I remember one particularly terrible evening after dinner when my mother was out shopping. My father was really giving it to me with that damned belt. I was screaming so loud that one of our neighbors called the police, but my father managed to convince them that everything was fine. He told the cops that the noise was coming from the TV, and they bought it. I'm standing there with tears streaming down my face and welts on my arms, but they still bought it. Why shouldn't they? My father was one of the most powerful men in the city. But at least they calmed him down. After they left, he told me he'd been under a lot of stress lately. I didn't even know what stress meant, but he really wanted me to understand what he was going through. He told me that my mother wasn't nice to him anymore. ..that she wouldn't sleep with him and it wasn't right for a wife not to sleep with her husband. That was why he was so upset all the time.
Kate's father revealed inappropriate, intimate information to a child who was too young to understand. Yet, he expected her to nurture him emotionally. This role reversal confused and bewildered Kate, but it is common among abusive parents. They want their children to give them both relief and absolution; they batter them, then they blame their behavior on someone else.
Instead of dealing directly with his marital problems, Kate's father displaced his fury and sexual frustration onto his daughters, then rationalized his violence by blaming his wife. Physical violence against children is often a reaction to stress at work, conflict with another family member or friend, or general tension over an unsatisfying life. Children are easy targets: they can't fight back, and they can be intimidated into silence. Unfortunately for both the abuser and the victim, displacing anger gives the abuser only temporary relief. The true source of his rage remains, unchanged and destined to build up again. And, sadly, the helpless target of his rage remains as well, destined to soak up that rage and carry it into adulthood.
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