Reckless Indifference: The Role of the Mother in Incest Cases (Part Two)

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.

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.

Part One

Part Three

Part Four



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.

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15 Responses to Reckless Indifference: The Role of the Mother in Incest Cases (Part Two)

  1. Iris says:

    Waiting for parts 3&4

  2. little nel says:

    “I am merely joyous over the fact… that I can express myself freely and without being moderated, threatened with death, or silenced.”

    I feel the same way, Alethea!

    This blog is a breath of fresh air for the stink’n subject of incest and childhood sexual abuse.

    We have been silenced or shamed for too long for being born into families that protect the abusers.

  3. little nel says:

    Reckless indifference is a good description of women who pick men who like to do the mother and her daughter in the same home.

    Mia Farrow, I think is a prime example. I read Mia’s book and I was not impressed with her ability to pick the right kind of men.

  4. little nel says:

    Why does everyone around the offender get to share in the pain and shame?

    The whole family knows about “the perp” and keeps silent. Everyone knew my father was a child abuser.

    My father’s sons knew, I knew, my aunts knew, my uncles knew, my mother knew. I told and nobody validated me.

    It’s a family problem, that’s why.

  5. little nel says:

    What about the mother’s who need the daughter to babysit the younger siblings, so the mother can work?

    She resents her husband because she has caught him cheating, and when she became distraught, he got violent. She gets a job and delegates her homemaking duties to the daughter in an effort to distance herself from the pain of infidelity and violence.

    The dad decides that step-daughter is taking over his wife’s duties so he seduces her and makes her “the wife,” not the “mistress.”

    The wife is happy to avoid him, because she doesn’t have to “service” her cheating husband, and she is relieved of the childcare duties and housework in favor of a paying job that gives her some power over her own life.

    Denial is saving her sanity and the daughter is distracting the lying, cheating bastard’s focus away from the mother who gets a respite from it all.

    • Alethea says:

      I think this happens a lot Little Nel.

    • little nel says:

      Yes, Serieve, this is a situation that I have first-hand knowledge of.

      I did not talk a lot as a child, but I observed a lot. My mother tried to fight the family system that enabled my father to abuse, but she was out smarted and out maneuvered by the lawyers and powerful men in my father’s family. They ran all over her, but she toughed it out.

      I observed my step-mother’s behavior which was passive-aggressive, in their home, with my father, step-sister, and step-brothers.

      Step-mother could not admit that she had fallen in the same trap as my mother, she was stuck, because she knew how the family operated, so she set about inventing her own “pink cloud.” She worked nights as a meat wrapper and avoided my cheating father. He decided to make step-sister his new “wife” covertly.

      She had a break down, when she caught my father and her daughter having sex. She was admitted to a hospital and received therapy, then she moved far away from my father.

      • little nel says:

        I forgot to add that step-mother did not blame her daughter for the incest. She chose to take her daughter with her when she left my father.

        She and my mother blamed my father and his family.

        • Alethea says:

          Serieve, your comments never go through right away. Word Press tags you as possible spam because of your long name I think? Sometimes I am just sitting at the computer right after you have commented, and I am able to approve it right away.

          I am going to try and tag you as “always approve.” I just have to figure out how.

          • Alethea says:

            To my knowledge, Serieve, I have never seen your comments instantly accepted. Maybe I was sitting right there at the computer when those comments came in. I don’t deliberately moderate your comments. I have also never NOT approved of one. You are the only regular poster at my Blog whose comments drop into the moderation folder.

            The only difference that I know of, is that your name is four words, which the program might think is spam. Or, it is because your server is Canadian maybe? and the program thinks it might be spam? I have no clue. And I can’t figure out how to allow your comments through without moderation. If anyone who reads this, with a WordPress Blog, knows how, maybe they can help me.

            “I cannot say, for example, that I would always approve every single comment of yours on my own blog that you make if you decide to partake, mainly because it’s still under construction. I want you to be sure….”

            Well, that’s a difference we have Serieve. You might not like what I say sometimes and might think it “harmful” in some way. I don’t like what you say sometimes, but I will always approve of what you say because you have earned my respect as a person who speaks their mind in the face of adversity and against the majority –even if what you say offends someone.

            “It’s okay to admit you are computer-addicted, Alethea…I accepted my problem a long time ago!”

            I am not “computer” addicted. I am merely joyous over the fact that my Blog has allowed me to express myself freely, and without being moderated, threatened with death, or silenced. I don’t carry a computer with me when I leave the house, and don’t use my cell phone for anything other than necessary calls.

            I am not “addicted” to anything, except maybe to the love of nature, my animals, and to truth.

        • little nel says:

          Hi Serieve,

          I ran away after my father threatened to kill me for not “consenting” to having sex with him and step-sister at the same time.

          I sought safety with an aunt. She saved my life when she took me in and called my mother to come and take me to live with her.

          My aunt was the only one who admitted to me that my father was abusive. She was afraid of him also, but refused to surrender me to him when he demanded that she send me back to him.

  6. Fear of being blamed for the incest by my mother was the number one reason for me not telling anyone about the incest as a child.

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