Adult Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse Often Protect the Abuser and Run from Therapy

“The classic psychological responses to incest trauma are numbing, denial, and amnesia. During the assaults the incest victim typically learns to shut off pain by “dissociating,” achieving “altered states of consciousness . . . as if looking on from a distance at the child suffering the abuse.” To the extent that this defense mechanism is insufficient, the victim may partially or fully repress her memory of the assaults and the suffering associated with them: “Many, if not most, survivors of child sexual abuse develop amnesia that is so complete that they simply do not remember that they were abused at all; or . . . they minimize or deny the effects of the abuse so completely that they cannot associate it with any later consequences.

The key role of professional intervention as a triggering mechanism for uncovering the nexus between fault and damage is the subject of recurring comment in the literature. However, even during therapy misplaced feelings of loyalty towards an incestuous parent can elicit “defense of a parent, resistance with concomitant increase in guilt in the patient, or actual flight from treatment.”

Interesting. Shortly before remembering the incest, I almost left treatment. Even after I recalled the incest, I defended my father for many years by minimizing what he did.

I was unwilling to see my father for who, and what, he truly was –because if I did allow myself to see that he was just using me for sexual gratification, then I would not have been able to handle the emotional devastation of that.

It can take a very long time for victims and adult survivors of child sexual abuse, especially incest, to face the fact that their offender cared nothing about them, except to use them for sexual gratification. The blow to the victim’s self-worth can be hugely negative once they realize the perpetrator did not love them, did not care about them as child, or even a human being –that the victim was worth nothing more than a piece of trash to the abuser.

It is imperative for victims and adult survivors to not only realize their self-worth does not depend on any human being, but that it depends upon their own realization that they are loved by God, The Angels of Heaven, their children, or their animals.

Self-worth is not measured by sexuality, how we are treated by biological family members, or whether or not our parents or siblings loved us.

Our self-worth comes from who and what we are today –but not by our paycheck, our education, our degree, our status, our “wins” in competition, the number of friends we have, or whether or not we are in a relationship with someone. Our self-worth is defined by our actions, thoughts, and words towards God, our neighbor, the animals, our children, and ourselves.

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“The Persisting Negative Effects of Incest”, supra, at pp. 328-29.
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9 Responses to Adult Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse Often Protect the Abuser and Run from Therapy

  1. PDD says:

    Alethea,

    For decades I ‘split’ my mother into two distinct persons: the “Loving Mom” and the “Scary Lady”. The Loving Mom was the person I adored and cherished, very loving, giving, caring; this is the person I remember from my early elementary school years. The Scary Lady was the physical/verbal/incestuous tyrant who terrorized and sabotaged me from at least age 10 until her death 6 years ago. For so very long I’ve held the belief, the hope, that Loving Mom was the real person, the real personality, and that Scary Lady was the aberrant personality, enabled by legitimate organic reasons (bipolarity, prescription drug abuse, a botched hysterectomy, sexual addiction); something had to the be reason for Scary Lady’s existence.

    A couple weeks ago, I reconnected with a long lost high school friend “L”. Our mothers were absolute best friends. L told me that my mother confessed to her mother that she had “allowed herself to experiment with” and “damaged” and “violated” me growing up.

    So, I now must the accept the truth that Scary Lady was the real person, and Loving Mom that I saw from time to time in the last years of her life was the aberrant personality. Even up to just a week ago or so, by believing there must be some organic reason for my mother’s action, I too was still defending an image of a person who simply had not existed for decades and decades.

    You wrote: “The blow to the victim’s self-worth can be hugely negative once they realize the perpetrator did not love them, did not care about them as child, or even a human being –that the victim was worth nothing more than a piece of trash to the abuser.” A “worthless piece of shit” was an insult Scary Lady said of me often. You’re right, this is a blow: L’s admission has shaken all I had come to hope and believe about the existence of Loving Mom. I now question if she even existed in my early elementary school years….

    • Alethea says:

      Dear PDD,

      It could be that “Loving Mom” and “Scary Lady” were both real, and both who she was. Split personalities are common, and if she was a Gemini, her astrological sign could have affected her deeply. The astrological sign of Gemini is “the twins.”

      We all have good and bad in us, and if a person like your mother was severely abused in her childhood, it can absolutely polarize her to extreme degrees….and one being ugly.

      I am deeply sorry for your lack of ever having a real mother.

      ~A

  2. Alethea says:

    I just found this study that I thought I would post here as a follow up to this article:

    “One study found that it is not so much suffering, fear, or pain which causes *amnesia* for childhood sexual abuse, but the result of the child’s need to continue a relationship of attachment with the perpetrator in order to survive.”

    Source: Self-Re ported Memory for Abuse Depends Upon Victim-Perpetrator Relation ship Jennifer J. Freyd, PhD Anne P. DePrince, PhD Eileen L. Zurbriggen, PhD Journal of Trauma & Dissocia tion, Vol. 2 (3) 2001 2001 by The Haworth Press, Inc.

  3. Jess says:

    I was unwilling to see my father for who, and what, he truly was –because if I did allow myself to see that he was just using me for sexual gratification, then I would not have been able to handle the emotional devastation of that.

    I could not agree more. I still feel this right now and it feels so hard because it feels like I’m never going to be able to feel anything else. I still feel like I need to be loyal to my father even though I don’t logically think I need to.

    • Alethea says:

      Jess, (((Big Hug)))

      I was thinking this morning how it is similar to a boyfriend who dumps us, or who breaks up with us. Oftentimes, we cling to the idea/need/belief that they still want us, or that they still might get back together with us one day –that they really liked/loved us a lot and ‘didn’t really mean it’ when they left us for someone else, or to date other people. When we see the guy, we retain the need to think they are still into us and will approach us to get back together…

      This is usually NOT the case. Most often, the boyfriend has moved on emotionally and physically, and was only using us for something to begin with.

      I have been married for 20 years, so I am speaking from past experiences, when I was in my teens/20’s…but I recall very well how that felt.

      • L.Day says:

        This is usually NOT the case. Most often, the boyfriend has moved on emotionally and physically, and was only using us for something to begin with.
        ===It is very painful to read this but It is sadly true. I am glad I am learning to love me and value me and I don’t need a man to do this for me anymore. They never did a half way decent job. I prefer unconditional love.

  4. Little Nel says:

    “Self-worth is not measured by sexuality, how we are treated by biological family members, or whether or not our parents or siblings loved us.”

    What a refreshing thought! It’s our own attitudes and actions that define us. Those are the things that we have control over.

  5. Little Nel says:

    Great post, Alethea!

    All my life I struggled with rejection and feelings of being defective because of my secret about being abused by the matrons in a county home, then four years later by my father, my step-mother, and my step-sister.

    I had feelings of anguish and despair whenever something triggered my hurtful memories that I wanted gone. I would go into a depressive state, a black hole without any end. It seemed that I was powerless to control it as it had me in it’s powerful grip. I was stuck, but something deep inside was crying out for freedom.

    I was tossed a life line and I went for it. The amazing therapy that I received has given me clarity and freedom from that pain.

    “When the road is rough, the reward is great.”

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