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25 March, 2012

It is horrendously common for parents to claim they had no idea anything was going on.  How, I ask you, would it be possible for children to be having such dramatic and terrifying symptoms, and the related, persistent emotional distress, and have parents be ignorant of their suffering?  Any reasonably sentient being would have to be aware of a child’s suffering … or would they? Here’s the rub:  Sexual abuse runs in families.

The probability of a victim’s mother having been a victim is extremely high.  Looked at one way, symptoms are defenses which simultaneously express and defend against traumatic memories. Actually, it isn’t the memories per se that are defended against, it is the emotional storm and threatened dissolution of psychological integrity that are defended against. Mothers more or less are compelled to blind themselves to the abuse of their own children. To allow awareness would threaten to let loose the hell dogs of their own memories and emotional cataclysms. There is, of course, the additional element of the repetition compulsion – in this case a vicarious repetition compulsion.  Put the two together and there are powerful reasons why mothers don’t take note of their children’s’ suffering and the reasons for that suffering.

On a gut level, it is still difficult to grasp how such horrendous abuse and the equally horrendous symptoms could go without parental notice, but the fact is that they do. The sad thing is that entire dynamic is part of what allows the abuse to go on generationally in families. The gut level inability to understand the selective blindness explains as well the rage survivors feel toward their mothers. Many survivors can almost dismiss the perpetrator(s) as just sick people. What they can’t dismiss is how mom didn’t know, and/or why she didn’t do something about the abuse.

In many instances, mothers do consciously know of the abuse but still fail to act to protect the child. The worst case scenario is when mothers abet or even participate in the abuse. I recall one survivor whose mother “loaned” her to a group of three men for a weekend in exchange for drugs, and another whose mother and father both let men use her for drugs. That father gave the survivor drugs and had sex with her as well. (See also Dissociation in Moms?)

I believe that the entire collection of symptoms described in these posts are experienced starting in childhood and shortly after the abuse starts.  Can you imagine, for instance, being able to go to school and concentrate enough to learn anything, given the ongoing abuse and symptoms?  I have little doubt that therein lies the reason that survivors tend to score normal to a bit low on verbal I.Q. but offset that with higher performance I.Q. scores.  The latter assertion is, once again, based on case observation.  I doubt there’s ever been any research on the correlation between verbal I.Q., performance I.Q., overall I.Q. and a history of childhood sexual abuse … but there ought to be.

ADDENDUM: Search terms have indicated interest in mothers molesting their children. That happens as well. While doing groups for survivors, it was noted that there were some who hit plateaus and couldn’t move on. The chief suspect was that the group members who had molested their own children wouldn’t “go there” in group session for fear of being judged.

  1. I am going to read the rest of your posts. Thanks for the like and comment on my post. As a therapist working with sexual abuse trauma I have recently encountered two patients, adults, who hallucinate, and one teen. One of the adults has no memory of sexual abuse. I am not going to assume or encourage her to assume sexual abuse but the imagery, “being pierced with needles, being shrunk to nothing”, is kind of obvious to me. I, too, would like to see more research done on this as there appears to be no firm line between “schizophrenia” and sexual abuse trauma symptoms.

    • Survivors don’t have the hallmark ‘negative’ symptoms that persons with schizophrenia do. Neither does one encounter associational disturbances in survivors — the twisted logic of schizophrenia often referred to as loose associations Neither do they have the signature flat affect. The discrimination is not difficult, except for some psychiatrists who do not think through a diagnosis.

  2. Excellent post, as I am sure you already knew! Excuse the intrusion but I find your blog very informative and as a “survivor” of sexual abuse, I agree with you on that there should be research done on the connection between the different I.Q scores if none has been or is being done already.

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