This post deals with child sexual abuse and domestic violence might be triggering for some readers.
"Tell me about your family?"
It's a question asked by new work colleagues, friends of friends at casual barbeques, or while on a first date with a potential new lover in a casual, getting-to-know you, kind of way.
It's a question that comes up surprisingly often.
But for many, that question is fraught with pain, and answering it truthfully just wouldn't be appropriate in such light, frivolous settings.
Listen: Mamamia's Kee Reece talks about being estranged from her parents.
Estrangement from family members is not a reality spoken about often in public forums, by people of influence. Or by people at all. We're programmed to believe that "blood is thicker than water," and that family is forever, no matter what.
Which is why Mariah Carey's new memoir, which talks about her relationship with her "ex-brother" and "ex-sister" is so important.
In the book, released in October 2020, Carey has painted a picture of her upbringing that's clouded with fistfights, arguments and cruelty. She recounts an incident where her brother slammed her mother into a wall, and another where her sister poured hot tea down her back.
Because with family estrangement comes stories of pain, and often violence. And this is happening in households all over the world for a plethora of often complicated reasons.
Here are just four reasons, told by four women from the Mamamia community.
I was sexually abused by my father from the age of 10 to 14.
When I was 16, I decided to tell my mother and though she believed me she decided to remain in their marriage, which meant I was to remain in our household.
I have a younger sister, who was very young at the time and I felt it was my duty to remain in the family unit to protect her as there were no signs of my mother leaving which I felt put my sister at risk. During my teens and adult years, we formed a public facade, a false happy family and in many ways, we continued life as normal. I think my parents thought because abuse had stopped and I'd received counselling, that we could continue on as before.
For over 20 years I have played in different versions of our false happy family whilst continuing to distance myself but the expectations were always there to be a happy family. I now have children of my own so have estranged myself from my father. My parents live interstate so that makes things easier but larger family events always cause difficulties - I've always felt I’ve had to choose to keep quiet or give up time with my family. For years I've carried the burden of my sister not knowing the truth about our father. She has a fairly normal relationship with him and has not experienced any abuse.