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Archive for December 13th, 2007

Winding Plant (c) Lynda Bernhardt

Dealing with your mother in adulthood after mother-daughter sexual abuse is understandably complicated. There is the issue of whether to confront your mother or maintain contact with her. If you cut off contact, you are bombarded with criticism from people who believe that a mother could not possibly have done something so bad to deserve being cut out of your life. You also face how to keep your children safe so that the abuse does not affect another generation. Many people are not supportive of depriving a grandmother of contact with her grandchildren.

Every person has an innate need for a mother. Survivors of mother-daughter sexual abuse are no exception. After experiencing this form of abuse, the survivor is left with not only many issues to heal but also a lifetime of unmet needs. The need to bond with your mother does not just go away with the passage of time. The unfulfilled need leaves a void that survivors try to fill in other ways.

Many survivors of this form of abuse turn to negative coping tools, such as self-injury, to cope with the pain. The most drastic forms of self-injury I have heard about were self-inflicted by survivors of mother-daughter sexual abuse. I know one woman who routinely broke her own bones to manage her emotional pain. Because the pain from mother-daughter sexual abuse runs so deep, it makes sense that the coping mechanisms used to manage it would be more extreme as well.

Some survivors of mother-daughter sexual abuse stay dependent upon their mothers into adulthood. While they hate their mothers and want to get away from them, they also do not know how to survive in the world on their own. Their mothers have emotionally crippled them, and it takes a great deal of courage to break away.

Despite these challenges, it is possible to heal the pain from mother-daughter sexual abuse. It takes a lot of time and hard work, but it can be done. Your past does not have to define your future.

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Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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