Archive for the ‘Mother-Daughter Sexual Abuse’ Category

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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*******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.



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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My sister graduates from college on December 12. She was a ninth grade dropout, and she applied to college in her mid-thirties as a newly divorced single mother. She will be graduating with honors with a double-major. I am sooo proud of her, and I am thrilled to be there to watch her receive her degree at the commencement ceremonies.

Unfortunately, my joy over being part of this amazing accomplishment is being overshadowed by my complete freak-out over having to see my mother/abuser for the first time in six years. My sister invited both of us to the graduation (she still maintains a relationship with our mother/abuser), and my mother is coming. My mother and I have had no contact since I sent her the note telling her to “back the f@#$ off” in September.

I have done a fairly good job shoving aside my anxiety over seeing her again after six years apart (by my choice) until recently. Now that this “meeting” is less than two weeks away, I am a basket case. I have a constant headache. I am irritable. I feel triggered all the time and am staying “medicated” in one form or another 24/7 – Xanax, wine, food, etc. (not all at the same time). I am having trouble sleeping on and off (depending upon what I take at night – I am also doing a rotation of various sleep aids to get through the night). My two states of being are unbelievably anxious or deeply depressed. It really, really sucks.

I am going to try to keep blogging during this time because I think I will need it. Please be patient with me during this time because I am not sure how much I have to share during this time. I am so overwhelmed with emotions.

I can’t remember if I shared this already, but a friend will be accompanying me for the visit. I am paying all of her expenses (airfare, hotel, taxi, food, etc.). Her “job” is to be my “buffer” and make sure that I am never alone with my mother. She has a wacky and warped sense of humor, and she is “morbidly curious” about meeting my mother. She will do her best to keep me laughing by making all sorts of inappropriate comments and hysterical observations. She is looking forward to the trip. She finds family dysfunction to be quite comical, so she is the right person for this “job.”

I am staying so triggered. Even as I write this, it feels like I have bubbles in my head, and I just want to cry nonstop. I don’t worry about a hell after I die – this is hell.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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On my blog entry entitled Yearning for a Mother after Mother-Daughter Sexual Abuse, a reader posted the following comment:

For me, this is possibly the most painful repercussion of what I experienced growing up. For much of my life I have felt deep shame over this longing for a mother, and it has caused me a great deal of agony in relationships with older women around me.

It is so affirming to hear the voices of other women who are “in the middle” of this experience and feeling the same thing. It makes me feel more normal, less alone. I wonder if there are other voices of women who maybe have found different measures of healing of this gaping hole in their hearts? Does it happen? Is it possible? And probably all of us have stories of parts of this place in us that have experienced healing. I’d really like to hear about that. ~ Blueorchid8

I have found that the loss of a mother-daughter relationship is a loss to be grieved, just like any other loss. Sometimes, like when I wrote that blog entry, I feel the pain from the hole left in my heart in never connecting with my mother. Most of the time, though, I don’t feel (or notice?) the pain.

I have had to grieve multiple losses in my life, and the process of grieving those losses is always the same. I must face the reality of the loss and allow myself to experience the depth of the pain from that loss. After this, I adjust to the reality of my life without whatever it is that I am missing, whether that loss is a pregnancy, a deceased loved one, or the loss of a mother-daughter relationship. The grieving process brings you to a place where you sometimes feel the loss, but it becomes more of a wistful longing than a sharp pain.

I have found ways to meet some of my needs through friendships. For example, when I was sick last week, a friend invited me over so my kid could play with hers, and she made me some hot chocolate with mini marshmallows in it. It was just a small gesture, but it was just the kind of nurturing that I needed. I did not need a mother or older woman to do this for me. This small act of kindness met a need, and I did not once long for a mother the entire time that I was sick.

There are other areas of my life in which I must make do for myself as if I were an orphan, and that just plain stinks. It generally does not hurt, though. Instead, it makes me angry and frustrated with my life at times. I try to remember that I will not always feel so frustrated and that those feelings will pass. I have varying levels of success with that thought process.

Have any of you found ways to fill this hole in your heart?

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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I spent all last week sick and am still not doing so great. I have had a cold that I fear is moving into a sinus infection. Of course, in the middle of all of this, another letter arrived from my mother/abuser. I shared previously about her last unwanted contact here. My mother sent me a letter in mid-March and then called me. Thank goodness I was not home. Now, she sent me another letter. Considering that I have told her very firmly that I do not want to talk about reconciliation, these three attempts in a short period time are really starting to p#$$ me off. I also don’t think it is a coincidence that I have been sick since this all started.

This letter was another attempt at reconciliation. She wrote an apology for a list of things that she did wrong as a parent. None of the things she included are on my list of reasons for breaking contact with her. Yes, it sucked when she did not take me to a doctor after being kicked by a horse or after having my head slammed in a van door, but that is all water under the bridge. If she really wants to talk reconciliation, she needs to own up to sexually abusing me and providing multiple abusers access to me throughout my childhood. Those are the reasons I don’t want her in my life.

The thing is, I truly do not believe she holds those memories in her conscious mind. I believe that she has repressed them all. That being said, they do leak out from time to time, which has been validating for both my sister and me. If I was to write her back and say, “You need to take responsibility for abusing my sister and me and for allowing others to harm us,” she would likely have a psychotic episode. So, my refusal to have this conversation with her is actually a kindness, but she keeps on pushing.

I called my therapist and left him a message. He returned my call and agreed that I should keep ignoring these contacts but that we need to talk about what I will say if/when she calls again. I was too sick to deal with it and have not returned his call yet. For now, I am just checking the Caller ID before I answer the phone.

As I said, I still feel lousy, so I just don’t want to deal with this crap right now. My sister and a friend both suspect that this is all part of her “counseling” and that the counselor is the one advising her to push this issue. I wish she would just back off.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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On the heels of all that I have been writing about my feelings toward my mother/abuser lately, my sister (who also suffered the same abuses) filled me in on what has been going on with her. Like me, she has been struggling over the past few weeks with restless sleep, etc. She is already taking anti-anxiety medication, but even that has not been helping, even in large doses.

She then told me that our mother is going through a lot of stuff herself. I can’t remember if I shared this already, but my mother is actually going through a (non-accredited) program to become a counselor. ** Deep shudder ** I don’t think she will ever actually be hired to counsel anyone, so I am not too worried about her wasting her money on this program.

Anyhow, apparently part of the program involves going to counseling yourself. In the course of the counseling, my mother has told my sister that she is beginning to remember things about her mother harming her. I am assuming that she is talking about mother-daughter sexual abuse. At least, that is what my sister implied.

Now, I don’t know if my mother is truly having flashbacks or not, nor do I know if they are about her mother harming her or about her harming my sister and me. Nothing would surprise me about my family, that’s for sure.

I can say that I do see some karma involved in my mother facing the horror of suffering from the same type of abuse that she inflicted upon me. My sister just feels sorry for her. For me, it feels more like justice (or karma). If my mother were truly to “get” the damage that she inflicted upon me, that would be a step toward her taking responsibility for what she did to me. I have no illusions of that actually happening.

My sister believes that the three of us going through a bunch of emotional stuff at the same time is not coincidence. She is speculating that perhaps my mother is having this breakthrough and that, because we are all energetically connected, her energy is spilling out onto us. Now, if this were true, shouldn’t my mother have had to wade through a bunch of stuff when I started dealing with my flashbacks?

A friend of mine believes that there is something about this time of year that is triggering to all three of us. I think this is a more likely scenario, but I was curious about what all of you thought. Do you think that the three of us could be energetically connected and feeling the fallout of my mother facing some of her demons?

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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I was blown away by the number of responses I received to my blog entry entitled Letter to Mother Messing with My Head after Mother-Daughter Sexual Abuse. The timing is doubly interesting because her birthday is coming up. I had not even thought about her birthday until I flipped the calendar and saw the notation.

I found this comment to be particularly insightful:

The child inside knows the truth in its pure and elemental form and will react when she is not honored and protected. I can’t imagine still having contact with the actual abuser and making any allowances for the feelings of such a person. The poor child. That must be a real misery. I hope you feel better soon. I wonder where the mandate to coddle this abuser is coming from. ~ Ethereal Highway

I have been thinking about this question ever since I read this comment – Where does the mandate to coddle this abuser come from? I guess it comes from several places.

The first place is from my religion. I have been a Christian since I was eight years old and, ironically, my mother/abuser is the one who introduced me to the faith. I wrestled deeply with the mandate to “Honor thy father and mother” when I started therapy. How could I possibly “honor” my abuser? Why would I even want to?

My therapist and I worked through my conflict, settling upon me “honoring” while staying true to myself by limiting contact. At the time, this was a huge step forward.

Another place comes from a lifetime of conditioning. My mother/abuser is a child in an adult’s body. She has a (slow) child’s intelligence, and she is irresponsible. As a child, I was given the responsibility of taking care of her. For example, my father would yell at me, not her, for the unkempt house. I would make my own meals because she typically failed to cook us anything for dinner. In many ways, I had to parent myself along with her when I was just a kid.

I think another issue I wrestle with is my mother/abuser being different from your typical abuser. Most of my abusers were mean, cold, calculated, and manipulative. Why in the world would I care about their feelings at all?

My mother is pathetic. She is lost and alone. The best description I have heard of her is that she looks like she knows exactly what she is doing; she just doesn’t know where she is. She is very much a child in a lot of ways, and I guess it is hard for me to reconcile this about her with the terrible things she did to me, not to mention her handing me over to truly evil and abusive people.

I guess, when it comes right down to it, I don’t see her as evil, whereas I do see my other abusers that way. My therapist warned me many, many times to stay out of my abusers’ heads. When it comes right down to it, they all abused me. However, for some reason, I have trouble putting her on the same level as the others.

But then the child in me hates her more than the others, and I guess that is the crux of my internal conflict. I hate her, pity her, feel sorry for her, and feel the need to coddle her all at the same time.

And here I thought I had cut my emotional ties to her. D@#$, I hate it when I realize that I have a whole deeper layer of crap to work through.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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As I have shared before, I cut my mother/abuser out of my life back in 2003 when I entered into therapy to heal from the mother-daughter sexual abuse. I told her that there would be no more personal contact (visits or phone calls). She was emailing me to death, which messed with my head, so I cut that back to monthly. Since then, she has canceled her Internet service and just sends me monthly letters through snail mail.

She does send me a one-page letter every month. For the most part, it complies with my boundaries – no talking about the past, reconciling, etc. Since we have nothing in common, there is not much substance to it. I respond when I can handle it, which is often a few months later. If I go too long without responding, she comes up with stupid ideas like trying to call me, which I really, really don’t want.

So, she sent me her letter a couple of week ago. The mere fact of receiving a letter from her triggered me, even though she said nothing “bad” in the letter. I set it aside and haven’t done anything with it since it arrived.

Yesterday, I decided to get responding to the letter off my to-do list. Generally, I write a letter to someone else I care about and fill her in about my life. Then, I strip out anything that matters and send that version to my mother. It makes it much easier for me to write a page, and it takes very little time.

Even with these precautions in place, writing to her is very triggering for me. It finally hit me why – the pretense of these letters ignores the realities of the damage she inflicted upon my life.

I send her letters like this:

Hi, Mom.

It’s good to hear from you. I am glad that things are going well on your end.

[Insignificant information about my life that everyone around me knows.]

Take care,


It does not include that, thanks to her choices, I cannot sleep at night. My dreams are filled with nightmares. I have spent thousands of dollars on therapy to recover from the damage she inflicted on me. Every single area of my life has been tainted by her choices during my childhood.

Her responses are never about the stuff that matters. Her letters talk about how she wants to counsel other people – what a joke!

So, why do I continue the contact? I don’t know. At first, it was to stay true to myself – my way of showing her a kindness by having this little bit of connection with my life. But now … I don’t now … now it feels like I am continuing to betray myself by pretending that it is okay that she did the things that she did.

I am not sure where I am going with this or what I am going to do with it. All I know is that I sent her a letter and then had a bunch of nightmares centering around her. I awoke at 5:00 flooded with adrenaline.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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