For some women, their lack of protection over a child being sexually abused by the man of the house, is based in the premise that the child is at fault.
I spoke with many survivors who remember their mothers showing jealousy over their relationship with the father. One study found, that daughters who were sexually abused by their fathers, were initially given unconscious permission by the mother to provide their father with sexual acts. Subsequently, the mother quickly begins to resent her daughter instead of realizing that the role of the “other woman” was placed upon the daughter, not asked for. 1
It is quite common for mothers in father/daughter incest cases to show antagonism towards the daughter. 2 As noted by the authors in Betrayal of Innocence, “the mother becomes hostile toward her daughter, driving the girl closer to her father, and causing the mother to want to see her daughter punished, demeaned.” 3
One study looked at 435 biological mothers who had been told by their child they were experiencing interfamilial sexual abuse. 4 The mothers in the study had not sexually abused the child themselves, but had been living in the home with the victim and the perpetrator. Less than half of the women believed their daughters and did something to stop the abuse or otherwise protect the child.
Thirteen percent of the mothers believed the child, yet did nothing to protect them. The women who were currently having sex with the perpetrator were over twice as likely not to do anything. The children who displayed “sexualized behavior” had mothers who were also twice as likely not to protect or believe them.
The mother’s jealousy blinds her. She does not want to comprehend that the sexual abuse caused the sexual behavior in her child. She prefers to instead believe the child was the sexual aggressor. This is what my mother chose to believe about me.
Amazingly, studies also show the mother is less likely to believe or protect the victim when rape or violence was committed. 5
Incest victims are more likely to be sexualized, and display this behavior, than a child who has been molested by a non-family member. Incestuous families are a breeding ground for an on-going sexual relationship between the perpetrator and the victim. The child might feel more sexual towards a family member that she already loves and has a relationship with. A stranger or a neighbor could create more trauma than sexual feelings.
The mother will not protect the child because she wants to hang onto her man and tells herself that her child was acting sexual, so it must have been “the child’s fault.” Additionally, if a mother has not dealt with her own childhood abuse, and still blames herself for it, then she will probably transfer that guilt onto her daughter.
Women who outright blame the child, justify in their own mind why they allow the abuse to continue. They don’t acknowledge the pain that the child may be suffering because the mother convinces herself there is no pain. These kind of women want to think their husband or boyfriend was seduced by the child.
1. Betrayal of Innocence: Incest and its Devastation, Dr. Susan Forward and Craig Buck, Penguin Books, 1988, page 49
2. Mother-daughter relationships and child sexual abuse: A pilot study of35 dyads. Schechter DS, Brunelli SA, Cunningham N, Brown J, Baca P Bull Menninger Clin 2002 Winter; 66(1):39-60 Author contact: Infant-Family Service, New York-Presbyterian Hospital, and New York State Psychiatric Institute/Columbia University Department of Psychiatry, 10032, USA.
3. Betrayal of Innocence: Incest and its Devastation, Dr. Susan Forward and Craig Buck, Penguin Books, 1988, page 50
4. Intrafamilial Child Sexual Abuse: Predictors of Post disclosure Maternal Belief and Protective Action, Denise Pintello and Susan Zuravin of the University of Maryland Baltimore School of Social Work, Published in the November 2001 issue of Child Maltreatment, Funded in part by a grant from the Children’s Bureau, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, source: The Children’s Bureau, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
5. Jessica Heriot, “Maternal Protectiveness Following the Disclosure of Intrafamilial Child Sexual Abuse”, Journal of Interpersonal Violence 11, 2 (1996), pp. 181-194.