I saw a movie last week, called Girl In the Basement, about a girl, named Sara, whose father, Don, locked her in a secret basement in their house when she turned 18. She hated her father because he was a control freak, and because he’d been molesting her for years, since she was eleven, so she was planning on running away after her eighteenth birthday. He kept her there, hidden from the world, for 24 years. He made her his sex slave, and she gave birth to seven of his children during the time she was held captive in his cellar.
The first two children, Marie and Michael, lived with Sara in the basement. Next came a daughter named Lisa, and then twin boys, Alex, and one who died three days after they were born, followed by two daughters. Lisa, the remaining twin and both of the last two daughters were taken upstairs by the father to be raised by Sara’s mother, Irene, as purported foster children. Don had taken steps to have he and his wife certified as foster parents, and when Sara’s four children “appeared” on the front porch, with notes saying Sara couldn’t take care of them, Don and Irene were able to take them in easily and raise them. In reality Don had forced Sara to write a note for each child, saying that she couldn’t keep him or her where she was in Florida.
That had been Don’s lie all along, that Sara had run away to join a religious cult in Florida, and he had forced her to write various notes and letters periodically to perpetuate the deception.
As I watched this movie, I became more and more enraged at Don. Right from the start after he’d locked her in the basement, he made her call him Don instead of Dad, and the sexual abuse started immediately after she was imprisoned there. Also, if she did something he didn’t like, he would beat her in addition to raping her, all of which belied the way he treated Irene and Sara’s sister, Amy.
In reality, the story of Girl In the Basement was based on a real-life family drama that played out in Austria, and began in August of 1984, when Josef Fritzl lured his daughter, Elisabeth down to the basement of their house by telling her that he needed her help carrying a door downstairs. Once down there he locked her in the basement, and kept her there until she managed to escape in April of 2008 through a series of circumstances, after her oldest daughter, Kersten, became seriously ill, and Elisabeth convinced Josef to take her to the hospital.
Once Elisabeth and her children were freed from their captivity, they had a lifetime of rape, abuse, and consequent PTSD to overcome. And for Elisabeth, one of the most difficult things for her to deal with was the idea that her mother, Rosemarie, did little to nothing to try and find her once she’d gone missing back in 1984. She blindly believed whatever ridiculous tale Josef told her about where Elisabeth was, even though the police said that Josef’s stories were not plausible. It seemed like Rosemarie was willing to abandon Elisabeth to Josef’s devices. But why? Maybe it was so she, Rosemarie, wouldn’t have to subject herself to his abuse, though in Girl In the Basement, the father kept his life and abuse of his daughter separate from his life with his wife and family upstairs.
The reason this story means so much to me is because I identify heavily with Sara/Elisabeth. I felt compelled to watch the movie over and over again, and I couldn’t stop. I kept yelling at the TV, shouting at Don about what a jerk and terrible person he was. But more than anything, I was angry for Sara about her mother, how she could have been much more proactive in searching for her. Why did she just accept on blind faith everything Don had told her about where Sara had gone? A lot of what he’d said wasn’t even plausible, yet she just took it at face value without questioning him.
It reminded me so much of the way my mother did nothing to help me throughout my childhood. She’d just left me to Harry’s evil devices. And there were plenty of signs that bad things were happening. For instance, I found a doctor’s report from when I was about four or five years old that said I had a rash around my mouth ~ and my mother did nothing about it. She didn’t question why it was there or what could be causing it.
I wrote a post back in January of 2020, called The Monster Is Dead. It was about Harry dying, and I wrote it the day after my cousin called me to tell me he’d died. And just so you know, my mother was the Monster’s wife.
I can tell you what was causing it. Harry was forcing me to have oral sex with him! That’s what was causing it!!
And after I’d begun to have memories of being abused, I told my mother that I was having sexual abuse memories. Her response was, “Well, I thought he was abusing you physically. If I’d known it was sexual abuse the divorce would have happened a lot sooner.”
When she said that anger just boiled up inside me. Children are killed all the time from being physically abused!! All I could think of was that she was making excuses for allowing Harry to do whatever he wanted to do to me!! It also told me that she knew something was going on and did nothing to stop it. I was just steaming I was so angry!! All those years!! All those years when she did nothing to protect me!! She just let it happen!! I asked her how she knew Harry was abusing me physically, and she said she saw bruises on me. So she KNEW!! She KNEW!! How could she not have tried to stop him!!??
And later when I told her that she’d said that to me, her response was, “I didn’t say that. I never said that!” Her denial was like a slap in the face, because she did say it. She did!!
After all is said and done, I know that I have to forgive her. Because I can’t go back and change the way things went. I can’t change anything about it. Even God can’t change what’s already happened. It’s done and over with.
I’ve already forgiven my mother for so many things, but right now, I’m feeling kind of… kind of stubborn. It just hurts too much. When I look at what she could have done but didn’t, I just want to scream. SCREAM!! So I don’t want to forgive her.
I think this is the first time I’ve ever considered the ramifications of what she could have done but didn’t. It was obvious to me that she was more interested in protecting herself than she was in helping me, which was kind of the story of my life. People have always been more interested in protecting themselves than they were in protecting me. I’ve never mattered that much to anyone.
I’m so grateful to know that I matter that much to God! Jesus died on the Cross to save my soul, and God expended a huge amount of energy keeping me alive and protecting me from the worst of the abuse from the time I was born onward, and that includes all the times I tried to end my own life.
So even though I don’t feel like forgiving my mother, I’m going to do it anyway, because God forgave me, and He commands me to forgive others. So because He forgave me, I can do no less.
I forgive you, Mom! I forgive you!
For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment. ~ James 2:13, ESV.
I love that verse, and I especially love it in the New Living Translation,
There will be no mercy for those who have not shown mercy to others. But if you have been merciful, God will be merciful when he judges you. ~ James 2:13, NLT.
This is a big reason why I know I have to forgive my mother, aside from all the places in Scripture that tell me that if I don’t forgive her, then God won’t forgive me.
“If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins. ~ Matthew 6:14-15, NLT.
I don’t ever want to be in the position where God can’t forgive me because I’ve been holding unforgiveness against someone! I’ve done that before, and it didn’t do anything to the other person. All that happened was it made me physically ill. So don’t do it, people!! It’s a really BAD IDEA!!