Alice Miller, child abuse and mistreatment

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The crime of not giving protection
Sunday December 04, 2005

Dear Ms. Miller

Thank you for making it possible for me, at the age of 32 and only a few months before entering a Psychiatry internship, to begin understanding myself. Although I am now a medical doctor, I have suffered all my life from depression, anxiety and a deep feeling of isolation. As I now begin to realize how terrible my childhood experience was, and at the same time reading your books and articles, I find myself again in isolation. This is because your focus is on the cruelty directly inflicted by parents on their children. My story is a little different.
The basic situation I have known as a child was that of incessant mental and physical humiliation and a fear I might be killed at any moment. This has made me so insecure, that I am still very often flooded with intense fear of strangers as I walk down an innocent street. But the direct physical threat of being killed did not come from my parents. Rather, it came from my sister, 5 years older than me, and especially from my brother, 8 years older than me. My brother has treated both me and my sister sadistically, as a response to the mental cruelty which we all suffered from my mother. The problem with my parents, even worse in my view than their mental cruelty, was that they never protected me. They supposedly didn't know - or didn't care to know - that in the hands of my brother and sister I was subject to torture on a regular basis. My sister was repeatedly complaining about my brother's violence, but my parents ignored her. From this I learned at an early age that it was pointless to tell. Twice I told my parents about incidents of humiliation as a child, and twice they laughed in my face. For years I myself was laughing as I was talking about these events.
I have suffered from all forms of abuse: mental, physical, and sexual. I now realize that the mental abuse I suffered from my parents was more severe and harmful than I thought. And yet, the constant fear I was going to be killed by my siblings seems to me the most damaging of all. My tormentors were children. thus, I cannot blame them for being so full of rage. My parents' duty was to protect an 8-year-old child from being abused by a 16-year-old sadistic sibling. This they haven't done. And although I did not suffer physical abuse as "corporal punishment" from my parents, I did suffer, and am still suffering, the effects of severe physical abuse. This kind of abuse in the family, in which the parents' cruelty is INDIRECTLY inflicted upon a younger child through the rage of an older sibling, I did not find mentioned in your writings so far - although I must admit that I haven't yet read ALL of your works, and I apologize if my plea reflects my ignorance.

Sincerely,

"Norman" (pseudonym), Israel.

A.M.: Your siblings did to you what they learned from your parents whom you still protect because you are so afraid of them. My last article on this site may be helpful. But saying this I don't want to minimize your suffering that you endured from your sister and brother. It must have been terrible. Your rage, however, seems to be more free when you talk on them. It is only totally blocked when you think on your parents who still can laugh at you, when you try to complain.

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