The majority of child abuse and neglect cases involve a female perpetrator, most often the mother of the child. The majority of cases. That means over 50%.
Yet, what type of person is consistently portrayed as the typical child abuser? A creepy-looking male stranger.
No. Just no. Between 80% and 90% of child abuse and neglect cases involve a perpetrator that is known to the child. Most often, parents or other family members are involved.
Part of my struggle growing up, and also attempting to seek help in adulthood, was the flat out refusal to believe that females would abuse someone, let alone that a mother would abuse her own child. But they do. So often they do. And they get away with it because no one wants to believe it. But the facts are there. They’ve been there all along.
I was told I was just confused, that my mother loved me, that what she was doing was out of love and protection, that my mother seemed like a nice person so they didn’t think she was an abuser. One counselor, after learning my abuse history through hospital records and some of my own admission, handed me a book on attachment disorders and said “I think you have an attachment disorder. Read this.” In essence, I had the problem
Way back when I first started this blog, I wrote a post on mother-daughter sexual abuse: The Elephant in the Room. I will copy and paste it here as well.
As we head into Mother’s Day weekend, the majority of my posts are going to be mother-related. This is a difficult time for me, and for survivors of mother-perpetrated abuse. But we are not alone.
So, I’m going to talk about the elephant in the room. The thing that no one wants to talk about, hear about, or even think about.
Are you still with me? Good. That was just the beginning.
Female-perpetrated sexual abuse.
I know by now, some people have shaken their head in disbelief. Some have clicked the X up there in the corner with disgust. Some just said “What? No!” But it happens, way more than society chooses to recognize. Studies reveal around 20% of documented cases involve a female perpetrator, and that is only reported cases. Keep in mind, most sexual abuse incidents go unreported; underreporting is even more common when a female perpetrator is involved. And as a point, I’m not talking about those young female teachers having sex with young male students that we hear about in the media every so often. The majority of female sex offenders are NOT of that type. Are you still reading? Good. Take a breath. Here it comes.
Mother-daughter sexual abuse.
By this point, I’d be surprised to have any readers left. If you’re still reading, thank you. You have made it farther than most in our society have. Odds are you’ve never even heard of mother-daughter sexual abuse, or MDSA. Growing up, you were never taught to question your own mother touching you or doing sexual things to you. You more than likely learned about strangers touching you, and how you should tell someone you trust, like a parent.
Well, what the HELL are you supposed to do when that stranger touching you is actually your mother? No one prepares you for that possibility. No one prepares themselves for that possibility.
I’m going to tell you the harsh truth now. Mothers sexually abuse children. It’s hard to hear, difficult to stomach. Imagine how it is for someone who has lived through it. While mothers sexually abuse their own sons, the effects of sexual abuse of daughters may be the most traumatizing and psychologically damaging type of sexual abuse. To add to the indescribable pain of experiencing it, most victims suffer in silence. Society does not want to acknowledge that this type of abuse happens.
People often diminish the reality of MDSA because a mother is involved. She has no penis, so what could she have possibly done to sexually abuse her own daughter? Sexual abuse comes in many forms; it’s not just about vaginal intercourse. Mothers can force daughters into oral sex or penetration (manually or with objects), or do the same to their daughters. Mothers can engage in inappropriate bathing or dressing rituals, or use inappropriate medical excuses to disguise what is actually abuse. These are just the most common ways.
Oh, but she’s your mother. She didn’t mean it like that.
Let me tell you, there is no way what my mother did to me was right. I wasn’t allowed to bathe by myself throughout my entire childhood and into my adolescence. She would stand there and watch me. We had no shower curtain, so she could see everything. On many occasions, she insisted on washing me, even when I was more than capable of washing myself. And she’d scrub down my area as if she were scrubbing rust off of metal. What lasted for minutes, in my mind, seemed like hours. She’d always say that children didn’t know how to take care of themselves. It was humiliating. It was abuse.
Then there were the times I would wake up in the middle of the night with my pants and underwear down to my ankles. “I’m just checking on things,” she’d say. “Go back to sleep.” What the hell was she checking on? Nothing was medically wrong with me. There was no reason for her to be violating me like that. After awhile I learned to just pretend like I was sleeping. I’d go off into another place and try not to think about what was happening.
Boundaries were nonexistent. When I would change my clothes, my mother would barge right in and insist on helping me. Whenever she bought me new clothes, she wanted me to try them on in front of her. She’d make comments about my body. As I got older, she seemed to get more angry. She’d make comments about my weight, and say that no one will ever love me looking like this. The abuse never stopped, she just changed her methods.
So do you still think mother-daughter sexual abuse doesn’t happen? If those same experiences happened with my father or any male, people wouldn’t think twice before calling it sexual abuse. But for some reason, when a mother is involved, people have this tendency to downplay the sexual abuse as a mere misunderstanding.
My experiences are no misunderstanding. Neither are the experiences of the countless other victims of MDSA.
I can’t even begin to explain the effects MDSA has had on my life. It affects nearly every part of me, physically and emotionally. Talking about it helps. I want people to know what happens. I want people to feel comfortable enough to come forward with their own experiences. I want people to start talking about it. Stop denying that it happens. Stop telling everyone to love and honor their mothers no matter what. Stop glorifying motherhood. You are only adding to the pain we already feel about our reality.