Incest survivor lays blame at her mother’s feet

The following letter was written when I was in my 20’s, a couple of decades ago. It is titled “To My Mother” and it is signed “An incest Survivor.” That is noteworthy because it shows that I understood my feelings to be greater than just my own experience. I was not alone when I signed that letter with the backing of many women just like me. We are united in our painful childhood legacy. I was lost and suicidal until I released the shame.

Here is the letter, unedited…

TO MY MOTHER

I’ve begun struggling with the whole experience of incest in my childhood. I feel pretty screwed up in my adult life because of it and I want to tell you about it.

I have many negative effects from not being protected from childhood sexual abuse as a child. The biggest is I’ve grown up feeling worthless and alone. Deep inside I feel no one really loves me. As an adult, there are times when I feel isolated and lonely.

I contribute my lack of feeling support to the silence and secrecy surrounding what my brother was doing to me when I was younger. I quickly noticed you were hiding it so I learned to hide it. As a child, I learned the incest was too horrible for words and transferred that to “I’m too horrible.” I had to grow up so I learned to separate the rest of my life from the bad thing that was happening at night. But, inside myself, I knew that bad part was really me; I was the scared, abused child. Basically, I felt alone with no one to help me. I was taught, consciously or not, there is no one I can trust and, from that, I’ve learned shame, secrecy and silence.

As long as I can remember I’ve felt different. I’ve been carrying a big secret around. The incest has been the defining experience of my life and yet, I’ve believed that if anyone knew they wouldn’t like me. Since I don’t share the horror of childhood sexual abuse—I don’t share myself and, consequently I don’t trust anyone or make healthy emotional attachments. It’s not right that I carry such shame and blame. It was not my fault.

What I want from you is to accept the blame. I was a child and shouldn’t have blamed myself yet that’s what I’ve learned.

Right now, I believe you and my brother should accept full responsibility. Whether you choose to work on that part of you that allowed the abuse to continue is your choice. And whether my brother decides to examine the part that allowed him to cross the boundary of acceptable behavior is his choice, too. But, I know the behaviors that were yours and my brothers allowed the abuse to happen and continue as long as it did. It was not my fault and I will no longer carry the secret or the blame.

An Incest Survivor

Fast forward 20+ years. I’ve done a lot of psychological work to get where I am today, where I don’t carry shame but I do have the legacy of depression that follows me wherever I go. It is the after effects of childhood sexual abuse that I’m working on now…

3 responses to “Incest survivor lays blame at her mother’s feet

  1. This post gave me chills. My brother molested me, too. And as a messed up twenty-something I blew the whole thing wide open. My mother’s reaction? “I thought something was maybe going on” and “So what do you want me to do about it NOW?” Then I REALLY went off the deep end. didnt speak to her for 6 years. but now? after a few months of BRILLIANT therapy, I can accept her. even enjoy her. but she just mustnt mention HIM.

  2. Compelling to read as I struggle to have a relationship with my aging mother. I’ve forgiven my brother, and believe in some ways he was as much a victim as I. But forgiving her still eludes me.
    The depression and self-doubt and anger are all still there, waiting for her to accept and apologize to me for her role in keeping the secret, not getting him the help he needed, and ultimately not protecting me. In fact, she was more concerned about how my father would react toward my brother if he found out than she was about protecting me, which makes it hurt that much more.
    The closest thing I’ve ever heard to an apology was “I’m sorry if I wasn’t there when you needed me.” “IF”??? Hardly an admission of responsibility.
    Anyway, thanks for sharing your letter. I never thought I’d read about an experience so similar to my own, with so many of the same resulting consequences.
    Best of everything for you in your continued healing.

    • Wow, thanks for sharing all of your thoughts. I’ve not crossed paths with anyone who tells a similar story. I think my mom probably worried about what my dad would think of my brother, too. And it sucks that my dad passed away before I disclosed what happened to me so my brother will never have to be accountable to our dad. Oh well, water under the bridge, as they say.

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