Friday, December 04, 2009
There is no other closeness in
human life like the closeness between a mother and her child. Chronologically, physically and
spiritually, they are just a few heartbeats away from being the same person. *
This is the darkest secret of
them all. It challenges societal expectations and myths more than any other form
of sexual abuse. It infers sex between a mother and a daughter as well as homosexuality. It is the most difficult type of abuse to identify from the
outside and the most under-reported.
We are a society in denial.
It happens much more than anyone would believe. And while it can be very subtle, most
of the time it is not subtle at all, it co-occurs with physical abuse. It challenges our notions of how you
define sexual abuse. But to the
victim, it is very clear that something terribly wrong is occurring and that there
is nowhere to turn for help.
In her seminal book, Mother-Daughter Incest, Beverly Ogilvie eloquently describes the societal
view of the mother-daughter relationship:
The mother child
bond has been called the essential human connection, one that teaches us how to
love and without which we cannot be whole human beings. A mothers love provides basic
security, stability, nurturing admiration, cuddling, holding and kissing,
caring, and acceptance. We receive
courage, sense of self, the ability to believe we have value as human beings,
and the ability to love others as well as ourselves, from the strength of our
mothers love for us when we are infants.
As our first mirror of life, mother functions as protector, guide and
A unique tie
exists between a mother and daughter in our society, which is encouraged and
supported through societal values.
A young girls identification with her mother continues throughout life,
thereby maintaining the mother-daughter relationship while establishing her
identity. As women, society
encourages us to carry our mothers with us in every breath, every decision,
every success, and every failure.
Our sense of self as a daughter is entwined with a sense of mother. We look to our mothers in terms of how
we define ourselves, in terms of what it is to be a woman and what it is to be
a daughter. In essence, there is a
shared social role, a shared prescription for life, and shared philosophy. The inevitable modeling relationship between
mother and daughter forges her image of herself as a woman, with a sense of
basic trust that her mother gave her.Ã???Ã??Ã?Â¢?Ã???Ã??Ã?Â
therefore, overstress the significance of the mother-daughter bond and how its
betrayal decimates the victim.
incest is the least understood of all types of sexual abuse. The mother-daughter relationship is
characterized by boundaries that are less clearly defined than for mothers and
sons and certainly than for fathers and daughters and fathers and sons. A mothers physical and emotional
control over her daughter is viewed tolerantly in our society; and displays of
physical intimacy and emotional acting out are so acceptable, that it makes the
identification of mother-daughter sexual abuse that much harder. But for those girls living through it,
the devastation is unequivocal.
usually are the primary caretakers and source of nurturance for their children
-and especially their daughters - mixing these functions with sexual abuse
leaves the survivor sickened, confused, full of self-loathing and with no sense
of her own identity. While boys
may have a male figure to turn to, these girls become fused with their mothers
in a dark secret that turns their world upside down. In these abusive situations the focus of the relationship is
the mothers needs, including her sexual needs, with no consideration for the
daughter as anything more than an extension of herself. The sex isnt necessarily about sex;
more often it is a generational handing down of abusive/incestuous
relationships. But contrary to
common belief that only mentally insane women are predators; just like with
men, some of the most respectable appearing women (to the outside world) are
preying on their children behind closed doors.
daughters it goes deeper than with sons.
From birth a daughter models herself after her mother, and so she may
not be allowed to discover where her mother ends and she begins. To be so enmeshed with ones perpetrator
can be annihilating. For the mother
daughter incest survivor, her core relational self, her self-structure has been
denied because there is no safe, loving other to model. Essentially, the daughter has
experienced the most extreme disconnection and violation because she has been
physically, emotionally and sexually violated by the one person in her world
who was supposed to protect, nurture and guide her. This is representative of a most severe form of
psychological trauma, and in many cases it causes disassociation, detachment
and freezing of emotions in the survivor.
daughters possess aspects of their mothers personalities, physical appearance,
or interests. Some sexually abused daughters, however, may feel that their
mothers have poisoned their potential to become healthy women. They may feel that parts of their
mothers now live within them. Just
as the daughters may come to loathe and mistrust their mothers, they come to
loathe and mistrust anything in themselves that they believe comes from their
mothers. These feelings can be
profoundly disturbing. A daughter
may feel that just as her mother was abusive to her from outside, the mother
can now be abusive and destructive from inside her as well. **
We need to bring this form of
abuse out of the shadows. It is
long overdue. We have to recognize
that a problem exists, give it a face and find an avenue for these young girls
to be able to reach out for help.
The abuse itself takes many forms - from inappropriate touching or
licking to masturbation to sodomy to enemas to pornography and/or making a
daughter perform or watch others (i.e. her mother) perform sex with a third
party. The list goes on. Dr. David Finkelhor, a noted researcher
conceived of the following criteria to define child sexual abuse: it includes traumatic sexualization,
premature and inappropriate sexual learning, betrayal, a violation of trust
and dependency through activities and events, powerlessness, coerced by force,
threats or deceit to submit to boundary violations and stigma. The secrecy
causes the child to fear blame for the adults actions.
Because this type of abuse has
been so minimized and marginalized, there is a dearth of reliable statistical
research. But when surveys have
been conducted, the results always point in the same direction. In 1996, the National Center on Child
Abuse and Neglect investigated more than two million reports alleging
maltreatment of more than three million children. More than one million of these children were identified as
victims of abuse. Of these one
million, 12% were sexually abused and of those sexually abused, mothers
constituted 25% (approx. 36,000 children) of the perpetrators of the sexually
abused victims. Furthermore, this
statistic was considered to be underestimated due to the tendency of
non-disclosure by victims.
We need to get past our
preconceived notions of motherhood and recognize the full spectrum of female
sexuality, behavior and emotions.
We need to reach out and give the young victims as well as adult
survivors of mother/daughter incest a clear voice and a way back to healing.
*Cheever as quoted by Lanese Mothers Are Like Miracles
**Rosencrans The Last Secret