Need some advice on how to help adult victim of childhood sexual abuse


#1

I am looking for some gentle ways to help my mother in law who is an adult survivor of incest. So, if anyone on here is a victim of sexual abuse, and in particular incest, maybe you can give me some pointers on specific issues.

Some background (sorry if this gets lengthy, but it is messy). My mother in law was sexually abused by her father growing up. The evil and toxicity of it permeates every pore of the family's current existence. Her father died 26 years ago, before my husband and I were even born, but my MIL keeps him alive in her actions.
The sexual abuse is a huge secret and only certain members of the family know, including me, which makes it extra delicate. I actually have no idea if my father in law knows. I suspect that he does not because he allowed my MIL to give her father unrestricted, unsupervised access to their daughter up until he died (when she was 8 or 9). Scary. And my father in law is very no-nonsense so I really doubt he would let this happen.

My husband I only found out about the abuse 2 years ago. My mother in law constantly talks about her father in a loving way. She always talks about how handsome he was especially. She is obsessed with his features and her kids having his features. She is very romantic in the way she talks about him. My husband always thought this was weird, but chalked it up to her missing him since he was dead. She basically lets him rule her life from beyond the grave. Unfortunately he was also very anti-Catholic (he got excommunicated for something she will not say)…and she carries that legacy on and insults me constantly.
Now something that is odd is that my mother-in-law is obsessed with blood relation. I think this probably goes back to her being brainwashed by her father. But essentially, she really dislikes family members who are not blood related to her and does not trust them (such as the people her kids married, or her own in-laws). She does not think her kid's spouses are really family because they are not blood related, she will not say it often but it slips out every so often (like telling my husband’s brother that his wedding day was the worst day of her life). Her grandchildren ARE important to her, she is obsessed with them "sharing her genetics". When my brother in law and his wife had a son, my mother in law insisted he looked just like her father! She was giddy over it.

She expects her kids to have a loyalty to her over their spouses since they are "blood" related. She really never bonded with her husband, as is obvious to their kids. I think she was just never able to un-bond from her father because of the psychological issues he put her through. Needless to say, she was very emotionally incestuous with her kids. My husband did not fully realize this until he got out of the house and looked back.

Now, for any of you that have been victims of incest, especially from a parent, was this something that you struggled with? Of feeling bonded only with blood relatives because of the nature of the abuse? Or were you trained not to trust non-blood relatives as a technique of the abuser to keep you quiet? I am trying to make sense of her obsession with shared genetics and an indicator of true connection. Was there something that helped you get over this? I want her to be able to trust and love her entire family.
She will never go therapy for this. We only found out about it because it slipped during a breakdown. She is forever protecting her dad's image. But I hope there are some ways I help her.

Also, just in general for anyone reading this - say a prayer for my MIL.


#2

Hello Mia;

My heart goes out to you for taking time to write about something so very personal.
Although I am a victim of gang-rape, I have had only a little experience speaking to C.S.A. victims. I sense that along with your victimized mother-in-law that you too are carrying disturbed emotional pain. My only suggestion is that if you can’t get your mother-in-law to seek professional help, you yourself might want to consider talking to a psycho-therapist experience in C.S.A. victims. I’m sure there are some pointers that the therapist can give that might help you understand C.S.A. victims and in some way motivate a feeling of well being for your mother-in-law. I certainly wish I could offer more assistance. Just being there with your mother-in-law with a listening heart is a beautiful thing to do

Rest assured my sincere thoughts and prayers will be with you and your mother-in-law

Sincerely Chris


#3

Thank you Chris!


#4

[quote="MercyMia, post:1, topic:190098"]
I am looking for some gentle ways to help my mother in law who is an adult survivor of incest. So, if anyone on here is a victim of sexual abuse, and in particular incest, maybe you can give me some pointers on specific issues.

Some background (sorry if this gets lengthy, but it is messy). My mother in law was sexually abused by her father growing up. The evil and toxicity of it permeates every pore of the family's current existence. Her father died 26 years ago, before my husband and I were even born, but my MIL keeps him alive in her actions.
The sexual abuse is a huge secret and only certain members of the family know, including me, which makes it extra delicate. I actually have no idea if my father in law knows. I suspect that he does not because he allowed my MIL to give her father unrestricted, unsupervised access to their daughter up until he died (when she was 8 or 9). Scary. And my father in law is very no-nonsense so I really doubt he would let this happen.

My husband I only found out about the abuse 2 years ago. My mother in law constantly talks about her father in a loving way. She always talks about how handsome he was especially. She is obsessed with his features and her kids having his features. She is very romantic in the way she talks about him. My husband always thought this was weird, but chalked it up to her missing him since he was dead. She basically lets him rule her life from beyond the grave. Unfortunately he was also very anti-Catholic (he got excommunicated for something she will not say)…and she carries that legacy on and insults me constantly.
Now something that is odd is that my mother-in-law is obsessed with blood relation. I think this probably goes back to her being brainwashed by her father. But essentially, she really dislikes family members who are not blood related to her and does not trust them (such as the people her kids married, or her own in-laws). She does not think her kid's spouses are really family because they are not blood related, she will not say it often but it slips out every so often (like telling my husband’s brother that his wedding day was the worst day of her life). Her grandchildren ARE important to her, she is obsessed with them "sharing her genetics". When my brother in law and his wife had a son, my mother in law insisted he looked just like her father! She was giddy over it.

She expects her kids to have a loyalty to her over their spouses since they are "blood" related. She really never bonded with her husband, as is obvious to their kids. I think she was just never able to un-bond from her father because of the psychological issues he put her through. Needless to say, she was very emotionally incestuous with her kids. My husband did not fully realize this until he got out of the house and looked back.

Now, for any of you that have been victims of incest, especially from a parent, was this something that you struggled with? Of feeling bonded only with blood relatives because of the nature of the abuse? Or were you trained not to trust non-blood relatives as a technique of the abuser to keep you quiet? I am trying to make sense of her obsession with shared genetics and an indicator of true connection. Was there something that helped you get over this? I want her to be able to trust and love her entire family.
She will never go therapy for this. We only found out about it because it slipped during a breakdown. She is forever protecting her dad's image. But I hope there are some ways I help her.

Also, just in general for anyone reading this - say a prayer for my MIL.

[/quote]

I know that my father who molested my sister and I instilled in us that you could only trust blood, everyone else was worthless. And that anything you did to protect them from anything or anyone (lying, stealing, cheating, whatever) was acceptable in all circumstances. This was to apply most especially to him. And if you ever mentioned anything you were a liar, worthless, etc. Horrible now that I look back, but I thought it was normal.

It has had DEVASTATING effects on my personality and life in general since then and I still have intimacy issues. Apparently St. Thomas Aquinas listed 5 love languages and apparently I possess none of them... Not really possible but they were so crushed by my past that it is taking INCREDIBLY long to get over it.

The best thing you can do is pray for your MIL and her father. Pray that God can forgive them both for their problems and sins and that He would heal everyone effected by this horrible tragedy. You will be in my prayers as well!

FSC


#5

I was not abused but as a nurse I unfortunately have worked with many patients who were the victims of incest. When I did my psychiatric floor rotation in nursing school I found that almost every patient on that floor had some history of sexual abuse! :eek: I could not believe it!!! It truly messes you up for life and to this day whenever a psych patient comes into the ER they almost ALWAYS have some history of either incest, rape, etc. So sad, I don’t think the average person REALLY sees how badly sexual abuse messes up the mind of a person, it truly does.

I would have to guess in the case of your MIL that all her odd behavior is somehow attributed to her past. I do remember from college that a person who has someone they don’t like will try to convince themselves in a way that the person is actually good by obsessing over them and talking about them excessively. It’s like if a person hears themselves talking about the particular person over and over it helps to cement in your own mind what you wanna believe, kwim? It sounds like by trying to raise her father up on a pedestal she is trying to cope with the horrors of the abuse he laid on her over all those years.

Honestly, she needs psychiatric help but you can’t force it on a person unless they are in immediate danger to themselves or others, which she is not. I will say a prayer for her, such a terrible cross she now bears till she dies, it is so sad. :frowning:


#6

Since the abused person is your mother-in-law… my advise would be to just pray for her and leave her alone with her way of coping from her abuse.
You can’t give her advice unless she asks you for it. I would let her cope in her way so you can keep your relationship as is. She could bann you from her family if you try to give her advise if you is not asking for it.
I know you are trying to help her but she has to find her own way of help. I am sure she knows her options since it is such a public topic on the t.v. and news.

My advise is just to send her God’s love.


#7

I am not an incest survivor, but I am a rape survivor. I highly recommend praying the Chaplet to St. Dymphna for your m-i-l. Not only is she the partroness of mental illnesses (great for anxiety, depression, PTSD), but she’s also the patroness of rape/incest survivors.

Here’s a link:

giftsofaith.com/Products/rc29.htm

I’ll keep your m-i-l in my prayers. Healing after a rape (as a young adult) is incredibly difficult, I can’t imagine the trauma of incest your m-i-l suffered as a young child :frowning:

MadameButterfly.


#8

to this day whenever a psych patient comes into the ER they almost ALWAYS have some history of either incest, rape, etc./B]

**What you say here I believe to be very true. On a sad note though I find that in many ER’s a number of medical professionals become so accustom to psyche patients they become desensitized, complacent, and sometimes judgmental due to stressed work loads in many ER’s **


#9

I was sexually abused as a child, but not by a family member.

However, from my perspective, she is so keyed in to the “blood relation” thing directly because of the incest. I would imagine her father brainwashed her to believe that she couldn’t trust anyone. Imagine if she would have cultivated close relationships with others outside the family… that would put the “secret” in jeopardy of not remaining a secret. It was in her father’s best interest to make sure she was distrustful of anyone not blood related and this has carried over in to the rest of her life.

Does you MIL know that you know? Have you ever sat down together and discussed this or does she not acknowledge that she is still struggling with the incest? If she is in denial about how much this is affecting her, and if this is not a topic open for discussion, there isn’t much you can do. Except pray of course.

What a tragic sad story. The incest is tragic enough… made even more so when people are not willing or able to get the help needed to heal. :frowning:

Many prayers for you and your family.


#10

Your mother in law needs professional help. She needs long term therapy from someone who specializes in treating adult survivors of incest. Your support and concern will help, but will not fix her problem, she needs professional counseling. She has lifelong anger, sadness and other extremely painful issues that are so deep, she doesn’t know they are there or how to get them out; only someone trained in such things can help her with that.


#11

[quote="Catholic1954, post:10, topic:190098"]
Your mother in law needs professional help. She needs long term therapy from someone who specializes in treating adult survivors of incest. Your support and concern will help, but will not fix her problem, she needs professional counseling. She has lifelong anger, sadness and other extremely painful issues that are so deep, she doesn't know they are there or how to get them out; only someone trained in such things can help her with that.

[/quote]

What you are saying is true in some respects. However; no victim of incest, rape or spousal abuse can be forced into mental professional help services no matter how somebody else sees it otherwise even if it is beneficial to the victim. Loved ones and true friends are best left in an empathetic compassionate role. To listen with a heart, to be supportive in a tactful capacity that embraces Christian love. But never should one be forceful.
Ultimately; it is the victim themselves in their vulnerability who must make the decision.
All a family member or friend who has concern can do is give a gentle nudge.


#12

[quote="centurionguard, post:11, topic:190098"]
What you are saying is true in some respects. However; no victim of incest, rape or spousal abuse can be forced into mental professional help services no matter how somebody else sees it otherwise even if it is beneficial to the victim. Loved ones and true friends are best left in an empathetic compassionate role. To listen with a heart, to be supportive in a tactful capacity that embraces Christian love. But never should one be forceful.
Ultimately; it is the victim themselves in their vulnerability who must make the decision.
All a family member or friend who has concern can do is give a gentle nudge.

[/quote]

My wife gave me an ultimatum in 1998 to seek therapy. Fine I said but only if you too seek help, then I'll do it. I knew I need help for what I went through, too long for this forum and quite inappropriate for my situation. My wife was a victim of a violent rape that occured over and over for at least 6 months. Every year as we approach the anniversary, February 14, she begins to enter into a serious shut down. Thereapy helped her open up about it, but the process has been very slow, she still suffers from PTSD and shuts down emotionally. The night of our wedding night she shook like a vibrator in absolute fear and did the same for many years after any time we engaged in the marital act. It really cut my heart to see her like this. Converting to Catholicism made the biggest improvement for her. The man was a member of her church and manipulated her parents into getting them to let him take her on a date at the age of 15. He was 21. I'm still looking for the guy, but she won't tell me his name. This is the reason i believe God called me to marry her.

Therapy and spiritual direction with a good solid priest is the key.


#13

You can't force anybody to do anything, but you sure can play funny games to make things happen around them that might improve their chances of choosing the therapy or counseling.


#14

I was molested as a child by my father and
by a neighborhood pervert (older man).

Later in my life, I was raped on several occasions
and was then physically abused by my first husband.
(Not an unusual occurance with abuse survivors).

I had an opposite reaction and really don’t understand her reaction.
My distrust of people comes from being abused by people
who knew me and I NEVER thought “blood relatives” were any
better than others. The fact that she seems to “worship” him
tells me she is “sick” and needs help.

My feelings are that it should be brought into
the open when a chance becomes available.
The “secret” factor is what breeds the distrust,
and allows the abusers to go on and abuse others.

The fact that she allowed her children unsupervised
contact with a known abuser really astounds me.
She does need help desparately … but it is true that
until the “victim” is ready , you can’t force her to get help.

Pray, pray, pray …


#15

Post #10 is the correct answer. "Treatment" by well-meaning amateurs is not a solution.

If you feel brave enough, though, I recommend learning a little about the syndrome of how chlid sexual abuse manifests itself in adulthood, when left untreated. The reason I say that is that there can be effects on those in the victim's inner intimate circle -- such as relatives and close friends. When sexual abuse is left untreated, the residual unconscious after-effects manifest themselves in ways that can be more hurtful to those close to the victim, because lack of trust & irrational fear of intimacy (with those who have done no harm) is often part of the syndrome. This is especially true of daughters molested by their own fathers. One more extreme consequence, for example, (though not true in all cases) is paranoid behavior and an excessive concern for self-protection. (Anticipating sabotage without indication.) Another more typical consequence is excessive competitive behavior with other women, particularly versus those women closest to the (adult) victim. The latter is of course perfectly logical, since the girl abused was treated by the perpetrator as if she was "competing" with adult females for the abuser's affections.

Your MIL may show none of this, but I have seen such syndromes in several close women friends and relatives, all of whom were abused by their fathers. It also occurred in my family. The family member I'm thinking of was, by some miracle, finally able to bond in a very satisfying, adult, healthful marriage which is normal on all counts and exceptionally strong. However, it is also true that the residual effects (some which I describe above) have not dissipated entirely, and bring toxicity to family relationships. This is in spite of the fact that this relative was treated, and for years, with several, several therapists. Had she not been treated, she would not even have found a satisfying love relationship. (She hadn't prior to treatment; she kept dating abusers.)

With all the literature I have read, and all the experience I have had, I have yet to find a female incest survivor of paternal incest who does not show some residual effects, even after treatment. If any responders on this thread do consider themselves cured, more power to you, and I'm thrilled for you. I'm just aware of what a steep climb it is for most such victims.

What the reading helped me to do is to understand and not personalize the disappointing syndrome I witnessed from close female friends. There have been several heartbreaking situations. I knew I was not at fault, yet I was turned on or turned away from, due merely to irrational reactions by survivors who did not know how to handle legitimate and respecful psychological intimacy, who grew suspicious and poisoned those previously healthy relationships. I did suggest to one such close (now former) friend, gently, to complete her process of self-discovery and find closure with a competent therapist. I even had an excellent one to recommend. It was not that suggestion that killed the friendship! Rather, it was her irrational paranoia and competitiveness about me, on the job, that even led her to try to destroy me, despite the fact that her position was far more important than mine. I still pray for her and care about her deeply.


#16

Fides, wow, a hug for you. Thank you for sharing your story. It is amazing how your father sought to train you from an early age to trust only him. So manipulative. I imagine that something like this happened with my MIL.


#17

[quote="gam3rchic, post:5, topic:190098"]
I was not abused but as a nurse I unfortunately have worked with many patients who were the victims of incest. When I did my psychiatric floor rotation in nursing school I found that almost every patient on that floor had some history of sexual abuse! :eek: I could not believe it!!! It truly messes you up for life and to this day whenever a psych patient comes into the ER they almost ALWAYS have some history of either incest, rape, etc. So sad, I don't think the average person REALLY sees how badly sexual abuse messes up the mind of a person, it truly does.

I would have to guess in the case of your MIL that all her odd behavior is somehow attributed to her past. I do remember from college that a person who has someone they don't like will try to convince themselves in a way that the person is actually good by obsessing over them and talking about them excessively. It's like if a person hears themselves talking about the particular person over and over it helps to cement in your own mind what you wanna believe, kwim? It sounds like by trying to raise her father up on a pedestal she is trying to cope with the horrors of the abuse he laid on her over all those years.

Honestly, she needs psychiatric help but you can't force it on a person unless they are in immediate danger to themselves or others, which she is not. I will say a prayer for her, such a terrible cross she now bears till she dies, it is so sad. :(

[/quote]

Yes, sexual abuse seems much more common than any of us really know. It can be so invisible too! Just watching the show Intervention it seemed that most of the addicitons, eating disorders and self-abuse lead back to an instance of molestation or rape. It does totally shatter a person and especially with my MIL you would NEVER know until you really start looking at patterns in her life or spend enough time with her and then it all makes sense. It makes me wonder how many are suffering the same thing.
I think you are right about the mind tricking victims (as a measure of self-preservation really) to bond to the abuser. It must be horrible to be a child and the person you are dependent on for food, shelter and love is abusing you. It must be a way of survival, to bond to them, sort of like Stockholm sydrome.

I know that I cannot force help on her. I wish her husband would, but I think he is in a place of despair and denial. We are trying to use the approach of "family therapy" since there is a whole host of issues.
I hope it never comes to her hurting herself. She has honesly gotten worse with age. She is in her late 50's now and she is becoming more and more desperate. She has even written some dramatic things on face book about nobody loving her, wanting to jump off a bridge, etc. She really fell apart when my husband moved out after college...she used him as emotional crutch and once he left to get married, she really fell apart.

Thank you for your prayers and input.


#18

[quote="LaLucia, post:6, topic:190098"]
Since the abused person is your mother-in-law..... my advise would be to just pray for her and leave her alone with her way of coping from her abuse.
You can't give her advice unless she asks you for it. I would let her cope in her way so you can keep your relationship as is. She could bann you from her family if you try to give her advise if you is not asking for it.
I know you are trying to help her but she has to find her own way of help. I am sure she knows her options since it is such a public topic on the t.v. and news.

My advise is just to send her God's love.

[/quote]

Thank you for your advice. I agree, I can never heal her, only God's healing love can.
The thing is, she seems to always be reaching out for help by saying dramatic things. It is like she wants to deal with it, but the secret is keeping her paralyzed. Out of the blue she will start gushing about how handsome her father was and crying.
As far as banning me from the family, we already get the silent treatment pretty often for percieved ills against her. Her biggest charge against people is thatt they were "rude" to her and she has used it against all her kid's spouses. She hasn't spoken to her own daughter in 2 years. One son moved far away and it has been a roller coaster of silent treatment and harshness and sometimes getting along.


#19

MadameButterfly - a hug for what you have been through.
Thank you, yes I have asked St. Dymphna for her prayers many times.

St. Dymphna, pray for us!


#20

[quote="SavedByHim, post:9, topic:190098"]
I was sexually abused as a child, but not by a family member.

However, from my perspective, she is so keyed in to the "blood relation" thing directly because of the incest. I would imagine her father brainwashed her to believe that she couldn't trust anyone. Imagine if she would have cultivated close relationships with others outside the family... that would put the "secret" in jeopardy of not remaining a secret. It was in her father's best interest to make sure she was distrustful of anyone not blood related and this has carried over in to the rest of her life.

Does you MIL know that you know? Have you ever sat down together and discussed this or does she not acknowledge that she is still struggling with the incest? If she is in denial about how much this is affecting her, and if this is not a topic open for discussion, there isn't much you can do. Except pray of course.

What a tragic sad story. The incest is tragic enough... made even more so when people are not willing or able to get the help needed to heal. :(

Many prayers for you and your family.

[/quote]

Yes, she knows I know. Unfortunately it is very hard for her to talk about it, because she is so set on making her father a hero. He was an elder in non-denom church in Italy and she always talks about what a Christian he was and how he saved so many people. Ugh.
Even when she admits it, she blames her mother for it because her mother never really loved her father according to her so that is why he went after his daughter. She hates her mother and they haven't spoken in 10 years. I do not know if her mother knew what was happening or not.

Something that gets me very angry in regards to my MIL is that she had her daughter around this monster when she was a child. In fact, when he died she was in the process of getting paperwork done for him to come to America (from Italy) so he could live with them. Thank the Lord he died before that could happen. When he visited (often and for months at a time) he spent lots of time with the daughter (my SIL) alone. My MIL even arranged for him to get a license her so he could drive and take his grandaughter on fishing trips (alone). My husband confronted my mom about this fact once he found out because my SIL has a history of acting sexually (she stripped and prostituted despire the fact that she had a college education and very high grades and a teaching job). When he asked her how she could leave her alone she broke down crying saying he would never hurt his granddaughter beacause he loved her and bought her candy. Yes, she really said that. SIL remembers that my MIL let her sleep in bed with grandma and grandpa when they visited, she remembers that her grandfather always wore just underwear to bed when she was with him. Um. gross. She doesn't remember abuse but doesn't rule out that it might have happened to her as well.


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