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Archive for December 12th, 2007

Dark Skies (c) Lynda Bernhardt

All child abuse is bad. All child abuse, even just one time, breaks a child’s trust and causes issues from which the child must heal. That being said, there are healing challenges specific to mother-daughter sexual abuse that are not generally present when healing from other forms of child abuse.

Looking Like Your Abuser

A big issue for many survivors of mother-daughter sexual abuse is that daughters often physically resemble their mothers. As the abuse survivor ages, she sees her abuser looking back at her in the mirror. This phenomenon can fuel the abuse survivor’s self-loathing.

If this is an issue for you, do what you can to make changes to your physical appearance that detract from the similarities. For example, dye your hair a different color, or have it cut into a style that is very different from your mother’s hair.

Inability to Trust

While all abuse survivors struggle with issues surrounding trust, survivors of mother-daughter sexual abuse often struggle with trust issues to the nth degree. This is because the very first person with whom the child ever bonded betrayed the child.

A baby bonds with her mother while she is still in the womb. She finds comfort in her mother’s voice, and she looks to her mother to protect her after she is born. When the very first person she ever trusted shatters her trust, it is very hard to risk ever trusting another person again.

Sexual Identity Issues

Many women who were sexually abused by their mothers struggle with their sexual identity. Some are lesbians who question how much the sexual abuse factored into their sexual identity. Others struggle with gender identification, feeling more like a man than a woman. While many survivors of this form of abuse do not face these issues, a sizeable number does.

Fear of Being Believed or Supported

Because few people talk about mother-daughter sexual abuse, it is very hard for survivors of this form of abuse to talk about it with another person. It is hard for me to write about this topic on this blog, even though I have healed from the abuse. While all child abuse comes with shame, there is something even more “shameful” about suffering from this form of abuse, even when you know objectively that you were not responsible. Also, in a society that views mothers as above reproach, survivors fear being rejected for talking about their experiences.

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Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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