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Archive for the ‘Female Abusers’ Category

On my blog entry entitled Marital Issues after Healing from Child Abuse, a reader posted the following comment:

On this taboo on female abuse, I recurringly dont know whether to cry or to rage because I find it just so violating. This whole “male violence” BS is a BIG FAT LIE!! the reality is that abuse is done by people. and people happen to be male AND female. and I would like to very much shout it out into the world. and since I would like for it to be discussed a bit further I think I will send Faith an email and ask if she would like to adress it in a future post so we might also get her thoughts on this ~ carolin4real

I agree – There is unquestioningly a bias toward male abusers and against female abusers in the United States and, I suspect, in most other Western cultures. When I reveal to someone that I was abused as a child, the assumption is always that my abuser was male. There is also a bias toward female victims and against male victims, which is why males who were abused by female abusers appear to have the fewest healing resources available to them. It’s a travesty.

Carolin4real is correct that people abuse, not just men. In fact, my most sadistic and damaging abuse was at the hands of two females. S, my most sadistic abuser, was female and, I suspect, a female psychopath. Her cruelty was much worse than the cruelty inflicted upon me by my male abusers. Most of my male abusers raped me. When they were finished with the rape, they were finished with me. S was much more interested in breaking my will, forcing me to harm innocent animals and perform sexual acts on my sister. She is the one who threatened my sister’s life if I showed any sign of hesitation in following her orders, and she is the one who instilled phobias in both my sisters and me. She was pure evil – a psychopath.

My mother’s abuse was the most damaging because she was my mother. The person who was supposed to love me and who society said was the one person I could always count on was the same person who started sexually abusing me as a toddler, tied me to a chair and forced me to watch her sexually abuse my baby sister, and who repeatedly pulled me out of my bed at night to drive me to be abused by a group of male and female abusers.

My abuse was so evenly distributed among men and women that I don’t associate “abuser” with either gender. Part of my “group abuse” was having my abusers’ identities hidden through hooded robes so that I wouldn’t know which body part I was about to have to handle. To this day, I am triggered by the inability to determine a person’s gender because of this. (Let’s just say watching Cabaret was a bad idea!)

I don’t know why society continues to perpetuate the myth that only men abuse because it is simply not true. Here are some articles on the topic:

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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On my blog entry entitled Dealing with Judgmental People/Stigma of Child Abuse, a reader posted the following comment:

Faith- did u ever love your mother? I mean wholeheartedly love her? I did mine. And then she left me to my abusers without a look back. How do I GET OVER SUCH A BETRAYAL? Can I ever love anyone again? ~ Carla

I believe that I loved my mother wholeheartedly when I was first born. Of course, I don’t really remember. I know that I loved her deeply because it took a lot of energy and many years for me to sever my emotional ties with her. Your mother is the first person you love (from the womb), and society bombards us with propaganda about mothers being the go-to person who will always love you even when the rest of the world rejects you. So, in my experience, the betrayal by a mother cuts deeper than any other betrayal that a child experiences.

In fact, there is still a tiny sliver of myself that loves her, even though I cut all personal contact with her in 2003. She sent me a letter a couple of weeks ago in which she said the following:

Each person makes choices, who they want in their lives and who they don’t. You have made your choice not to have me in your life. I respect your choice even if I don’t agree with it. I love you Faith, but I realize that you have made that decision. But I to have made a choice, and that is to let you go. Take care, Mom

Just writing those words makes me want to cry, even though this is what I have wanted for so long. My initial reaction when I read her letter a couple of weeks ago was, “Oh, no!” immediately followed by relief. I then shoved it all aside because I was sick with the vertigo and sinus infection and simply could not deal with her drama. When I have thought about the letter again, I have had neither reaction. Instead, I just see this as another ploy and wonder how long this one will last.

I think the part that still hurts, even after all this time, is her telling me that she chooses to let me go. Why not respect my choice to keep her distance instead of saying, “You have rejected me, so now I choose to reject you?” That leads to me feeling angry at her, and then I just push it all aside again until later. Yes, I know I need to deal with it at some point, but until all sickness has left my house (now the flu is working its way through my family), I am not dealing with her crap.

Once again, I have gone on too long, so I will address the second part of the question tomorrow.

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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When I went to see the movie Black Swan, I thought it was going to be a thriller set on a ballet stage. I never expected to relate so deeply to the main character, Nina (played by Natalie Portman), especially since I have absolutely no experience (or even interest) in ballet. I also did not expect to be completely freaked out by her mother (played by Barbara Hershey). The movie blindsided me and disturbed me on a very deep emotional level. I shared my reasons why here: Black Swan: Movie about Mother-Daughter Sexual Abuse.

I felt physically ill watching Nina because I saw so much of myself in her before I entered into therapy. Like Nina, I was a perfectionist. Great wasn’t good enough – I needed to be perfect in everything I tried. For me, it was being the perfect student, daughter, wife, and mother. I had to be “perfect” to be safe.

My “art” was writing instead of ballet. Earning a 94 in a college-level English class in 10th grade did not make me proud: I believed that my writing was not good enough because it was not perfect. I knew I had the mechanics down, but I believed that I had nothing to write about. I was missing my own “Black Swan” – I was completely disconnected from my passionate side. I was shocked in adulthood when my 10th grade teacher told me that I was one of the best writers she ever had as a student.

I used to appear just as frigid as Nina did in the movie. I was religious and spun it to be a positive – I was “saving myself” for my husband, so it was okay for me to be frigid. In this light, my frigidity was elevated instead of looked down upon.

I also felt the need to please my mother at all costs, as Nina did in the movie, and yet I felt an underlying hatred toward her, just as Nina appears to have. Whenever I said no to my mother (such as when Nina said no to the cake), the “no” had no force behind it, and my mother knew exactly which buttons to push to make me say “yes.” Like Nina, I did not believe I had a choice – I had to do whatever my mother said.

Like Nina, I was caught in my childhood. I still slept with my favorite stuffed animal into adulthood because it helped me feel safe. I wore bows in my hair into my thirties. (Heck, to this day, my almost-40-year-old sister still wears pigtails sometimes!), and I bought sweaters with big teddy bears on them in my twenties and thirties.

I also came off as one-dimensional as the “White Swan” Nina did in the movie. People used to tease me for being this way. Nina passes it off as making sacrifices for her art, but really there isn’t much depth there … at least on the surface. Like Nina, I had a lot brewing beneath the surface and could shock you with surprising strength, such as when she bit Thomas (played by Vincent Cassell).

When I finally tapped into my own “Black Swan” (my repressed emotions from the child abuse), I felt like I was “losing it” like Nina in the movie, although I never fully lost touch with reality as she seems to. I questioned what was real and what was not. I doubted my flashbacks on a daily basis and wondered if I was just “crazy.” Nothing made sense.

Just like with the movie “Black Swan,” my life makes no sense until you view it against the backdrop of mother-daughter sexual abuse. Then, all of the pieces fit. I hated the “White Swan” Nina just as I hated myself before therapy. I was frightened of the “Black Swan” Nina just as I was frightened by the release of my repressed emotions. From this side of therapy, I can see the beauty in both and appreciate that both are part of one whole person.

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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My sister and I saw the movie Black Swan together over the holidays. As two survivors of mother-daughter sexual abuse, the underlying theme driving the story was glaringly obvious, but I suspect that the movie is much more of a puzzle for those who have not suffered from childhood trauma. I don’t see much yet over the Internet about the mother-daughter sexual abuse in Black Swan, so I wonder how many people are swept away by the truths in the movie without making sense of the logic.

The basic storyline of the movie Black Swan is about a talented but repressed ballet dancer named Nina (played by Natalie Portman) trying to access the passionate part of herself at the expense of her sanity. Nina is cast in the lead of the ballet Swan Lake despite the reservations of the director Thomas (played by Vincent Cassell). Thomas admits that Nina is a slam dunk for the White Swan part of the role, which is virginal, but he has concerns about the repressed Nina tapping into her passionate side to perform the Black Swan. (The same ballerina must perform in both roles.) The Black Swan is supposed to be passionate and seductive, which are two words that don’t come to mind when you see Nina.

The movie is completely from Nina’s point of view. She is a bit “off” at the beginning, but her efforts to access her inner passion are like a runaway freight train into madness. The audience has a hard time knowing what is real and what is in her head because Nina herself has no idea. The movie is like only being provided with half of the jigsaw puzzle pieces with no picture to reference. The movie provides you with just enough of the puzzle to come close to seeing what is really going on, but you have to provide the missing piece yourself for the picture to come into focus. I suspect that most people who go to see this movie won’t have that missing puzzle piece and will leave the movie feeling Nina’s emotional disturbance without the “aha” moment of the logic that ties it all together … and I suspect that is was the director was going for.

To my sister and me (both survivors of mother-daughter sexual abuse), the missing piece seemed pretty obvious. I will build my case below, but don’t read further if you plan to see the movie and don’t want any spoilers.

*** spoiler alert ***

Anyone can tell that there is something “off” in Nina’s relationship with her mother (played by Barbara Hershey). Nina is supposed to be in her 20’s, but she acts like a little girl in her mother’s presence, using words like “mommy” and “yummy.” Nina’s bedroom looks like a little girl’s room with lots of stuffed animals. Nina’s mother undresses her and treats her like a little girl. Her mother also chastises Nina for scratching herself (similar to cutting).

When Nina masturbates as “homework” to try to access her inner passion, she sees her mother asleep in her bedroom. This was a metaphor for her mother being connected to her sexuality, and Nina’s attempts to awaken her passion would also awaken her mother.

Fellow ballerina Lily (played by Mila Kunis) tries to befriend Nina, which connects Lily to Nina’s mother in Nina’s head. Nina perceives any effort to invest in her as sexual (as shown by Nina’s perception of sexual advances by both Thomas and Lily), and Nina is only able to climax (and, thereby, access her passion) by believing that Lily has seduced her in her little girl bedroom (which never really happened). Seduction must be followed by betrayal in Nina’s head, which causes Nina to view Lily as a rival trying to take away her role in the ballet. Nina can only become the Black Swan (again, in her own head) by killing Lily, which by extension is killing her mother. Only then can she be the Black Swan.

Just in case the audience needs confirmation that the mother was the cause of Nina’s issues, the mother is the focal point in the audience when Nina takes her suicidal plunge as the White Swan at the end of the ballet. Nina’s actions and reactions (in her head) are toward others, but her mother is the central focus of her mental deterioration.

Have any of you seen the movie Black Swan? What did you think? Do you agree with my interpretation? I think the movie makes so much sense when seen through the lens of mother-daughter sexual abuse.

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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***** sexual abuse triggers*****

Some people have a difficult time understanding how a woman can sexually abuse a child. This is probably because the made-for-TV movies tend to focus upon men who sexually abuse girls, and people have an understanding about what is involved in rape. Women can sexually abuse both boys and girls in a number of ways.

Most of my female abusers sexually abused me through oral sex, both forcing it upon me and forcing me to perform it upon them. They can fondle the child, just as a male abuser can. Many (but certainly not all) female abusers give children unnecessary enemas. Some will insert objects into a child’s various orifices. All of these abuses can be inflicted upon both boys and girls.

Many survivors of sexual abuse by female abusers have a difficult time labeling what they have suffered. Over at Making Daughters Safe Again, we had a discussion going about whether a woman can “rape” a child. We concluded that she can. Rape is not about a male body part being inserted into a female orifice – it is about a more powerful person (whether male or female) assaulting a weaker person (a child for the purposes of this discussion) in a sexual manner.

One person really wanted to embrace the term “rape” because that word captures the trauma involved much better than any other word in the English language. When a female abuser is forcing a child to endure oral sex, the child is not merely being “molested” (which means “to bother, interfere with, annoy”). The child is being violated in a traumatizing way.

I have been raped by both men and women, and all forms of rape are traumatizing. Whenever an abuser assaults a child, the trauma is overwhelming. The fact that the abuser is female instead of male does not make the trauma any less painful. Sexual assault is sexual assault whether it is inflicted by a man or a woman.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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I received an email recently from someone who is in the early stages of healing. She is in that place of having a sickening awareness that something has happened but no memories to back it up. I remember that time all too well.

Like so many child abuse survivors in that stage of healing, she is running through a mental list of possible suspects, but she was only considering male culprits. However, her profile screamed “female abuser” to me. This got me thinking that I don’t believe I have covered this topic on my blog.

As I have shared, I had several female sexual abusers, including my own mother. I have offline friends who were sexually abused by women, and I have met numerous abuse survivors online who were also abused by women. I met many on a message board for healing from mother-daughter sexual abuse, but I have also talked with many who were abused by babysitters, family friends, and other female abusers who had access to them as children.

Below is a list of symptoms that I have compiled that are common among female survivors of female sexual abuse. The more “extreme” symptoms tend to be experienced by those sexually abused by mothers or mother figures, and you will not necessarily experience all of them. I, myself, only relate to about half of them. If you see yourself in several of the following symptoms, it is possible that you were sexually abused by a woman:

  • Ability to “see” mother’s naked body in your own head/knowing things about her body that a daughter should not
  • Alter parts (or imaginary friends) who are/were male
  • Anorexia (trying to make the body look more boyish than womanly)
  • Aversion to oral sex
  • Aversion to sexual positions involving your breasts
  • Extreme discomfort discussing periods, bras, and other coming of age issues with your mother
  • Feeling masculine even though you are attracted to men
  • Feeling more comfortable as a “he”
  • Feelings of disdain and scorn toward mother even with no memories of abuse
  • Gender confusion in childhood and/or adulthood
  • Hating your reflection (seeing your physical similarities toward your mother/abuser)
  • Hatred/anger toward breasts
  • Imagining or pretending that you are male on a regular basis
  • Inability to be responsible for yourself (abusive mother encouraged deep dependence)
  • Insomnia when mother is in the same house
  • Memories of inappropriate nudity
  • Nightmares about mother hurting you (not necessarily sexually)

I can only speak from the female perspective. Men – feel free to add a list of symptoms for males. Anyone – Feel free to add to the list.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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*******trigger warning – mother/daughter sexual abuse*******

My mother sexually abused my sister and me on a regular basis from toddlerhood until I was around six years old. It was mostly oral sex with me being forced both to give and receive it. She was a stay-at-home mom, so she had access to my sister and me 24/7 until I started school.

I was plagued with a recurring nightmare of disembodied hands like “Thing” on “The Addams Family.” I would be running down the hallways of our house, and hands would reach out to grab me from the floor, walls, and ceiling. I have come to realize that this was about my mother, whose hands both reached out to nurture me (feed me, bathe me, etc.) and to harm me. I never knew which version I was going to get, so her hands terrorized me.

School is what saved me and gave me the hope of a better life. Up until I started school, my life experience was an absentee dad (he was a workaholic who wasn’t around much and irritable when he was) and a sexually abusive mom. It would not have occurred to me to tell anyone about what was going on because I did not know any differently. My therapist says that my mother must have communicated a threat to remain silent in some fashion because it is not developmentally appropriate for a young child to keep a secret. I have no memory of her threatening me, but most of what I remember about the abuse came in flashbacks.

Before experiencing flashbacks, I had very few memories of either parent. I cannot recall my mother’s face from childhood other than through flashback. I remember many things “about” her, such as being angry with her for saying no to something that I wanted to do. However, I cannot recall one non-flashback memory of either parent’s face (other than what I have seen in photographs) until I was a teenager.

School was my saving grace. My pre-K teacher took me under her wing and was so kind to me. I credit my teachers for saving my life because they were the ones who gave me the hope of there being kindness and safe love in the world.

My mother stopped sexually abusing me when I was around six years old because my father walked in on her doing it one time. My memory is from the vantage point of the ceiling. My father walked in on us in my bedroom. He yelled, “What the hell?” Then, he sternly told me to go back to bed. The sexual abuse ended that abruptly.

My mother clearly has a mental illness, so I never know for sure what is true or what is not. However, she has told me multiple times that my father starting pushing her to do a three-way around this time, and she considered it. (I believe she more than considered it, which I will get into later.) I suspect that my father saw her sexual abuse as an interest in bisexuality.

I credit my father for stopping the sexual abuse. I hold him accountable for doing nothing to heal it. I received no therapy. We had no talks about what had happened. My father was an up-and-coming professional whose career would have been ruined by being married to a pedophile, so he sacrificed my sister and me to keep his reputation (and his wife’s) intact. He also continued to leave us in her care while he was working 60 hours a week. I have had to do a lot of healing work because my father was both my “savior” and my betrayer.

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Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

I was plagued with a recurring nightmare of disembodied hands like “Thing” on “The Addams Family.” I would be running down the hallways of our house, and hands would reach out to grab me from the floor, walls, and ceiling. I have come to realize that this was about my mother, whose hands both reached out to nurture me (feed me, bathe me, etc.) and to harm me. I never knew which version I was going to get, so her hands terrorized me.

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