By the time I became a mother, I had spent years and years healing the abuse of my childhood. When I found out I was pregnant, I felt certain I knew how to prevent my own child from being abused as well. I had a great start, in that the man I got pregnant with is not a child abuser, and I know him well enough to really be sure of this. How can I be so sure? For one thing, he loses sexual interest when I get even slightly triggered or start to space out during sex. He is so deeply compassionate, that he could not possibly enjoy a coercive act.
Unfortunately, it seems that I cannot trust as many people as I thought I could. Two months ago, I found out that a husband of a friend of mine, sexually abused my daughter. She told me in very precise terms what happened, even though she is only 3 years old. She was really nervous about telling me, but she found the courage anyway, and I’m proud of her for that. I believed her, of course, but it was a lot harder to hear those words than I thought it would be. All the healing I had done seemed to wash away, and I was left with all my old PTSD reactions, I was living in a nightmare.
In the weeks immediately following my daughter’s disclosure, I struggled to stay steady for her, because I didn’t want to fall apart the way my own mom had. I fell apart anyway. It took all of the emotional regulation techniques I had to get through each day… meditation, deep breathing, working out, and more. I was still a wreck, I still picked up some of my mom’s parenting style that I had most wanted to leave behind. It was a loss in so many ways, the loss of trust, the loss of believing I could keep my daughter safe forever, the loss of my sanity…
One of the few positives is that I gained empathy for all my mom must have gone through, and how it explained pretty much everything she did. Like how she felt the need to tell everybody what happened to me, even though it was my story not hers… I’m not doing that, but I get that now. I feel the urge to tell everyone too, not because I want sympathy (which is what I thought my mom was doing) but because I want people to understand why I’ve been feeling and acting so crazy. Also, the awareness of what happened to my child is so painful and all-consuming that I feel the need to speak about it, because it is heavy in my heart. I am deeply grateful that my situation is better than my mom’s situation. She tried to accuse my dad of abusing me, but was basically told by the state to shut up. She was branded as crazy (which she certainly was) and that discredited her (true) accusations against my dad. So weekend after weekend, she had to watch me leave with him, with the knowledge of what was surely happening whenever I saw him. I was blocking it out, so I couldn’t tell her as my daughter was able to tell me, and she was helpless.
To feel the tempest of emotions that come up in this situation AND to not be able to stop the abuse would make anyone crazy. If your mom went crazy like mine did, and like I have, please forgive her! All of this doesn’t make her actions towards you right if she treated you badly, but understand that it’s hard not to go crazy in this situation.
Luckily, I have many more tools than I have. For one, I’ve already done years of therapy, which Mom had not at that point. I have self-awareness, and that helps me regain myself. I’ve already lifted up from the worst of this, especially because I have so many tools. I connected with a local rape crisis center and got myself some therapy to deal with this. And, luckily, I can trust my child’s father to be there for me, and I have leaned more heavily on his support, so that my daughter and I can get through this.
My daughter is doing well, and not seeming to have any ill effects from either the sexual abuse or my month-long meltdown. I took care of her the best I could, and as I began to recover, we had talks about how my feelings were not her fault, and were my own feelings, my own to take care of. She is having an opportunity to get closer to her father, and we are moving forward.
Have any of you had to live through this? How did you cope?