The Secrecy of Evil (TW: abuse)
By now, everyone and their cousin has seen the video of the dad, who shot his teenage daughter’s laptop because she posted a restricted rant about her parents on Facebook. Having gone viral, thousands of people are congratulating Jordan about being a good father, while others are (justifiably) horrified. (It should be mentioned that the daughter bought the laptop, herself1.) My stomach has been in knots all day because of it. When you come from a similar situation, you can spot a dysfunctional or abusive dynamic a mile away.
Teens can be brats. Let’s get that out of the way. They don’t quite know how to express themselves, and they’re trying to expand their boundaries, so some of it can’t be helped. That having been said, it’s the adults’ responsibilities to provide good role models in how to negotiate these situations. Jordan failed utterly in this regard. All he taught her was that she has no reasonable expectation of privacy, no respect for property, no boundaries, and nobody who is supposed to be responsible for her will give a damn about her.
The daughter, Hannah, broke the cardinal rule of abusive relationships: she dared bring to light the abuse. Abusers keep power by keeping up the sheen of normalcy. They’re the parents praised as “good” parents, and the majority of abusive parents aren’t the stereotypical parents, who beat their children in the middle of Wal-Mart. The abusive parents I’m talking about are the ones you’d never expect. You see their children, and remark about how well-behaved they are. These parents are those who you see sacrifice for their kids to give them everything they need and want. So if they discipline their children, the kids must deserve it, right?
Evil needs secrets, and history is littered with stories of those who thought they were acting in the best interests of their culture and society, only to do unspeakably horrible things. I’m sure Tommy Jordan was raised thinking such things were acceptable and that he’s doing the best he can for his daughter.
At first living in such a situation isn’t so bad. You think everyone’s families are that way, so you don’t consider anything else. In a sense, you’re numb, and there’s a lot I don’t remember now. Like during “discussions,” which were my parents grilling me for hours about how horrible I was, my brain sort of clicked off. Now I understand that was a survival mechanism, as are some other things I still do. But when you’re in such a situation, you don’t recognize how screwed up your life is compared to other people, because it would make things impossible to withstand.
But little by little, you do realize how wrong the situation is, and that you have no privacy, no boundaries, no respect, and that you aren’t safe2. When you get to that situation, usually as a teen, you also discover that the people you’re taught to go to–adults–won’t protect you, or even believe you, since they’ve bought into the myth that your parents are wonderful. I don’t think I can adequately describe the hold an abuser has over the abused. If anything in this world is demonic, it’s close. I went to a teacher–my orchestra teacher–in high school when I’d finally had more than I could cope with. His response? Parents have a right to discipline their children. This, from a mandated reporter3.
The response of my former orchestra teacher is the same as the thousands of people posting in agreement on Facebook. They, like my former teacher, have been tricked into believing lies. They’re the same ones, who will discount this entire post, saying that I’m only reacting to the video the way I am because I was abused. No, it’s because I was abused that I can see through the layers of secrecy and expose the abuse for what it is.
2 My abuse was physical, mental, and emotional.
3 I investigated legal options, but it wasn’t able to be prosecuted, since the statute of limitations had expired.