Childhood Sexual Abuse: Blind Caregivers
Jul 16, 2021
In this second installment of the planned series on child abuse in childhood we are going to focus on this occasion on one of the most painful aspects for the victim, the blindness of those responsible for the care and care of the child.
This fact, above any other consideration, defines as none the feeling of loneliness, "fog" and defenselessness of the abused infant, especially when the “blind” caregiver is none other than the mother or, in her case, the dad.
Indeed, in our daily experience in therapy, the phrase of the type: “almost more than abuse in yes, the most terrible thing, what hurt the most was that my mother, above all, did not see it, or if she saw it, she would not nothing". Even if the child has the courage and strength to tell it, on many occasions collides with the disbelief of the nearby caregiver. “What totally broke me is that Mom didn't believe me. I couldn't understand it. "
- Related article: "Sexual abuse in childhood: when we were dead"
Unprotected situations in the face of child sexual abuse
The impact on the child, innocent victims of an aggression sometimes incomprehensible to them, in the face of the indifference of the closest figures affectively speaking, is as is well known devastating, and will be the object of a later reflection.
This time we want to focus above all on the figure of attachment, especially the mother. In most cases, mothers are not even aware of what is happeningBecause in the case of not having suffered in her flesh a traumatic experience of this type, to think that her husband, uncle, trusted caregiver in whom have placed the safety of their son or daughter, or in their case the priest who guides them spiritually, they are doing something wrong to their children does not enter into head. As I sometimes tell mothers: "that possibility was not in your brain's control panel."
It is also true that sometimes we find absent mothers, who do not pay enough pay attention to the sometimes significant behavioral and psychological changes that occur in your children. This emotional neglect by omission is also common.
But, in our experience, even more frequent is the fact that many mothers cannot literally accept this reality and prefer to look the other way.
The victim can be threatened to deny the facts rather than face the reality that is being producing, since glimpsing both the preference for the daughter, as well as her passive role in the abuse, cannot be digested, and defenses are put in place whether of denial, minimization or idealization.
At other times the mother is preconscious of what is happening at home, but she opts for silence simply out of fear. Either direct fear, because she has also been abused or violated by the aggressor, or indirect, by having an economic, emotional or any kind of dependency, which makes it impossible for them to protect themselves and to protect. There are also cases, perhaps less frequent, but in a not inconsiderable number, where their relationship with the abuser, social status and family subsistence are prioritized.
It is curious, but this last type of omission, although it occurs in all kinds of social strata, abounds especially in the more affluent class, where the family institution is an untouchable bastion and immovable. Actually this phenomenon of the family, recognized by all as the basic institution on which all our social network, acts as a deterrent when it comes to becoming aware of a fact that calls into question the institution. This is the slab that weighs on the victim, the lid of his coffin and the cause that explains many of the negligence by omission described above.
However, this article does not want and should not fall into the easy temptation to blame mothers for what has happened to their children. This simplistic, blaming vision has been common in specialized literature over the years, especially if the abuse has been committed by the male parent. Thus Cartes, Gavey, Florence, Pezaro & Tan, Shonberg, Womack, Miller, Lassiter... abound in the role of the mother as an accomplice, knowledgeable, negligent and even facilitator of abuse.
This vision has also been transferred to clinical practice in psychotherapy with victims of child abuse; is born from the social expectation of a perfect mother, capable of protecting her children from any danger, harm or suffering and in the last case, the figure with the greatest influence in everything that happens in the family and solely responsible for the well-being and safety of the children.
- You may be interested in: "The 6 stages of childhood (physical and mental development)"
Caroline Sinclair and Josefina Martinez, in their precious work: “Guilt or responsibility; therapy of mothers of girls and boys who have suffered sexual abuse ”, they distinguish between two approaches when dealing with mothers of abused children: guilt approach and responsibility approach.
The guilt approach emphasizes deficits, emphasizes the role of the mother in the occurrence of the abuse, which in a way implies a judgment on the person and ends up paralyzing a fundamental resource for the therapy. This approach will provoke a resistant and defensive attitude in the mother, which will not help at all in the therapeutic process.
At Vitaliza we lean in and act from the perspective of responsibility, which places more emphasis on skills than deficits, and emphasizes the role of the mother in reparation. This implies analyzing concrete actions, not easy and generalist visions, which activates resources and favors the association and reunion of the victim with the mother, with all the benefit that this brings to the reprocessing process and healing.
Without going into simplistic assessments, as we have stated above, most of the time the mother is still a vicarious victim of the abuse of her children, and although hers does not action has a devastating impact on the loneliness of the victim, her person is not a figure to blame but to integrate within the psychotherapeutic accompaniment of the victim.
Author: Javier Elcarte, trauma psychologist. Founder and director of Vitaliza.