When #MeToo & Mom comes home.
What happens when a mother does not protect her daughter from sexual abuse?
What about when she doesn’t believe her daughter when she tells her she has been sexually abused?
Her daughter feels a deep level of betrayal she may not even fully get over. This is a horrible phenomenon and a shadow side of mothering failure. The original trauma of being sexually abused or assaulted is horrible enough, but when your mother doesn’t believe you or protect you, you suffer a secondary trauma.
Here are some of my thoughts stemming from over 30 years of counseling women in psychotherapy in the transcript of a recent video.
Good morning, it’s Katherine Fabrizio with help for the adult daughter of the narcissistic or otherwise difficult mother trapped in the role of the good daughter. So many women remain silent and never reveal that they were sexually abused or assaulted in the first place.
You know, this morning I was thinking about, with all the sexual assault and sexual abuse allegations in the news, what I see so much in my practice is the primary trauma of the original sexual assault or sexual abuse is horrific and terrible enough and many women keep these incidents secret and carry them to their grave because they feel guilty.
Why do so many women remain silent? They blame themselves if they were in, in a position… say they were in a place where they feel like they shouldn’t have been or they were dressed in a way that they feel like they shouldn’t have been or they were drinking or on and on and on and on- they put the blame on themselves. So many women in this good daughter role are trained to please other people and be good, which many times involves not being sexual.
Lack of reporting sexual assault/abuse cuts right to the heart of the conflict women feel about their sexuality. So many women feel ashamed about their sexuality at its core and mom doesn’t help. Mixed messages mothers give to daughters abound. Mom is conflicted and therefore she passes these messages down to her daughter. “Look good but not too good.”
What happens when women speak up and mom doesn’t protect them? Many women don’t speak up, but if they do and when they do … tell their mothers or the other women in their life and they’re not believed or they might be believed, but the mom says, and I’m going to quote from a comment I got from an article I wrote this week, ” I’ve got two kids to raise and, you know, I’m sorry your stepfather’s doing that to you, but there’s really nothing I can do. This is killing me. You’re making me choose between you.”
“Oh, my God.” From that particular client who sent in the comment this week, she, in particular, has lived with this her whole adult life and stayed close to a mother who never stood up for her and protected her.
Now I think it’s very complicated because women haven’t had the economic power that men have had. Some may, quote-unquote need to stay in that relationship. I think it’s very complicated, but what I want to speak to is what it does to the daughters who dare to speak up. I see this so many times… that they dare to speak up and are not believed or are not protected by their moms.
What message does it send when mothers don’t believe or don’t protect their own daughters? It damages daughters forever. They don’t and can’t trust ever again in quite the same way. I mean, what are they supposed to do with that? It sets them up for a lifetime of incredible internal conflict.
How are they supposed to go forward? How are they supposed to look at men and, and decide, you know, what you do for a man and what you don’t do for man? When do you sell your soul?
What kind of Faustian bargain have you entered into? Many times it’s a mother who they’re taking care of or they’re looking to for identity and role modeling. When this person becomes mute or overlooks it or it’s, it’s just incredibly life damaging and has to stop!
What can women do instead? Yes, people should be allowed due process and all that, but when your daughter speaks up or your best friend speaks up, or women that you work with speaks up, you can take her seriously. You can become curious. You can ask caring, inquisitive questions that don’t imply a “what did you do? You know, what was your part in it”. Don’t imply that because a person was drinking or wore a certain outfit or, went on a date that gives the man permission to force himself on her. Or if it’s at work, and somebody’s in a higher position, they can say anything they want to somebody in a lower position.
What Sexual assault and abuse is, and is not about;
1. It’s about power. It’s not about sexuality.
2. It’s not about being good.
3. It’s not about being pretty.
4. It’s not about being feminine.
What to do instead – Believe your daughter. Ask her thoughtful questions & empathize.Don’t make your daughter feel like she’s alone or to blame, whatever you do.
As mothers and daughters let’s nip this in the bud. At least put a stop to the mother/daughter component of it. Time’s up. The time is now for mothers to stand up to, believe, and protect their daughters.
Find out if you are suffering from the “good daughter” syndrome here.
If you or someone you love needs immediate help please go here to learn more https://www.rainn.org/
Here are tweets for you to speak your truth.The original trauma of being sexually abused or assaulted is horrible enough, but when your mother doesn't believe you or protect you, you suffer a secondary trauma. Click To Tweet So many women remain silent and never reveal that they were sexually abused or assaulted in the first place. This only compounds the shame that they feel. Click To Tweet Lack of reporting sexual assault/abuse cuts right to the heart of the conflict women feel about their sexuality. Click To Tweet #MeToo & Mom -When Mom Doesn’t Believe, Validate or Protect Her Daughter When She Has Been Sexually Assaulted/Abused Click To Tweet What message does it send when mothers don't believe or protect their daughters when they speak up about sexual abuse or assault? Click To Tweet
Find out if you are trapped in the Good Daughter Syndrome- go here.
This article was originally published by https://psychcentral.com/
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I just came forward saying that my stepfather drugged and sexually abused me. My mother decided not to believe me. The secondary trauma is almost worse. Thank you for publishing this because now I know it’s not just me that has gone through this. From undergoing therapy I now understand that her response is in part from Narcissism. My message to other people going through this (i’m 26 myself). Don’t give up on yourself. I would NOT say that one is “damaged forever,” but the relationship for me with my mother certainly is. Also read up a bit on Narcissistic Personality Disorder and it may be helpful <3
I am honored you would tell your story on my site. I appreciate your honesty and know others will benefit from your account.
Take care and may you continue to heal.
I told my mother that my stepfather abused me in sixth grade, and my older sister in her either grade year. I had just found out that he kissed her (a 15 y/o) before school one morning saying my mom wasn’t enough for him. This is the third time I have brought it to her attention and she called me and my sister bitches for trying to ruin her marriage. He has sexually, physically and constantly emotionally abused us. I am 14 and I have no control. I told my grandma on my birthday (that I happen to share with him. Haven’t had a cake in years). She got people on the investigation. Since they showed up once my mom and her husband have been kissing my butt trying to keep me quiet with a bunny, Guinea pig, and a puppy. People are coming Thursday. I may be taken. It’s been so stressful, he just made us move from a school I went to for 9 years and then kissed my underage sister again. She just moved out to live with her father. I haven’t seen her in two months and they are trying to delete her from our lives. It’s been four years of this. I want to feel safe again. I failing my classes and I have no classes no control. I can only cry.
Oh this is heartbreaking. Your grandmother sounds like an important ally. Tell the truth and continue to heal.
I was stalked & raped by an ex-boyfriend in college. I waited a year to report it after going to counseling because my counselor thought it would empower me. It didn’t. Instead my ex-boyfriend’s mother called me a liar and she contacted my mother. My mother called me to confront me because she was so embarrassed I would report this lie. We got into a screaming match over the phone and I told her it did happen. Long story short, she finally believed me and said “Well, these things happen. Make sure you don’t tell your Dad or he’ll kill him.” I was ordered to keep quiet and suffer in silence.
Then my ex-boyfriend’s mom contacted my mother to sell their family home & instead of saying no, she agreed because it would be a good commission if she sold it. My mother constantly updated me on how the sale of the house was going. It was like nothing ever happened to me and I was worth nothing.
Then the campus police officer who had previously supported me turned his back on me after talking to my ex-boyfriend who charmed him on the phone convincing him that he was an upstanding citizen who would never do this. I remember seeing the officer after he talked to my ex & greeting him warmly with a smile and hug like on previous occasions. He didn’t smile or hug me back. His arms hung by his side.
Everyone turned against me. I was 19 years old and left college after that year. I married another ex-boyfriend from high school who had cheated on me and treated me badly when we were together. I was only 20 & I thought I was lucky someone wanted me. Plus, I really wanted to get away (he was in the military).
I finally left him after 19 years of marriage that consisted of him abusing me, my 2 daughters, & our dogs. I finally had enough abuse & thought I am worth more than this. My daughters and I and our pets didn’t deserve this! So I packed up & left. It’s been hard. My daughters feel bad for their dad even though he is now married to one of the women he cheated on me with. Me…I’m just taking one day at a time. Yes, that trauma DID affect how the rest of my life unfolded but I refuse to be a victim any longer.
Thank you for sharing your story. You have been betrayed so many times, it is staggering. I like your last line ” I refuse to be a victim any longer.” May you find the strength to find happiness despite all of these betrayals. Peace to you.
I was raised by a single mother. We had difficult times but we squeezed it all through together. Several years ago my mom met her boyfriend online and quickly fall in love with him. I was a little jealous at first but still supported her. We moved in together quickly afterwards. and he became my stepdad.
He seemed like a good guy at first and I thought we would became really good friends. However, there was always something weird about him. He always wanted hugs and cuddles from me. I told him I don’t like being too closed up with someone other than my mom. He said I am just not used to being with men. He liked touching and brushing my hair and comment on how beautiful I am. He kept wanting to give me sex lectures and told me how to get prepared so my first sex would be enjoyable.
My mom and I came from Asia and I am not used to him being so open about this. He said all North Americans are like him and I should get used to it. He would constant be naked in the house and show his junk all the time which I am totally not used to. He would also come in to the washroom directly to talk to me knowing I am either on the toilet or taking a shower.
He always insist on giving me messages. I said sure at first, then he would ask me to remove all my clothing, including my bra and panties. He would start on my leg, and then quickly move to my vagina and told me this would make me relax more. His face was perfectly calm like usual so I was not sure if he really was up to something. I stoped him and said I didn’t like that. He said I was overreacting. He said all the things he done above are perfectly normal here in North America.
One day when my mom was not at home and we were watching movies, we had couple drinks and he seemed to be quite drunk. He sat right next to me and start giving me kisses, first couple on the lips and then trying to stick his tongue into my mouth and ask me to open up and let him in. I ran away to my room and he laughed at me at my back. I was really upset about it and told my mom several days later. My mom had a conversation with my stepdad and he declined he did such things and told her that I am a liar and a drama queen. He even said that maybe I wanted such things from him so I made up this story. My mom said she cannot support me because she was not there that night. I told her about the message and everything. She said she can tell him not to do that again but I should also back off and pretend nothing happened.
Ever since that incident occurred, I cannot stand staying with him in a single room. He would still want to touch my hair or cuddle with me and I would argue with him to back off. Whenever we have a fight, he would push his body towards me to show his overpower against me. He would call me “a bitch” and said I well deserve this call. I tried to ask my mom to help me but instead she insist on asking me to back off because she doesn’t want to break up his and her relationship. I felt betrayed by her and was really hurt. I felt the only thing I can do now is move out.
Was my stepdad right about all that being normal in North America? I never had any men in my life and never had any guy friends. Am I actually overreacting? I don’t know what I should do now.
You are not overreacting. This is totally not normal in North America. What you describe is predatory and abusive. I wish you luck in getting away from this abusive man.
I was sleeping on the couch the first time my step dad did it, and the second time I was in my room. Both times he tried removing my clothing while he was naked and getting off to me. The only reason it didn’t go further was because I acted like I was waking up. I told my mom both times and she said I was lying, and if I bring it up, it results in her screaming, calling my names and treating me terrible. When your mother, the woman who should be the closest to you, doesn’t believe you, it makes everything worse. Thank you for sharing this, it’s beyond true and helpful.
Thank you for writing. What you have experienced sounds terrifying and so upsetting. I hope you are safely out of the house now. Here is an excellent resource if you are still in the situation. https://www.rainn.org/ It is called RAINN.
I, too, was sexually assaulted by my stepfather COUNTLESS times for several years. The assault came in the form of slapping my bottom almost daily, to forcibly kissing me in the mouth. I was extremely naive and didn’t realize that the slapping of my butt was sexual assault until years later. All I knew was that I didn’t like him doing it. When he forcibly kissed me, however, I immediately recognized it as sexual assault. As soon as it happened, I started crying and called my mom who was at work at the time, and told her what had happened. Without hesitating, my mom’s immediate reply to me was this: “Don’t you EVER tell anyone that!” My mom, who was supposed to be my protector, turned her back on me. Her own daughter. Her flesh and blood. That incident happened 33 years ago, and I’ve never forgotten it, nor will I ever forget it. Within the past several months, I’ve basically gone “no contact” with my mom. Doing so is my way of letting her know the hurt she has caused me by not standing up for me.
I am so sorry Tricia- I can only imagine the level of betrayal you feel. Best wishes on your continued healing journey.