Trigger warning: This article contains very sensitive topics discussing sexual abuse. Please read at your own discretion.
I have been working with trauma survivors in various capacities for over a decade but only recently have I been encountering more and more survivors of mother-daughter sexual abuse. Also known as MDSA, mother daughter sexual abuse is not as reported as other kinds of sexual abuse, so the statistics and research is limited. Unfortunately, with limited information many survivors can feel alone and confused. They question whether or not something happened to them. For non-survivors it can be hard to wrap your head around MDSA. This blog will help you if you’re wondering whether you’re a survivor of mother-daughter sexual abuse and also how to help yourself cope.
One my hopes when I write or talk about childhood sexual abuse is to help make the topic less stigmatizing for survivors. Survivors often carry shame. Shame for what happened to them. They feel shame that they couldn’t stop it and shame that it occurred in the first place. When people cringe or try to distance themselves from talking about it, it further makes survivors feel shame and like no one understands them. So not only do I talk about this to help them but I also want to bring this topic more to the forefront of people’s minds. I do so in hopes that parents, teacher, and other adults who work with children can spot the signs and intervene so kids don’t have to suffer alone.
Signs of Mother-Daughter Sexual Abuse
There are numerous signs that indicate childhood sexual abuse, and these are no different for survivors of mother-daughter sexual abuse. These include:
- Being made to touch another genitals, whether the other was another child, teen or an adult
- Genital penetration with body parts or objects
- Genital stimulation
- Exposure to pornography
- Coercing you to engage in sexual relations with a prostitute/sex worker by a parent
- Inappropriately watching a child undress or use the bathroom
Now for survivors of mother-daughter sexual abuse they have the added element of confusion about whether something was abusive or just a response from a mother who was just “weird”. Survivors of MDSA report that their mothers:
- Checked their bodies, giving their genitals a private exam that was forceful
- Forcing them to “breastfeed”, meaning the mother described the act of breast feeding and named it breastfeeding but in fact their was either no milk or very milk being reproduced and the child did not want to do it
- Making out/french kissing
- Forcing her hands between your legs with or without clothes on
These are just some of the things that survivors report they experienced from their mothers. When you look at the different lists, one seems blatantly obvious, while the other doesn’t. This is why it’s so confusing for survivors of MDSA. In fact, many survivors, in order to cope, minimize their experiences because they cannot fathom what their mother did was abuse. But a major clue that indicates that you endured abuse is if your mother’s behavior made you feel dirty, used, gross, or taken advantage of.
Why It’s So Confusing and Damaging for Survivors
Mother’s are generally revered in all societies. The bond between mother and child start in utero and the mother serves as a safe place for their baby. Babies rely on their mothers for nourishment, comfort, and safety so when this bond is broken due to abuse it is incredibly distressing for the child.
Much is made about mothers who are on drugs or alcohol and thus neglect their babies. We make excuses for them, blaming their addiction. Much is made about mothers who are physically abusive to their children. Again we blame stress and not enough help. So it’s no wonder that when the topic of sexual abuse from mother to daughter comes up that we look for excuses. These range from the mother had a severe mental health disorder, like psychosis, or a survivor will minimize their experiences, believing that the acts were not sexual. In fact, it’s very hard for people to see mothers as sexual beings, so to think about a mother sexually violating their child, goes completely against our psyche’s.
So it’s because of all these reasons that many survivors fear that they wont be believed. It’s that shocking. Even when they are brave enough to share their experiences, the shocked expression on the other persons face followed by a seemingly benign “are you sure?” is enough to make a survivor question something they’ve all ready been questioning.
But there are mothers who sexually abuse their daughters and also their sons. It is not necessarily due to some external circumstances like psychosis or drugs, but has everything to do with the mother’s own impulses.
3 Tips To Help You Cope with Mother-Daughter Sexual Abuse
So one of the things many a survivor struggle with is questioning whether something happened to them or not. Again the major blaring sign for you to look at, as you slowly begin to allow yourself to explore these distressing thoughts, is if the behavior made you feel dirty, used, gross, or taken advantage of. If you answer in the affirmative then you experienced sexual abuse.
Now how does one cope and move on from this type of abuse?
Tip #1: Find a therapist. I very rarely jump out the gate with this one but mother-daughter sexual abuse is sadly not discussed enough and you will be suffering from complex trauma symptoms. Not only were you sexually violated, which has your stress response system all ready sensitized and easily triggered, but your also dealing with attachment wounds. How do learn to feel safe and to trust again if the main person who was supposed to do this for you was the one harming you? Many survivors not only have to combat these feelings but they also have feelings of fear and disgust being around other women and also their bodies. This can all be incredibly hard to deal with alone and you don’t have to suffer alone. So please reach out to a skilled trauma therapist, someone who has experience working with sexual abuse survivors and bonus if they’ve treated survivors of MDSA.
Tip #2: Journal. When memories or feelings come to mind jot them down. A) this will help you get them out of your head which will free your mind up so you’re not so overwhelmed. B) it will be great to share with your therapist as you work through everything that comes up as you process and begin to heal from your trauma.
Tip #3 Come to terms with what happened and mourn the loss. It’s never easy to be a survivor of sexual abuse but there is so much support out there for survivors that people don’t feel so alone. But if you’re a female survivor of mother-daughter sexual abuse you absolutely feel alone. As you come to terms with what happened to you, you will be flooded with all kinds of thoughts and feelings. They will be intense. It will be sad, scary, disgusting, and frustrating. You might have blocked much of it out so you can continue to survive and live with your mother as a child, but now as an adult looking at things through a different lens, you have to come to terms with the fact that your mother didn’t protect you. She hurt you. So you will be mourning the loss of that mother-daughter relationship.
Mother-daughter sexual abuse is sadly not discussed enough in our culture. Survivors are left questioning what happened and feeling alone as resources are sparse. But MDSA occurs. It has long lasting affects but those effects don’t have to define you and continue to cause you pain. There is hope that you can feel whole, feel love, experience safety, and have trusting wonderful relationships with others. If you’re a survivor of mother-daughter sexual abuse and your looking to heal, contact me today to set up and appointment. Healing is possible.