Monday, November 12, 2012
Dissertation on shame. Chapter 23.0 Brothers and Sisters
Only three participants speak of brothers and sisters in relation to shame. They mention the topic 13 times in the interviews (appendix 4). This might indicate that the Incest Centre is not very occupied of the subject because the topic is relatively seldom. I include this category in my exploration because brothers and sisters are significant others and there seems to be in my opinion little research on this subject. In my opinion, it should be of interest to find out where one defines the boundaries between sexual play between siblings and sexual abuse; how do parents react to the discovery of their children having sex with each other and what are the consequences to the children when this is revealed; how do siblings react when they find out that their brother or sister is being of has been sexually abused? I am not able to answer these questions here, but bring the topic to the surface for exploration and acknowledge that further investigation on this subject is necessary.
Linda says that her brother not only knew that their father was abusing her, he also abused her himself for many years. Her father abused her first and her brother abused her later in her childhood. She says that they had a “normal” relationship, even though she was sexually abused by both her father and brother throughout her childhood. It seems that Linda implies that it is possible to differentiate between the sexual abuse in the family and other family activities. Others may have seen Linda as having a “normal” relation to both her father and brother, even though they were abusing her sexually. She says that the “normal” relationship was first destroyed when she exposed the sexual abuse in her 20’s, and that was when she felt shame for the first time. As long as she could hide the sexual abuse, and play the role of a “normal” sister and daughter, she felt seemingly no shame.
Linda: My brother, I remember my brother and that we lived a completely normal life together until I exposed the sexual abuse. It was first then that I felt shameful. I haven’t talked with him since…I have seen him but haven’t been able to talk to him…So that’s 20 years ago.
Kaare: Why haven’t you talked to him?
Linda: Umm ((looks up at the ceiling)) I really don’t know. I just can’t (.). I feel sick just seeing him. I saw him at the store once and had to run out because I felt such disgust. I felt like throwing up…It’s as if… (.) I just feel sorry for him…And I’m afraid I’ll attack him in rage…I’ve never spoken to him or anyone else in the family about the abuse. My brother asked me to forgive him. When I came home from the hospital I got a bunch of flowers from him with a card where he had written asking for forgiveness. But my father never asked. He died when I was 15.
It may seem that Linda’s view of her reality changed after revealing her sexual abuse; she could not talk to her brother away more, and she felt shame, disgust and rage. What effects the sexual abuse committed by her brother has had on Linda may be difficult to isolate from the abuse committed by her father and his friends which carried on at the same time. But the abuse as a whole made her in the end psychotic and she received therapy for this for several years. This does not mean that being abused by ones brother always results in psychosis. The context of sexual abuse is different from case to case, personality attributes are different, the sexual acts are different, and so forth. One thing, in my opinion, that might be found frequent in most cases of sex play and sexual abuse between siblings is the feeling of shame, which Linda speaks about when the behavior between them is revealed to others. Verifying this assumption would demand further investigation.
Olga is a worker at the Incest Centre in Vestfold who is the mother of two children and where one of her children, a daughter, was sexually abused by her husband (the child’s father). She tells how her son reacted when he found out that his father had sexually abused his sister. He expressed his shame through silence and isolating himself from everybody.
Olga: He has spoken about it afterwards, how he was ashamed because the abuse had happened in his home, his father and him as a man, feeling these things. As a man and a father he did these things. Yeah he has talked about how it felt.
Kaare: How did this shame reveal itself?
Olga: Mostly because he was not able to say anything about it to anyone. He became silent…He shut himself up inside himself. After leaving home, he isolated himself from everybody.
Olga’s son was not sexually abused himself, but still felt shame because of the abuse. It seems that he was ashamed of being the son of an abusive father and that the abuse had taken place where also he was at home. The effect being silence, isolation and that he locked himself up inside himself. Whether he received help and attention as a brother to an abused sister is not known in this story, but this is a concern the Incest Center in my opinion should have when helping families how have experienced sexual abuse.
Ruth describes the dilemma of a mother whose son has sexually abused his sister. It seems that the mother cares for both children. Ruth says that such cases are very touchy and the most difficult conversations they have at the Incest Centre, which this citation seems to illustrate.
Ruth_1: Umm they are the most difficult cases we have (.) when we have such cases (.) ((Looks down)). Being the mother of both (.) umm how can a mother relate to both the abuser and the victim? (.) Umm when a mother comes here for a conversation and has both children (.) and that the children (.) one is being abused and the other is the abuser. How do we take care of the mother? Which road should she take? (.) Those cases are very touchy.
Should the mother take side against her abusive son in order to be 100 percent for her victimized daughter? Is it possible for the mother to show love and affection for both children after the abuse being revealed? Such questions seem to be a reality for some mothers and are in my opinion extremely complicated and difficult to answer.
Kaare T. Pettersen
Pettersen,Kaare Torgny, 2009: An Exploration into the Concept and Phenomenon of Shamewithin the Context of Child Sexual Abuse. An Existential-Dialogical Perspectiveof Social Work within the Settings of a Norwegian Incest Centre. PhD 2009 Department of Social Work and HealthScience Faculty of Social Sciences and Technology Management. NorwegianUniversity of Science and Technology, NTNU, Trondheim, Norway. Doctoral theses 2009: 184