How Can An Adoptee Honor Abusive Parents?

Dear friends,

There are seven million adult adoptees in the United States.

I am one of them.

Out of those seven million, how many have or are suffering abuse from their adoptive families?

I am one of them.

For years, I’ve navigated my way through what I will name the “triple bind.”


The Triple Bind for Abused Adoptees

My triple bind consists of these thoughts and circumstances:

  1. How can I tell the secrets of my adoptive home when they are the hands that feed me? And, after all, if they didn’t feed me, who would? They would probably send me away., that
  2. How can I speak to adoptive parents honestly and not be judged as an angry adoptee by them?
  3. How, as a Christ-follower, can I honor parents who were abusive to me? Will God get really ticked at me for “not giving a good report?”

Recently, through a gifted counselor, I began to realize the extent of my abuse.

I share, not to cast and bad light on my parents, but to shed light on secrets that we adoptees feel we must bear. I share to open imprisoned minds, to set the captives free. I share to shed truth on secrets long kept. I share for the good of my fellow adoptees.

Please know that I did whatever I could to be a loyal and loving daughter. I gave my parents birthday parties until their dying days. I did whatever I could to not disappoint them.

The Fishbowl of Abuse

As an innocent young woman, I didn’t know what it meant when my dad had me give lap dances to his male friends at dinner club. I didn’t know that he was deep into sexual addiction and that he was actually grooming me to be used.  The pornographic magazines that filled baskets in their bathroom, living room, and dresser drawers seemed not out of the ordinary to me growing up. I knew nothing else.

This was the fishbowl I grew up in, thinking all was what loving parents do.

Then, as a Christian, I must ask myself: How can I honor my parents? What does “honor” really mean?

My wise counselor shed a huge floodlight on this.

Honoring your parents means telling the truth about them.

Really? Really?

What if they’re dead and gone?

What does it matter, anyway?

Of course we forgive, but then we tell the truth.

I never heard this truth!

Maybe some of my fellow adoptees haven’t either?

The result of growing up in such a fishbowl?

Even at age 70, intrusive, awful thoughts, as if from nowhere.

They’re not about me….goodbye shame.

They’re rooted in my past.

This fall, I’m going to participate in a 12-Step Recovery group for those that grew up in such a toxic environment.

What You Can Do To Help

Here are some tips for recognizing sexual abuse trauma:

Rape Trauma: a common reaction to rape or sexual assault. It is a normal human reaction to an unnatural or extreme event. There are three phases to rape trauma:

  • Acute Phase: occurs immediately after the assault and usually lasts a few days to several weeks. In this phase, you can have many reactions but they typically fall into three different categories:
    • Expressed: when you are openly emotional
    • Controlled: when you appear to be without emotion, and act as if “nothing happened” and “everything is fine”
    • Shocked disbelief: when you react with a strong sense of disorientation
  • Outward Adjustment Phase: resume what appears to be your “normal” life, but inside you are still suffering from considerable turmoil. This phase has five primary coping techniques:
    • Minimization: pretending that everything is fine or convincing yourself that “it could have been worse”
    • Dramatization: you cannot stop talking about the assault and it dominates your life and identity
    • Suppression: you refuse to discuss the event and act as if it did not happen
    • Explanation: you analyze what happened, what you did and what the rapist was thinking/feeling
    • Flight: you try to escape the pain (moving, changing jobs, changing appearance, changing relationships, etc.)
  • Resolution Phase: the assault is no longer the central focus of your life. While you may recognize that you will never forget the assault, the pain and negative outcomes lessen over time. Often you will begin to accept the rape as part of your life and choose to move on.

Thanks for listening.




4 comments to How Can An Adoptee Honor Abusive Parents?

  • Thanks for sharing. You may never know, in thus world,how many persons you are helping by sharing.

  • Shefalie

    You ask the hard question because our hearts want to know and live in truth……..I believe there are times and places to share these things……..and with whom……..I had to go thru the same thing…….but nothing is wasted in Gods economy……..many ask the same questions only never speak it out……..sherrie……..just……may God keep your heart and mind for from it comes the springs of life…….whilst you are in this delicate place…….God bless you my sister……..Shefalie

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