My Mother

The real meaning of mother’s day

November 22nd.

I have come to understand that my mother knew and chose to do nothing.

When I was 18 or thereabouts, I wrote my mother a letter telling her what my father had done to me. That he’d raped me and sexually abused me, beginning when I was quite young and continuing for years.

To her credit, she said believed me immediately, that it was “something he would do”.

She told me afterward that she spend the next several months crying and hiding from my father at night by sleeping in their bedroom closet.

Women leave their husbands for a lot of reasons – alcoholism, physical abuse, cheating or because they just don’t love them any more. Not my mother. My father drank himself unconscious almost every night. He slapped her at least once, an action I heard from the next room, and which my brother witnessed. He raped me, beginning when I was five years old. Despite clearly being in distress, and showing no signs I could discern that she felt anything for my father but revulsion, she didn’t leave at any time during my childhood, or in the 14 years after that letter. I begged her several times to leave, told her her duty as a mother and a feminist demanded it, but she didn’t. She told me afterward it was because no-one would help her.

I’m not sure what kind of help she needed. She traveled regularly, visited her relatives, who seemed to care about her, and was in enough contact with feminists to have access to information about shelters and welfare. She never asked me for a plane ticket or a place to stay to help her leave, or anything else. Fourteen years later, she finally left, but not because of me. She told me that since I was no longer in danger, she could take her time and leave when the time was right. She said she’d finally left in order to have a relationship with her children, two of whom would no longer have contact with her.

During my childhood, my father was known to make inappropriate sexual comments to adult women, including my mothers brother’s wife, my aunt. The insult he paid her was so severe my uncle and aunt severed contact with my family over it, but no-one wondered, to my knowledge, whether his daughter was at risk.

Except perhaps my mother.

A couple of years after I wrote her the letter, my mother, trying to repair her relationship with me, attended a joint therapy session with herself, her therapist and I. During this session I asked her to do a basic listening exercise, where I said couple of sentences and she would repeat back what she heard. There, in a different city from my father, with her therapist present, rather than repeat a simple sentence, that my father had raped me over a period of about ten years, beginning when I was about five, my mother ran screaming to the bathroom. She could not do it.

When I was little and being raped, it was just down the hall from where my mother slept. My father would drink himself unconscious, then wake up a few hours later, dragging his clumsy hands along the hallway to the bathroom where if he intended to rape me, would go in and pee. He would then come out and enter my room, which was directly across from the main bathroom. If he intended to go to sleep, he would continue down the hallway to his bedroom and pee in the ensuite bathroom.

I believe she must have known, and that’s why she didn’t leave later on, that she’d already decided long before to stay, no matter what.  If his drinking, hitting her, verbal abuse and the embarassment of his sexual sleaziness was not enough reason to leave, what was the rape of a daughter she could not have truly valued?

All of this, the hand dragging, the stumbling down the hallway, the peeing, the flushing in the middle of the night made some noise. I know I heard it. I’d lie awake waiting for the sounds that would indicate I was in danger or safe for the night. One night that I know of, that my mother admits, she intercepted him after he left the bathroom and was entering my room. She steered him down the hall to their bedroom. She claims she just didn’t imagine he’d abuse me.

Clearly I don’t get my imagination from her, since I am quite able to imagine abuse. However, perhaps that’s not fair. I didn’t need to imagine it.

So now that I stare all this in the face, waiting for my father to die, what do I say to my mother when she wants to get together for the holidays?  How do I respond to her when she wants to hang out, have lunch and visit, when she’d like me to make a fuss over her for mothers day or visit her at her home? I can’t imagine it.

Note added May 2012:  A few years later than this post, I found proof that my mother had known about the rapes, in the form of scars on my body from injuries she would not have been able to miss.  Later posts in this blog describe that process of learning about the scars, as I was experiencing it.  I have since severed all contact with my mother, who was a criminal accomplice to the rapes. These scars also validated several memories of the assaults.

9 thoughts on “My Mother”

  1. You are very wise Sword dance, Llel so great you found and shared here. Thinking of you both. I too know very few survivors who’s Mums were able to protect them

  2. Thanks for this entry. I am sitting on the other side of a wall from my mother. I live with her because I have been little more than destitute my entire adult life. About five years ago I self-diagnosed as high-functioning autism but now with the latest recovery of childhood trauma I am in the process of absorbing that I will never know if this is autism or brain damage from the rape I endured. I do not know if there was more than one rape or not. The main way in which my neurological issues have affected me is with employment. Otherwise it would not be an issue because I am fine with my eccentricity otherwise. How it manifests is the typical symptoms of an adult autistic, with face blindness, literal interpretation, clumsiness, social awkwardness, problems with interpretation of subtext and things like sarcasm, I could go on and on. Essentially, a large part of my functioning seems to be at the level of maturity of a three year old, at which age I apparently was the victim of a violent rape. I got no medical treatment. My mother I am certain knew what happened. When I visited the gynecologist for the very first time in my life he insisted I had to have had an abortion or D&C because in his words ‘there appears to be some scarring’. This was followed by several denials from me and a very very long silence on his part after which he declared, ‘well, maybe that is just the way *you* are’. I actually am grateful to this man for not belaboring this point and forcing the issue of the scarring, as I was in no way ready to deal with the implications of that. In retrospect of course, it is a tough memory to revisit. I hope to in the future do as you have done and be re-examined with the trauma known to the practitioner. I am having more and more problems every single day dealing with my relationship with my mother. I am convinced it is the autism/brain damage that have kept me from seeing her true nature. Now that I know of this, I am completely in a state of disbelief. I asked her point blank ‘when was I raped’ several weeks ago, and she eventually insisted ‘you were never raped in my house’…and insisted it happened when I went to college. I was the victim of a date-rape in college due to alcohol but nothing that would have caused internal scarring of this nature. I had a psychotic break several weeks ago and re-experienced the physical manifestations of my own reaction to the rape, or to put it bluntly, I lay in bed and screamed for what seemed like a half an hour, though it might have been a much shorter period of time. I seemed to make no effort whatsoever to produce this scream, it was like a bound spring coming loose. I did not feel any pain but I was wailing in agony and begging god for help, as if I were in agony. Sorry I did not mean to go on so long…This stuff is just spilling out. Anyway thanks for the entry because I am grappling more and more every day with these issues with my mother and being baffled at her ‘warding off’ of the evidences of my sexual abuse at the hands of three different perpetrators.

    1. Mothers being in denial is, unfortunately, really, really common. I wouldn’t say it’s normal, but it’s definitely typical. I don’t know a lot of child sexual abuse survivors who have had mothers who were supportive and protective, and I know a lot of survivors. Particularly when the abuser is a member of the family or is outside the family but the parents didn’t spot it or help, parents often just can’t deal. It’s not your place to fix her, and it’s not going to be possible. I’m sorry.

      I’m not sure where in the world you are, but if you have the option to be on welfare or social assistance, or take an undemanding job so you can live somewhere other than with your mother, that would be a good idea. It will be much, much harder to heal with her denial around you. When I was first healing I moved into an inexpensive place and worked cleaning houses for people. It allowed me to be alone most of the day and not need to talk to anyone much. If you find your own clients, usually by putting up ads on notice boards, you will make more money. I had a university degree, but I needed the space and time to heal so I cleaned houses. I could cry and scrub at the same time. And then when the healing, memories and emotions settled down (they do) I got better jobs. There are usually jobs a person can handle while healing. You are very strong. You survived. You are smart enough to go to college. You can be free and heal.

      What you experienced was probably not a psychotic break. It sounds like a physical and emotional memory fragment to me, which is something quite different. Memory fragments are upsetting but are the way that people usually remember traumatic incidents. When you are able to work with a therapist on them, you will be able to connect the pieces together and then the fragments will stop intruding so much. I have a couple of posts on my blog and in my book about how traumatic memory works. Your experiences seem pretty normal to me.

      Good luck llel. It does get better, and it will.

  3. Pingback: Awesome Sexuality after surviving the worst | May We Dance Upon Their Graves

  4. I wanted to mention a book that I thought was very good, by a survivor of sexual abuse by her step-father. Her name is Louise Wisechild. She wrote a book about healing called “The Obsidian Mirror.” The book that I wanted to mention that she also wrote is called “The Mother I Carry: A Memoir of Healing from Emotional Abuse. Through the book and what she is processing and coping with about her mother’s neglect and emotional abuses of her, it is clear how her mother left her vulnerable to abuse. I cannot remember if there were times her mother was aware of the abuse. However, this was the strongest book yet that I have read that shows how mothers create an environment where abuse can flourish. It became the first exposure that I had to emotional abuse being a prolouge to abuse.

    This issue was strongly emphasized when I took a college course called Child Abuse and Neglect. I also learned from the professor, who worked often with cases of reported child abuse, that a bad mother response, disbelief, denial, and siding with the abuser, was the common response by women who’s children came into the system. I was glad to see that amoung the field of social workers at least there was an understanding of the lack of parenting, protection, and caring being done by the mothers.

    I think it takes a lot of courage to speak out on this subject. Especially with all the mother worshipping that goes on in the western culture mindset.


    1. Thanks for mentioning Louise Wisechild’s work as I read Obsidian Mirror years ago awesome and will check out the other. cheers

  5. Thank you for your kind words. It means a lot. I agree that lots of survivors have this kind of mother, but you’re right, there’s not much on it. I did some internet searching trying to find some info on ‘typical’ mother responses, and didn’t find much. I found one site that could have been written by my mother, it was complaining about ‘mother bashing’ around the issue. Now, I don’t hold my mother responsible for what my abuser did, but I do think it’s a sign of respect to hold people responsible for their own actions.

  6. I’m so sorry for your loss. The mother loss thing, god, it is so huge. It is so huge. There is nothing else in the world like it. And I think the issues is made worse by the fact that it has not been adequeately addressed in the healing community, nor are there measures to help, assist, and heal those of us bereft of a mother’s love in action.

    I think a lot more times that people like to admit this is the kind of mother child abuse victims have.

    Thank you so much for your blog and your way with words. Good and healing thoughts to you.

  7. Pingback: The Mother « May We Dance Upon Their Graves

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