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Mother-daughter Sexual Abuse

Introduction

Child Sexual Abuse is often considered one of the greatest evils in society, and the effects of such abuse are well documented. Survivors of mother-daughter sexual abuse have an added evil to contend with – the extreme isolation in feeling that they are the only survivors of this form of abuse, and that no one will believe them. These fears are not unfounded. Mother-daughter sexual abuse is a topic that receives little attention from researchers, support services, or the media. Survivors of mother-daughter sexual abuse often report being met with disbelief or shock by friends, family, and even mental health care professionals, and survivors of other forms of sexual abuse. The fact that some mothers sexually abuse their daughters is an ugly, shattering thought. When it is your reality, it is infinitely worse.

Mothers are People Too

In our society, mothers are automatically given special status, and certain characteristics, such as “nurturing, caring, protective” are attributed to them. The truth is, at her core, a mother is a woman and a human being, and like any other human being, is capable of the same range of violence, hate and autonomous behavior. To view women or mothers any differently, is to not realize their full potential as human beings, for better or for worse.

Sexually Abusive Mothers

Mothers often sexually abuse in more than one way, and act independently. The sexual abuse can be violent and physically painful, and take place in the context of emotional and physical abuse as well.

Abusive acts experienced by daughters may include:

  • Digital penetration or insertion of objects into the vagina or anus 
  • being touched or fondled, or being made to touch or fondle another 
  • oral sex, giving or receiving
  • unnecessary enemas, catheterizations, application of “medicine” to genitals
  • being watched, or being forced to watch her mother bathe, dress, and/or masturbate 
  • verbal harassment concerning her sexual development or sexuality

Mother-daughter sexual abuse is not about homosexuality. In fact, the vast majority of abusers are married and heterosexual. This form of abuse is about a mother’s distorted views about herself and her daughter. The mother may be a survivor of abuse and act out her own experiences with her daughter. The mother may find it unbearable to see any part of herself in her daughter, and displace her own anger and shame over her sexuality onto her daughter. The mother often wishes to dominate and control her daughter, while also seeking emotional support from her, sometimes resulting in a reversal of roles.

Underreported Crime

The incidence of mother-daughter sexual abuse is unknown because it is a grossly underreported crime. Less than 1% of MDSA members report any intervention as a child.

There are many reasons, including:

- the extreme rarity of the offender seeking treatment, the victim reporting the abuse, or the authorities discovering the crime

- therapists, social workers, doctors, teachers, etc. know very little about this form of abuse and/or do not consider it a possibility

- perpetrators overwhelmingly appear like "normal" caring mothers

- lack of protection by physically or emotionally absent fathers OR abusive fathers

- low physical evidence that can not be seen on routine physical examination Abuse is sometimes conducted under the guise of normal medical care or hygiene

- child and adult survivors may not recognize their experiences as abusive because: 

  • their experiences may be perceived as “normal” to them
  • there is a general lack of acknowledgement or validation for this form of abuse
  • as compared to male-female abuse, mother-daughter abuse tends to begin younger, last longer, and be more pervasive, yet covert

* artwork on this page created by Ameya, MDSA Member