It's absolutely fine with me for you to write about it here, and the advantage is that other people who have had experiences like yours can benefit from our dialogue, or join in. If you want more privacy, though, you can write to me by email, and only I will see it: firstname.lastname@example.org.
My experience is not like what is traditionally thought of as sexual abuse (rape, exposure to sex acts as a child, etc.) However, if an adult does not intend to be sexual with a child or hurt a child's genitals, but they still hurt the child either physically or psychologically (or both) by touching the child's genitals inappropriately, does that still count as sexual abuse?
Well, it certainly counts as abuse, and I would count it as sexual abuse too, assuming you experience it that way. It really doesn't matter what we call it, though. If you were hurt by it, and especially if it's interfering with your adult life, it's very, very important to give it the attention and healing you need.
What clearly fits is that you were traumatized. If you are now having nightmares about it, flashback of emotional distress related to it, blocks in your sexual or relationship abilities, anxiety with doctor exams, or a variety of other symptoms related to what your mother did to you, these are normal reactions to being traumatized. Trauma symptoms can usually be resolved, especially with EMDR. Do you have the resources to see a therapist who works with trauma?
Are there any East Bay therapists or therapy groups with sliding scale or free sessions that you recommend for trauma? In particular, are there any therapists/groups you think might be familiar with the issue of sexual abuse or similar trauma when it is perpetrated by the mother? With my last therapist, I worried that the reason she dismissed the problem was because mothers aren't "supposed" to be capable of hurting their children in a sexual way. For me, a big part of beginning to get over this has been that I can reclaim my traumatic experience by recognizing it for what it was. If I were going to talk to someone about it again, I'd want to make sure that they wouldn't deny what happened like my previous therapist and some family members who found out about what was going on have tried to do.
Thank you so much for listening and for your email and board replies! It's SO relieving to be able to put some kind of a name to what happened so that I can start to work with it. In writing to you, I was kind of testing the waters, and I think I'd feel safer in talking to a therapist about this again now that I feel reassured that not everyone is going to try to pretend that the abuse didn't happen. I've been reading about this a lot, and I'm still afraid but I'm learning that it's okay for me to deal with this, and that the truth isn't going to change or go away just because other people didn't want to believe me.
Thanks again, L.
Last Edited by on Nov 17, 2009 2:37 PM
Thanks for being courageous in sharing your story with us! Lots of people have had similar experiences and will be comforted to read your words.
I'm not sure how low you need the low fee to be, but I would recommend my colleague, Frayda Garfinkle 510-530-1965 if you can afford at least $200/month. If not, I would recommend the Women's Therapy Center 510-524-8288, http://womenstherapy.org/. Regardless of who you seek out for therapy, though, please ask them up front if they are experienced with treating trauma and especially mothers sexually abusing their daughters. If you don't get a feeling they are comfortable with any of that, ask for/find someone who is. I'm so glad you've come to the point of being willing to try therapy again, and to believe in your own experience; I don't want you to have another bad experience.