What do I owe a parent who allowed abuse?


Sorry this is a long post, but there’s a lot of background to cover. I’ll try to be brief.

My question is this – how much contact to I owe to my father, and what is your advice in dealing with him?

Background: I started therapy a few months ago.

My parents divorced when I was 2 and my dad married his mistress, to whom he is still married (33 years). He had visitation with me on weekends. My mother was physically and psychologically abusive and I begged my dad over and over throughout my childhood to take custody of me or help me.

I won’t go into the abuse, as this post is long enough. It’s bad though, and my therapist said it was in the top 5 worst cases she heard in 30 years. My mother meets the clinical definition of a sociopath, but this post isn’t about her. I have addressed her with the abuse (by 8 page letter) and have not heard back in 4 months. Ah, peace!

I told my father about the abuse many times over the years of my childhood. He told me that he wouldn’t take custody of me. He also would tell me that it was “your job in this incarnation to learn to deal with it” and that I had chosen my parents before I was born. He would also say how we all have lessons to learn, and this was mine. He believes that whatever I did in a past life meant that I had to go through this and he wouldn’t interfere. He also told me that he had gotten away from my mother, and “she’s your problem now.”

He has been into New Age/psychic phenomenon since the 60’s. He worked as a medium (including stories of spirits taking over his body and speaking in scary voices), tarot reading, past life reading, crystal ball, and he listens to his spirit guide and gets information from him/her.

He has even said how he was given a vision of my past life while cooking. He had a feeling of his chest being crushed and then he says he fell down and spoke in Chinese. After the vision of my past life, he says that he knew it was my spiritual protector that had attacked him. It explained why I had a certain medical problem as a child. Bizzare.

He’s also a belligerent alcoholic, and has gotten much worse in the past 10-15 years.

I’m giving this info so you can help me evaluate the sanity of continuing to deal with this person.

He claims he has no memory of me EVER telling him about my mother’s abuse growing up. Which means either:
1) He’s lying and denying it so everything can go back to normal
2) The info went into the “trash” pile in his head years ago because it didn’t bother him enough to remember.

There’s more – stealing $15,000 from me. Manipulation and lies. Allowing me to go hungry (as a child) and live in poverty while he had vacations and new cars. But this post is long enough.

I’m not sure how to deal with him denying I told him about the abuse. How can I even confront someone like that who acts all innocent? Am I allowed to write him a letter and end the relationship? Am I obligated to talk to him and pretend everything is ok?

For now, I have gone “low contact” – calls on birthdays, Mother’s/Father’s Day, Christmas. I return some emails. But he’s getting more insistent that I call him and talk with him. I really really don’t want to, as it’s so hard and painful to deal with.

Again, sorry about the novel. Thanks for reading it.


Have nothing to do with him until you're ready to, if ever, and only on your own terms.


You don’t owe either one of them anything but your prayers. Do not let them continue to abuse you and take advantage of you. They are both very ill people. You can honor your parents by praying for the best for them. It does not mean you have to have any contact whatsoever with them.

Pray for him - walk away - and live your life in peace knowing you were not responsible for their poor/lack of parenting.

I’m so sorry you have had to endure such things. I hope your counseling helps you find peace. Continue to pray for strength and holiness.



[quote="Reservoir_Dog, post:2, topic:227226"]
Have nothing to do with him until you're ready to, if ever, and only on your own terms.


I agree 100%. Tell him how you feel in a letter like you are thinking about doing, then move on with your life. Holding on to him and the pain he caused and continues to cause you will be highly toxic. You need time and space to heal from all this.

Another thing to consider is the effect your dad will have on your future family, i.e. your wife and kids (assuming you don't have them already). It will be painful for them to watch you struggle with having contact with him, and if he's an acoholic he may lash out at them too. It would not be right to allow him to make your family his target.


Do you actually WANT a relationship with your father? If no, sure write a letter, spell it out, no forwarding address or phone number, and move on.

If yes, On what terms? Write those out, if he can abide, great, if not... move on.

In my opinion, a parent that knows there is abuse, is told there is abuse but ignores that. says you should endure the abuse because you chose your parents :confused:

Says loud and clear to me, he's an abuser too. He just let's someone else do it. It was his job to protect you! Plain and simple. He failed.

You owe him nothing... and should feel no guilt over going on with your life as best as you can. And should he try to reach you...

I'd say... Wow, I think your incarnation is to learn to deal with the choices and consequences you made... Good luck with that!

Stir clear of a step mom that thought that was all fine and dandy as well...

Many virtual hugs!!! and Prayers too!


There is much good advice in the above posts.

The only thing that I can say is that you "owe" them both forgiveness and your prayers. Once you can forgive and move on - remembering them in prayer, you owe nothing more.



What do you owe a parent who allowed abuse (and the other who abused me)?

I'd say continual forgiveness (as much or as little as you can produce each and every time the anger & hurt wells up to the surface) BECAUSE you owe it to yourself.

Unforgiveness toward people who have injuried you - will eat you up inside. And unfortuneately, hurting people - hurt people. Unforgiveness can create a self perpetuating cycle.

As you wrote, your father is in complete denial (which makes you more angry).

Someone once wrote that unforgiveness is the poisin you drink, hoping it will kill the person who injured you.

Years ago, I listened to the Baptist preacher Charles Stanley talk about his abusive stepfather and it might help you as well:



Wow, I am so sorry you had such an awful childhood. You should be proud of the fact that you are moving past it in a mature and healthy way.

I am estranged from my father, though not for the extreme reasons you have. I hated it when people told me I had to forgive him and let him back in my life.

Forgive him yes, and I struggle with this, but forgiveness does not mean continuing to let someone who is a bad force in your life hurt you.

Your father basically screwed up as a father and refused to help his child when they were suffering. You owe him nothing. If you want to contact him ro have a realtionship with him then make sure you set the terms of that contact. Do what is healthy and least painful for you, and don;t let anyone tell you otherwise, or make you feel guilty. You were a scared kid who needed help......the state of your relationship with him is his fault and his alone.

My dad use to pop into my life with a phone call or two during major and often stressful events (mainly because my grandma threatened him), now that she is gone.....I really don't expect to hear from him much if ever. I'm totally OK with that. I haven't needed him since I was 8, I don't now either.

Do what is best and most comfortable with you.



Wow. I don't know what to say really. What a guy.
I think you'd be better off without your parents in your life.

I have some issues with my dad (selfish, manipulative and in denial - makes me want to scream) but nothing like your case. However, I can advise you to do everything you can to let go of this anger you are feeling. If you don't it will only eat you up inside. Forgivness is an act of the will, not a feeling. So it might not feel better immediately but prayer and counselling will bear fruit with time. Just leave this poison behind you and live your life. Good things will happen.
You sound like a very brave and strong person.
God bless.


How about including them (mother and father) occasionally in your prayers, saying, "God as you bring healing into my life, I pray that you have mercy on their wretched souls". Beside praying for them, I'd say you owe them nothing and that praying for them would be your way of fulfilling the commandment "honour your parents". I wish you the best.


[quote="JRKH, post:6, topic:227226"]
There is much good advice in the above posts.

The only thing that I can say is that you "owe" them both forgiveness and your prayers. Once you can forgive and move on - remembering them in prayer, you owe nothing more.



Forgiveness might not be something that's possible immediately. That time might come.


I agree with everyone's advice - I don't think I can add anything else which would be more helpful and better for you. All I can add is that it is very important that you contact a councillor - whether that's a Priest or a professional, even if you feel you have gone through that route already. It's important to still see someone like that during the healing stage as well as the more difficult stages, you need someone you can discuss this with face-to-face on a regular basis.


Thank you all so much for your replies. I do pray for my parents daily, although I sometimes end up just saying "I'm so angry. Arrr! I'm praying for them. It's up to you, God." I just sometimes have no words and don't know what to say, but the intent is there.

The advice you have given me is very helpful. It's hard for me to see clearly how the situation is, as I've spent so many years thinking of my father as the hero (took me away from the abusive house for the weekend, never hit or yelled at me). And then I'm just filled with anger and betrayal and think he's evil. I am wary of black and white thinking like that, so I don't always trust my judgment with this issue because it's too raw.

Getting objective viewpoints and "permission" to leave these sick people is good.

Barbkw - thanks for the link, I will check it out.

Thank you all so much!


Just so you know, you might not find the solution is either fast or easy.


I’m not going to go into details, but my step father was abusing me sexually since I was 5-6 years old, until I was about 14… but people like that… you just can’t reason with. Even after all these years, he still denies any wrong doing, last we spoke with him… my brothers he abused emotionally and psychologically, as well…

I’ve found, for myself, ways to forgive him for what he did to me… even though I still suffer from PTSD, and issues with that… but… The best I could do for a long time was just follow the 5th commandment, and be the best person I could, using my step-dad to set the example of what ~not~ to do, and pray for him, hoping that God might hear my own forgiveness for my “father”, and grant him some remedy or reprieve in that way =)


There was an in-law who was under a promise of a very painful beating if he set foot in my house because of abuse of a close family member that had happened 40 years in the past. The victim took all the time she needed in order to find it possible to forgive him, which she did, on his deathbed.

Important: all the time she needed.


You asked what do you owe you father?

You owe him forgiveness, nothing else, but what does that mean?

It means that you must acknowledge all the pain and suffering his abuse and neglect has caused you. You have to understand that it was real. You did nothing to cause it and that he was very wrong to do this to you.
You can not live in a relationship with your father where he is allowed go on making excuses for the wrong he did to you. These excuses are all lies. You have a right to be hurt because what he did was horribly wrong. If you accept his lies and make excuses for him then that makes your pain and suffering unfounded because you try to make yourself believe what he did was somehow acceptable. It was not!!! If your father would believe that you are telling the truth then he has to feel repentance for the pain and abuse he caused you. He can't do this(this is where you pray for him). He wants to believe the lie,(that you are responsible for your own pain and that he did nothing wrong) so that he doesn't have to suffer the grief of true repentance .

He won't tell the truth, so you must tell the truth to yourself. I know this is hard but you must open those wounds and feel all that pain because it is what really happened. It's the truth! And when you know the truth, then you can forgive.

When you do this,it will feel different.You have to grieve for yourself, maybe for a very long time but then you will begin to feel more in control. You will begin to heal.You will know how to deal with your father. You will know when he is lying. You will know when to stay away from him even if you decide it must be on a permanent basis. You will pity him. You will *want *to pray for him instead of having to force yourself to do so. You will not need his understanding or repentance. You will be free to love him(not necessarily feeling affection but maybe kindness) and need nothing in return.

God wants us to be whole. That's why He needs us to forgive when someone tears us apart by their sinful actions.

I ,myself, have so many people in my life that I am working on forgiving, including my own parents, so I know what hard work this is but it's doable with God's help. I will pray for you, please pray for me.
God bless you.


Wholly agree. It wasn’t until very recently that I actually ~felt~ it, through all the years of trying… I’m 39 years old.


he doesnt remember the abuse – the same abuse he posits as the very purpose of your current reincarnation AND he insists you communicate with him?


good folks have said good stuff.

my blessing to you: be free, be healed, be prayerful and become even more free.


I have not read through the posts, but I thought I’d weigh in.

You have every right to cut off all ties with both parents. I think for your sanity and peace that you should work towards forgiving – by that I mean, letting it go so it doesn’t control your life. And you forgive for YOU NOT THEM!!! BUT that does not mean that you forget. You were a child and had every right to be protected from abuse. The fact that your father stood by and did nothing, in my opinion, makes him more evil. And I believe they have both torn up their parent cards.

I am so glad you’re in therapy, and I hope that you and your therapist can focus on ways to make you move past the abuse and hurt you faced as a child and find ways to “put it behind you” so you can have a fulfilling life as an adult.

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