“There are pictures of everything except the fondling and the oral sex that my father forced me to perform for him”
~ Joyce Allan
In certain cases of child sexual abuse, the victim is disbelieved because there are childhood photos depicting the child smiling with the abuser.
I have seen photos of children, who were severely abused for years, and whose perpetrator has confessed, where the children are smiling in photos with their perpetrator.
Children often love their abusers as well as hate them. Both children and adults feel several different emotions about a person or situation at the same exact time. More pointedly, child sexual abusers are not committing the abuse every minute of the day. Sometimes they were riding a bike with us, or building us a dollhouse, and once in a while… they made us laugh.
No one knows what pain lurks behind a photo. Children live in the moment, and it is usually during a vacation or family celebration that someone has a camera ready.
In my case, I clung to my father because my mother was cold and distant, showing no affection or love. Until my early thirties, I kept a loving image of my father in my mind -even though he was assaulting me- because as a child, my brain could not handle that both of my parents had abandoned and betrayed me. I gravitated to my father and convinced myself that his form of “love” and attention (the sexual abuse) was better than having none at all.
This kind of idealization is the child preferring the illusion instead of accepting what their parent is truly like –sort of a “denial via fantasy.”
Many victims speak of a positive relationship with their perpetrator. In one study, over half of the victims expressed love for their abuser.
The case of two young girls, who were being sexually abused by their father for years, provides a good example of the victim’s need to create a fantasy relationship with their perpetrator.
In this particular case, both girls were exposed to pornography and were made to play sex games with their father. One of the girls told her mother but the mother didn’t take any action and the abuse resumed two weeks later. The oldest daughter eventually told a teacher.
The father was convicted and sentenced to life, plus sixteen years. After he was incarcerated, both girls began to write love letters to him –despite the fact that the oldest daughter was repeatedly raped by her father. The girls even begged the court to let him go.
This bond can also be found between the victim and an abusive mother.
Detective Chris Hicks of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Dept., described the account of an eleven year-old girl whose mother threw her against a wall. Her head had been cut open, she was bleeding, and the mother’s roommate says the mother hit the child with a heater plate three or four times. Evidence showed blood on the plate, and the mother admitted to hitting the child with the grate.
The child’s story was in direct conflict with the all the evidence, and with the mother’s confession. The child’s version was to put the blame on herself. The victim said she “wasn’t being a good girl.”
The child was placed in temporary housing but kept asking, “When am I going to see my mom? I want to be with her.”
Detective Hicks says authorities often cannot get the truth from the victim, and the child will lie to protect the abusing parents. He said that children will sometimes defend the abusive parents, to the child’s death.
Melissa Salcedo was a victim of enslavement by her mother. She was not permitted to go to school, she was choked, she suffered beatings, was kept in a closet, and was forced to drink toilet water. The abuse lasted seventeen years, beginning at birth. Experts said it was one of the worst cases they had ever seen.
While standing in court on the day of her mother’s sentencing, Melissa, with choke marks and scars still visible on her neck, said to her mother “I love you. I miss you. I hope that when you get out we meet again.”
Melissa’s sister Gloria Salcedo was quoted as saying that she and their other siblings could not stop loving, or turn their backs, on the woman who gave them life.
Former FBI agent Kenneth V. Lanning has consulted on thousands of cases involving sexual acts inflicted upon children, and was an expert witness in both Federal and State courts on child abuse matters. Lanning says many child victims remain silent or deny the abuse when it is discovered.
The reasons for children to deny abuse are often based in fear and shame. Even if the abuse is discovered, they fear no one will believe them.
Sometimes the child knows they will not be protected and sense that they will be punished or removed from the home. Children know very well there are consequences for revealing abuse within the family –punishment by the family itself.
For some children, they deny the abuse because they like being special and feeling pleasure with the perpetrator, and the child often loves the abuser.
Betrayal Trauma: The Logic of Forgetting Child Abuse, Jennifer J. Freyd, Harvard University Press, 1996,
Does Incest Hurt Worse Than Grief? Cendra Lynn, Ph.D.,
Close to Home, Mark McGwire Foundation for Children and Big Year Productions, Vanessa Roth and Alexandra Dixon Producers, Discovery Health Channel, 2002
Behind the Playground Walls: Sexual Abuse in Preschools, Jill Waterman Ph.D, Robert J. Kelly Ph.D, Mary Kay Oliveri MSW, Jane Mc Cord, Ph.D, 1993, The Guilford Press page 242
Dissociation, Repression, and Reality Testing in the Countertransference, Jody Messler Davies, Memories of Sexual Betrayal: Truth, Fantasy, Repression, and Dissociation, Jason Aronson Inc., Edited by Richard Gartner, Ph.D, pages 60-61
Arts and Entertainment Channel, Investigative Report’s, L.A. Detectives, Juvenile Investigations Team “A Dangerous Mom”.
Source: L.A. Times 5/16/00 “Mother Gets 9 Years in ‘Slave’ Abuse Case”
Child Molesters: A Behavioral Analysis for Law-Enforcement Officers Investigating the Sexual Exploitation of Children by Acquaintance Molesters, Fourth Edition September 2001, Kenneth V. Lanning, Former Supervisory Special Agent Federal Bureau of Investigation, Copyright 2001 National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, page 58