Friday, November 23, 2012
Dissertation on shame. Chapter 26.4. The annihilation of trusting relationships
Many of the participants seem to show little shame towards their fathers who have sexually abused them as children. This might be because of the total destruction of a trusting relationship which seems to be a consequence of incest. Fathers are usually seen as significant others but after sexually abusing their children, fathers seem often no longer to be viewed as significant others, resulting in a feeling of guilt but not to the acknowledgement of shame. Instead, victims of sexual abuse might become ashamed of who they have become (victims of sexually abuse) and take the responsibility and the blame for the abuse on themselves.
Instead of being ashamed of their fathers, many of the participants seem to acknowledge shame towards their mothers even though mothers are not perpetrators. Mothers are often described as being the prime caring adult at home, and several of the informants seem to conclude that mothers should have been there for them and protected them from the harm they have suffered from the sexual abuse from their fathers or other perpetrators. Mothers seem to be perceived as significant others even after the abuse, but since they do not live up to the ideal representations some of the informants have of their mothers they seem to be ashamed of being daughters of their mothers who they blame for having failed to protect them. Several of the informants use their mothers as negative role models for their own motherhood identity, saying that they would never let abuse happen to their children. Mother-Blaming and Mother-Shaming can in my opinion be viewed to some extent as irrational deductions which are based on stereotypical gender pre-understanding or prejudice which is shaped by cultural factors in our western society. Many of the mothers described by informants in this study seem to have lived in patriarchy relationships where the father makes decisions on behalf of the family often leading to the oppression of both children and women. Giving support to women in such relationships instead of blame and shame seems to me to be a more rational deduction. Even when mothers seem to know about the ongoing abuse, they might have been living in relationships where protecting ones children has not been a realistic alternative without the necessary support of their autonomy from outside the family against oppressive paternalism of the father figure in the family. None of the participants speak of their mothers as being sexually abusive, but some speak of them as unloving, unappreciative, insensitive, indifferent, and having psychiatric problems. Some informants seem to conclude that because their mothers most likely knew about the sexual abuse without trying to stop it, they therefore participated in the abuse. This relationship between the non-abusive mother and sexually abused child needs in my opinion to be investigated further.
Being the brother or sister to someone who has been sexually abused seems to be a shameful experience and they might develop many of the same symptoms of shame as their abused siblings. The interruption of feelings that siblings seem to experience when they discover the sexual abuse that has taken place in ones home, may lead to shame and repression of emotions also for siblings that have not been sexually abused in abusive families. This is not a phenomenon which is often spoken of by the participants in this study, but several reports that cases where mothers experience having one child that has victimized another child in the family are amongst the most difficult cases at the Incest Centre in Vestfold. The mother is here placed in a devastating situation with the expectation from others that one should exclude the abusive child in order to include and help the victimized child. Further research on this field of sexual abuse is needed.
All of the participants have touched on the subject of children in the interviews. Sexually victimized children have a nearly fourfold increased lifetime risk of developing a psychiatric disorder and a threefold risk of becoming substance abusers (Finkelhor and Dziuba-Leatherman 1994). Children are told not to complain or cry during the abuse, and they find different ways of redefining the abuse in order to survive. Some are tortured and others are given the responsibility of stopping the abuse. Understanding why one is being abused seems almost impossible. Many children conclude that the cause must be that there is something wrong with them, with their bodies. Child-Blaming and Child-Shaming seems to an impact not only on their health (Kirkengen 2001) but also on their relations to others. Child-Blaming and Child-Shaming may in my opinion result in a destructive spiral of both self-harming and the harming of others. They and are categories in need for further investigation.
Several participants in this study who have been sexually abused as children seem to experience sex with intimate partners as shameful. Nakedness is often difficult because they feel that one’s body is ugly and dirty. Sex is therefore often carried out in the dark and with a night gown on. Many also try not to have eye contact with their sex partner during the sexual act. Shame seems to lead to a range of different ways in which victims try to hide themselves from being seen by others. Other participants in this study speak of going into the role of “the perfect mistress” and try to satisfy their sex partner(s) without consideration to one’s own needs or emotions. Others also develop sex into a way of self-harming behavior by having many sexual partners.
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