“There are pictures of everything except the fondling and the oral sex that my father forced me to perform for him”
~ Joyce Allan
Many victims of child sexual abuse are disbelieved because the child was captured in photos showing the child smiling with their abuser.
I have seen photos of children, who were severely abused for years, and whose perpetrator has confessed –photos where the children are smiling 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 for me. On the contrary, the woman who called herself my mother wanted me dead.
Until my early thirties, I kept a loving image of my father in my mind because as a child, my soul could not handle that both of my parents hated, abused, 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 parent truly was. It’s sort of a “denial via fantasy.” There is also trauma bonding, and of course, dissociation.
Many victims speak of a positive relationship with their perpetrator. In one study, over half of the victims expressed love for their abuser.
The following 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..
Law enforcement authorities often cannot get the truth from the victim, and the child will often lie to protect the abusing parents. Children will sometimes defend the abusive parents, even 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.”
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.
Children most often deny abuse because of extreme fear and guilt. Even if the abuse is discovered, the child fears 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 if they tell the truth. 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. Some children feel like ‘boyfriend and girlfriend’ with their abuser, and the child often loves the abuser enough to defend him or her in court and later in life as an adult.
To read more on Colleen Stan (The Case of the Girl in the Box), click here.