experience anyway.

One person you need to talk to is the guy you want to be with the rest of your life. Because if you do spend your lives together, what happened is always going to be with you, and will come out at odd times. He's not your therapist, he is simply listening and hearing what happened to you, and being on your side. If you have a good friend, that person can also listen and hear.

What you can hold on to is this: IT IS NOT GOING TO HAPPEN AGAIN. NOT TO YOU, NOT TO A CHILD OF YOURS. You made bad decisions about men because of what happened to you -- but you're starting to understand that those decisions were consequences of what happened, and that's the beginning of real change. Don't talk to your father about the past. It cannot help you, and that's the only thing that counts.

Having been molested by someone you adored does not really go away. At least in my case, it didn't make me stronger. But over the years (73, molested by my Dad from 8 to 15 years old), thinking about it -- and feeling about it -- has made me a more compassionate person, for myself and for other people.

BUT NOT FOR MEN WHO DAMAGE LITTLE GIRLS TO SATISFY THEIR OWN NEEDS. NO. Keep away from him as much as you can. Your rage is part of your healing. Directing it directly to him will not help.

I wish you good luck, and much love in your life.
posted by kestralwing at 10:46 PM on July 20, 2017 [6 favorites]


Just cut him out.

He got in touch when you had a child. How convenient. For a child molester.

If you confront him he may deny it ever happened. He may tell you the 50 reasons he knew that was what YOU wanted. He may say how terribly sorry he is that he couldn't help himself because you are sooo attractive. You think you are messed up by it now, I promise he can make it worse.

Protect yourself and your child. Cut him out. It might feel disrespectful. Imagine how disrespectful trying to have sex with your own child must be and know that he did it anyway and does not deserve your respect. You will feel better if you do. You are having to carry all the hurt all the sadness all the rage about this. Put it down. As said above grieve him like he's dead.

It's ok to send a short note to explain yourself (Dear dad i remember very clearly when you molested me and attempted to rape me. I feel physically sickened by you. You are dead to me. Never contact me again.) but telling him how much he messed you up isn't going to lead to anything good. He didn't accidentally attempt to rape his child. If he was worried about messing you up he'd never have done it. He saw your desperate child's need to be loved by their parent and twisted it. He's not good deep down. So please don't hope for him to fix it.

And even if he desperately wanted to fix it he couldn't. The work it takes to heal is your work. You should find a good therapist to work through it with. It can get so much better. It might never fully go. I was abused by a close male relative from 5-12, and I'm 36 now. I never see him and I barely ever think of it. I have a wonderful husband and a nice life. I have peace with myself and the world and you can too. Much love to you.
posted by intergalacticvelvet at 1:35 AM on July 21, 2017 [13 favorites]


Yeah, confronting him is not the way to go. You used the word respectfully, by which I think you mean, in a way that won't turn the confrontation into a train wreck. That will take quite a lot of preparation. So don't plan on talking to him until he has seen the right therapist for quite awhile.

I think you need to think about this in a lot of new ways before you will be ready to heal. I am going to offer one. Your dad was probably once a good person. It was a long, long, long time ago. It was before you were born. By the time you were born enough stuff had happened to him that he was no longer capable of being a good person. That's why he was a deadbeat dad, and why you were starved for affection and worshiped the symbol of him. The symbol you worshiped was real - but it was created by the void he left, and what you were worshiping was really yourself, your own loveablity and worth, your DNA in him, that you had got from him, that you could see reflected in him. You loved him because he carried your genes. You didn't know that he was broken. You loved him because YOU were so lovable. That love you had for him? It was really, really real. Strong, BIG. It was your worth. Thats what made you so vulnerable. How valuable you were.
posted by Jane the Brown at 4:34 AM on July 21, 2017 [6 favorites]


Lyn Never is very right. Find a therapist, don't do your father the favor of letting him in your life, keep him away from your child.

In the meantime, as you work on those, if you're feeling rage and anger that just won't leave you alone, here are a couple of things you can try to give yourself a little relief.
- Write letters to your father that you're not going to send. Get all your anger onto the page. You can write a hundred of them, if you like, and you can shred or even burn each one when you're done with it.
- Do some hard physical exercise, to the point that it tires you out. Go for a fast run (or even walk) up a big hill, or go hit the punching bag at the gym, or whatever activity you prefer, at whatever difficulty level suits you. Do it until you're tired (just don't go so hard you hurt yourself). In my experience, it provides immediate relief like no other.
posted by ourobouros at 5:03 AM on July 21, 2017 [1 favorite]


Lyn Never is absolutely right. Testifying. Therapy for you, now. The person who wrecked your life has no right to see your kid, and your kid deserves so much better from the choices you make about who to include in their lives. As do YOU. You owe this guy NOTHING, and you are entitled to live a life he's not a part of. You, and your child, don't have to have this toxic person in your lives.
posted by Nancy_LockIsLit_Palmer at 6:59 AM on July 21, 2017


Listen to Lyn Never and do what she says.

The best revenge is having a good life and moving on from this trauma in whatever ways you can, and in making sure your kid grows up safe, which means you need to cut contact immediately and never let this asshole near your child.
posted by bile and syntax at 8:02 AM on July 21, 2017 [1 favorite]


I was abused as a child. You, strong person who is asking for help - you are not broken, and you can get through this. The weight of your trauma may feel overwhelming, but with patience, you can heal and dispense with coping mechanisms that no longer serve you. It will be a lot of work, but you 1000% deserve it.
posted by toastedcheese at 10:24 AM on July 21, 2017 [3 favorites]


When you write that you totally adored your dad when you were a little girl, and then go on to describe how he sexually abused you, it makes me worried that you are blaming yourself for what happened because of this framework of "deeply loving / adoring" your dad when you were really small- which are totally normal feelings for little kids to have. But no matter how you felt about your dad when you were a kid- whether you loved him or hated him or felt neutral- what happened was in no way your fault AT ALL WHATSOEVER. And nothing you felt or did had any bearing on your dad's behavior.

I am really sorry about this. You are an incredible person. It will take a lot of work- but you will heal. PM if you'd like; survivor as well.

“When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.”- Audre Lorde

"Freedom is what we do with what's been done to us."- Sarte
posted by erattacorrige at 11:56 AM on July 21, 2017 [4 favorites]


Thanks everyone for your advice and support...!
posted by Whatifyoufly at 3:19 AM on July 22, 2017 [2 favorites]


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