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

 “Mother is the name for God in the lips and hearts of little children.”

~William Makepeace Thackeray

Some people have accused me of having a high expectation of mothers. Of course I do. It is a huge blow to a child to have their trust broken by their mother. By nature, the mother is supposed to be a protector. The mother is the parent who should instinctually guard her child from all harm, even at the cost of her own life. The very first relationship a child has, is with its mother. The mother is the one person a child should be able to trust over any other human being.

Some people try and excuse mothers, who don’t protect their children. Sandra Blume, author of Secret Survivors, says they are victims too.  She says the mother’s own experience with childhood abuse, causes her failure to protect her child. 1

Countless women, who were abused and sexually assaulted in childhood, go on to protect their children from abusers. Selfishness causes a mother to fail to protect her child, not abuse.

It is intellectually unfair to use the “history of abuse” theory to excuse the mother, but not apply the same excuse to the perpetrator, who was also emotionally handicapped and most likely a victim of child abuse.

The mother, who chooses not to see, or who openly allows sexual abuse to continue, is just as guilty as the father who chooses to sexually abuse his daughter.

Sandra Blume says this about weak and man-dependant women, “This type of mother might seem responsible for giving her children a role model of self-hate and weakness. But she is not responsible: if we hold her responsible, we blame the victim for her victimization.” 2

Blume is forgetting one thing. A child is never at fault, but an adult is always responsible, and when her child is being harmed, a mother needs to stop being a victim.

Barbara Hazel (mentioned in part three of this series) said she was fragile, a previous victim, and needed a man… but Barbara performed oral sex on her own daughter. Society would not forgive a father for this act, nor should society forgive a mother.

Sandra Blume distinctly distinguishes between mothers she calls victims (mothers who willfully did not protect their child), and the perpetrator himself. Blume says, “Paralysis is the opposite of action.”  3

On the contrary; impotency allows action to continue. The two are not opposites; they feed off each other. The man sees that the wife will do nothing, so he continues to abuse the child because he knows he is safe. The woman’s refusal to act, instantly generates further abuse.

Over the past ten years, I have spent many hours corresponding with other abuse survivors, and the number of responses I have received about mothers, who willingly did not protect their child, has been overwhelming.

Most victims and survivors were very thankful that I brought up the subject of mothers, because for the first time, they realized the root of their anger and resentment for their own mother. Some people I connected with, have tried desperately to push the pain down inside. They thanked me for speaking up because they had been too afraid to think about their true feelings. Suddenly, no longer afraid to face their mother’s role in the abuse, the experiences of these women, and sometimes men, has brought tears to my eyes. There is so much pain out there.

“Maggie” * wrote that her mother caught her father in the act and the mother’s response was to grab Maggie, shake her, and scream “How could you do this to us!?” The father silently watched.

Another survivor said, “When I told my mother she sent me off to live with relatives.” Apparently, it was easier to remove the child and keep the abuser around. Child out of sight, incest out of mind.

“Lucy” was told by her mother not to “tell stories.” When Lucy tried telling another relative, she was backhanded into a wall.

Another mother was angered at having to stop watching her favorite television game show in order to treat the wounds on her daughter, inflicted by the perpetrator.

One woman told her mother what her grandfather was doing to her and she was told, “Just keep away from him.”  The man lived in the same house.

Treating the Adult Survivor of Childhood Sexual Abuse describes the sexual abuse of a female child that began at age eight. When the victim was twelve, the girl decided to tell her mother, who was busy hanging laundry outside. The daughter pleaded, “Mommy, Daddy puts his penis between my legs at night and I don’t like it.” Her mother continued hanging clothes and responded, “You’re in my way. Go in the house and see if your father is awake yet.” 4

This mother displays the best example of how strong the human denial system is. She did not miss a beat. Her mind rejected the information, even before it became knowledge. The message was perfectly clear to the girl, ‘if we don’t speak of the incest, it isn’t happening.’

“Secondary Wounding Response” is a term that refers to a mother’s lack of protection. This can be as damaging as, or even more painful, than the original trauma. The suffering felt over a mother’s failure to protect her child is often overlooked by professionals, and many therapists are women who project the non-protective mother as a victim, not the co-abuser she was. This erroneous information can engender even deeper subconscious anger in an adult survivor and this has the potential to be very damaging to their health.

Abandonment by the mother in incest cases runs deeper than researchers, mental health experts, child care professionals, and even the victims themselves realize.

There are two umbilical cords attached at birth, the physical tissue that the doctor cuts and the emotional bond that remains attached to the mother. It was easier for me to accept that my father sexually abused me, than to contemplate that my mother did not protect me. It took years of intensive therapy to undue the damage she did to me.

It is an injustice for anyone to make survivors feel guilty for being angry at their mother. An abuse survivor should never harm their mother, be vindictive, or assert malice towards her… but anyone who was not protected by their mother, has every right to feel the way they do about her.

The adult survivor can eventually work through those feelings in therapy, but the child inside has a right to her anger.

Part One

Part Two

Part Three


* Names in quotation marks denote a pseudonym

1. Secret Survivors, E. Sue Blume, paperback, Page 170

2. Secret Survivors, E. Sue Blume, paperback, page 170

3. Secret Survivors, E. Sue Blume, paperback, page 172-174

4. Treating the Adult Survivor of Childhood Sexual Abuse, Jody Messler Davies and Mary Gail Frawley, Page 87

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

  1. mary says:

    I think that if you have parents who are not abusive and are healthily loving and protective, you are in a subconscious way taught to avoid people who project certain energies. I think at least I was. I remember as a child not feeling safe around certain adults. Even before i even knew what sex was, i felt how a sexual stare or hug or kiss felt different from a platonic look and hug and kiss. There was this family friend, an “uncle” who Id always try to avoid because of his creepy hugs and kisses. and just recently my mother told me about how his brother was arrested for child molestation and how his family denied it, and in essence protected him by relocating him to the Philippines. (why? so he can molest third world children?) I dont know if it’s fair to judge the guy based on his brother, but i honestly wouldnt be suprised if he was one himself.

  2. mary says:

    Re: alethea. The reason why I stumbled upon your site was because i started researching on this subject (Specifically on Marilyn Van Derbur) Most of my female friends have told me that they had been molested as children. and i happen to have alot of female friends, so it’s extremely alarming to me. I’ve also met that young woman’s creepy father and mom. I met a young man(ex husband of my bestfriend) who was brutally raped by his uncle as a child and went onto molest his little brother. She told me she found child porno in his younger bro’s computer. I wondered to myself what I would do if i found out a family member molested a child. As far as I know there is no incest in my family, but if there was I would disown and not protect that family member. I would still love them, but to me love means giving that person what they deserve and if you molest a child, you dont deserve to be in a family, you deserve to be in jail for life if not put to death. if that makes any sense.

    • Alethea says:

      Hi Mary. After I remembered what happened to me as a child, ten friends revealed that they too had been victims as children. Not one of them had ever told me before. It was only by my speaking of my own abuse that my friends opened up. I have several other friends, whom I suspect were victims, but who have either not told me, or have blocked it out.

      “I would still love them, but to me love means giving that person what they deserve and if you molest a child, you dont deserve to be in a family, you deserve to be in jail for life if not put to death. if that makes any sense.”

      I think it depends on the level of abuse. I would not put someone in prison for life, or put them to death, if they molested a child once or twice and were truly sorry for it. I would want them to get help, to pay restitution to the child and their family, and to not be allowed around children again.

      Sadly, there are very few cases like that.

  3. little nel says:

    “I am still aware of my mother’s lack of love for me and her unwillingness to be truthful with me or herself”

    Well said, Alethea.

    Me too. That is why I have no expectations of her being “miraculously changed” before she dies.

    Believe me, I still have moments when I want to punish her for being the way she is. Her behavior still bothers me, so I know I have to keep maintaining my own recovery.

    • Alethea says:

      Little Nel, I would never ever expect my mother to ever change. I know she will take her secrets to her grave, and that is where my healing has helped me. It is so healthy when we realize that we can be at peace, still knowing the abuser will never be any different.

  4. little nel says:

    I agree that the child inside has a right to her anger, Alethea.

    That is why I have compassion for my mother, even though I hated her behavior at times.

    I found out that she went to work at age 14 as a live in caretaker for two small children who had a mother who had become ill. I have always believed that she had been raped by the father of those children at some point in the two years that she worked in that home. My mother was a beautiful girl and she left that job abruptly, without a logical reason, and moved to California which was 2200 miles away at age 16.

    I have often thought that she was running away from her pain and shame because when she arrived in California, she changed her name and reinvented herself.

    • Alethea says:

      It is beautiful that you have found compassion for your mother, in the midst of anger. I wonder, did your mother ever show you any love?

      I have no memory of my mother showing me an ounce of love. Not ever. Not once.

      • Alethea says:

        It’s also easier to find compassion when a person is truly sorry and admits to what happened. My mother has NEVER admitted to anything except that I “must have been sexually abused by someone, but certainly not by my father.” She has never apologized or tried to make any human connection with me as a mother. To this day, whenever I am in her presence, I feel her resentment, anger, bitterness, and jealousy.

        I have found compassion for her in the sense of understanding the human soul and its path, and have forgiven her in the sense of being a Christ-conscious person, but I am still aware of my mother’s lack of love for me and her unwillingness to ever be truthful with me or herself.

      • little nel says:

        I have only one memory of her ever showing me any love. I was seven years-old and had become ill with the mumps on both sides of my jaw. I could not eat, so she spoon fed me some raw veggies with “Milani’s 1890” french dressing on it.

        Talk about symbols! Every time I saw a bottle of that dressing or see something similar, I think about that one act of love from her.

        And yes, little nel still has her justifiable anger for the violations to her feminine body and soul. If I surrender to that anger or displace it, I will be accepting evil as my “fate” or “karma.”

        I do NOT have a “revolving karma account” that my soul has to accept or adhere to anymore. Salvation has replaced it and Divine Providence has overcome it on my behalf.

        • little nel says:

          FYI, My compassion for my mother is not based on anything that she did or did not do.

          I have learned to love the unlovable mother that doesn’t deserve my love because I have been given so much understanding and compassion for her “lack of love for me.”
          She can’t give me something that she doesn’t have, so I found it elsewhere like you.

          We are the smart ones. We are the ones blessed by God with “Divine Discontentment.”

          We are discontent with the “status quo” of mothers who fail their daughters in the most rebellious acts of reckless indifference against God.

          • little nel says:

            I should have added and “their daughters” because I only implied it.

            • little nel says:

              Alethea, everything that you stated about your mother is a valid reason for your feelings of disgust. I understand completely. I relate to everything you expressed.

              I never thought that in a million years that I could ever understand “Vicky” for what she did not do for me in childhood or adulthood. She failed her daughter again and again just like yours. She resented me like she resented no other in my mind.

  5. Andre' says:

    what the Hell are women thinking ? I dated one woman, she worked late as a bartender. The daughter wasnt crazy about me at age 5. Her father was physically/emotionally abusive to her mother and had substance abuse issues. But the girl was always safe with me as her safety was priority #1 when I was around. So I dont understand men or mothers who allow it or engage in abuse.

  6. mary says:

    Im sorry my phone only allows me to type a certain amount into the comment box. She replied ” I dont give a f*ck. my parents never let me have any friends so ill bring in as many animals as i want.” I mentioned how it wasn’t about just about her,but how it wasnt fair to the animals to be in a household where someone in it might murder them and she ignored what I had said… :/ I remembered how she mentioned how her mother actually did want her and her brother and even asked her daughter to start having babies because babies brought her joy….. and yet she allowed one of her babies to be molested by her husband . Human beings can be so selfish.

  7. mary says:

    If my man ever touched my child… well I dont want to know what I what I would do, I could see myself being filled with so much uncontrollable rage that I could kill the man. These women are so disconnected from their children their animal instinct to protect their kids from threats is broken. They are so in love with the abuser that they see their own children as a threat. It makes me sick to see women use the word love in vain. A young woman I knew told me about how her father had molested her and her mother and brother initially called her a liar but eventually went on their knees and begged her to say that she had lied. Or how her uncle had molested her, told her mother… who FORGAVE him and continued to allow him access to her. God help her. Unfortunately I can see this woman continuing the cycle of abuse from seeing the way she treated her animals. Her mother “accidentally” killed countless pets of hers. I once told her that maybe bringing pets in the house was endangering them and to that she replie

    • little nel says:

      It is amazing how someone could say, “I forgave him” when they are really saying, “I can’t stop him because I am afraid,” so I’ll use the saving face “cop-out” which is the next best thing, that way I don’t have to feel guilty and can look the other way because confrontation is too risky.” and besides I need, I need, I need.

    • Alethea says:

      Good for you Mary for speaking up for the animals!!!! I love that.

      Your personal knowledge of someone who had a mother and brother who protected the abuser, only shows how common it is.

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