There is a growing movement of recognition about child abuse in our society today that can only be applauded. Despite those who would prefer to deny its existence, those who hurl verbal abuse and hatred at survivors, those who dismiss and apologise for paedophiles and abusers, some small gains are being made. Social progression is slowly but surely resulting in an acknowledgement of the amount of predators at large, the damage sustained by survivors and the enormous gaps that exist within the system when it comes to helping them, and the changes necessary in order to halt the repetition of the same mistakes.
As a child, I was given a very limited definition of abuse. Specifically that physical abuse could only be executed with the use of an object and sexual abuse/assault could only ever be perpetrated by a male. This warped viewpoint was bolstered by the fact that my understanding of this last particular type of abuse had the ‘end game’ of penetrative sex as its goal. During the 70’s and 80’s, this was also very much the prevalent understanding amongst the public.
Fortunately, perceptions are slowly changing. Communities, individuals and institutions now also accept the existence of women as abusive and sexual predators, women who deny physical, personal, psychological and sexual boundaries in their dealings with children and teenagers. Yet there remains one societal role that almost everyone is still extremely uneasy and reluctant to acknowledge that, by its very nature, provides the perfect opportunity for abuse. The role of mothers. Pointedly, mothers who abuse their own children.
As a society, we continue to eternalize the maternal role as one which encapsulates comfort, protection and emotional warmth. Within communities, we maintain the idealised picture of a mother who supports, nurtures and encourages growth. Within institutions and secular authorities, including those of healthcare, social care and education, we preserve the notion that the unthinkable does not exist. As individuals, we fight our own natural and internal desire to hang on to the concept that a mother will not only love her children unconditionally but also actively seek to shelter them from harm.
Nonetheless, or perhaps because of this idealisation, abusive mothers not only exist but thrive in such a society. Narcissistic abusers who enjoy psychologically torturing and gas-lighting their own children. Physical abusers who derive pleasure from inflicting humiliation and pain on their children through the exertion of their superior physical strength. Sexual abusers who deliberately ignore the natural boundaries of their children’s bodies in order to obtain a frisson of excitement incomprehensible to the majority. They exist. They harm, terribly. And for as long as society shudders and looks away, they will thrive.
I will never know why my own mother did the things she did to me. I do know however, that she completely believed they were not only acceptable, but approved by her god Jehovah. How do I know this? Because she would constantly tell me.
Mothers as abusers remains a subject that makes the majority of people extremely uncomfortable. At the expense of the children who survive. Frankly, that’s too bad. We lived it. Do not invalidate us by refusing to look at it.