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The Ultimate Betrayal: The Enabling Mother, Incest and Sexual Abuse

The Ultimate Betrayal: The Enabling Mother, Incest and Sexual Abuse

by Audrey Ricker

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This pioneering self-help book takes a close look at a topic that has been ignored or downplayed by other books on incest and childhood sexual abuse: that the non-perpetrating parent usually bears a great deal of responsibility for the child's abuse. In this examination of the complicated dynamics of abuse, the enabling mother is not treated as a


This pioneering self-help book takes a close look at a topic that has been ignored or downplayed by other books on incest and childhood sexual abuse: that the non-perpetrating parent usually bears a great deal of responsibility for the child's abuse. In this examination of the complicated dynamics of abuse, the enabling mother is not treated as a victim, rather as an adult responsible for her failure to protect her child. Self-help exercises are interspersed with case histories and analytical material throughout the book, useful to both survivors and therapists.

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"A vitally needed, significant contribution to the field."  —Robert Kafes, director, Mental Health Services, Southern Arizona Center Against Sexual Assault

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The Ultimate Betrayal

The Enabling Mother, Incest and Sexual Abuse

By Audrey Ricker

See Sharp Press

Copyright © 2006 Audrey Ricker
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-884365-72-0


How Your Mother Treated You

In this section, you will "attend" five therapy sessions that will be as close to visiting a therapist as possible. The only difference is that there will be no therapist present, just you and this book. Please try to conduct your sessions in a private place, sitting upright in a comfortable chair, with a fairly low, soothing light. Have the sessions at the same time of day, with no music playing in the background, and have plenty of tissues on hand. Take a pen and a three-ring binder or steno pad with you to every session for recording your answers. Allow 50 to 60 minutes for every session. (It's okay if you finish before the end of the allotted time.) You can go on reading the rest of the book while you are undergoing the "therapy sessions." In fact, it might be a good idea to do so. But you don't have to.

At every session, follow instructions in a relaxed way. This section is all about you, your feelings, and your needs. Please don't tell yourself what should happen in the sessions or what you should feel or think during and after the sessions.

Session One

The steno pad or three-ring notebook that (preferably) has lined paper in it is especially important in this session. If you don't have one or the other, use paper and something firm to write on. Just be sure that paper and pen are handy so you don't have to hunt for them during the session. Please stop and get these items together now, if you don't already have them. When you return, you can continue. Oh, yes, make sure that your chair is comfortable, but not so comfortable that you can't sit upright with your feet on the floor.

All set? Let's get started.

Hello. Welcome to the therapist's office. I'm so glad you came in today. I know this isn't easy, and I think you're brave for being here.

Please answer the following 26 questions. Say them aloud to yourself slowly, pleasantly, and with real caring. All the questions are drawn from common behaviors of the mothers of incest survivors. All are questions that I ask my clients. Write down your answers. They should consist of Yes, Sort Of, Sometimes and No.

1. Did your abuser tell you not to tell your mother about the abuse?

2. Did you ever wonder how your mother could not have known?

3. Did you ever try to tell your mother?

4. Did your mother give you the sense that she didn't want to know about the abuse?

5. Did your mother induce feelings of guilt when you were with her?

6. Did your mother change the subject when you tried to tell her about anything that mattered to you, such as genuine feelings?

7. Did your mother seem jealous of you in any way?

8. Did your mother seem disconnected from you emotionally?

9. Did your mother seem unavailable to you emotionally?

10. Did you long for your mother's company?

11. Did you long for more of your mother's love?

12. Did your mother ever tell you that she was abused by someone as a child and indicate that it wasn't that big a deal?

13. Did your mother ever seem sexually attracted to you?

14. Did your mother ever seem left out of your family, as though she were someone who did not really belong?

15. Did your mother seem emotionally weak to you?

16. Did your mother seem to be under the spell of the abuser?

17. Did your mother ever leave the abuser, but then go back to him?

18. Did your mother treat you like a little doll, always dressing you up and showing you off?

19. Did your mother ever leave you by yourself overnight, or longer, with your abuser?

20. Did your mother ever give you reason to think that she would leave the family if she knew about the abuse?

21. Did your mother believe that without the abuser in the home there would be no money for food, rent, utilities, and other necessities?

22. Did your mother seem to care more about your siblings than about you?

23. Did your mother seem to care more about a religion or belief system than she did about you?

24. Did your mother seem to feel that you were always intrinsically bad, from birth on?

25. Did your mother minimize your fears, night terrors, phobias, and other similar kinds of symptoms as though they were "all in your mind" and something to be repressed and gotten over?

26. Did your mother usually take someone else's side when you told her about something someone had done to you?

Now that you've answered the questions, think about how you feel. Then, allow yourself to feel all your feelings for about ten minutes. Next, put your supplies away in a secure place, get up, stretch, and go on about your day. Return to your chair tomorrow at as close to the same time as you can. Don't return any sooner. You need this "away time" to process the feelings you might be having now.

Session Two

In this session you'll analyze your answers to the questions in Session One, find out what your answers mean, and handle the feelings of betrayal, rage, and despair you might have as a result of your discoveries.

First, count your Yes, Sometimes, and Sort of answers. Ten or more such answers probably mean your mother was aware of your abuse (or is aware, if it's still going on) and didn't stop it.

How can I say this with such confidence? Simply because I have seen this mother hundreds of times with hundreds of clients. These questions identify the ways she behaves toward the survivor. In some cases, the "mother" is the father or stepfather and the perpetrator is another male relative or the mother herself. But the behaviors are always the same.

Reread your answers. Put stars beside the answers that make you the most angry. Put checkmarks beside those that make you the most sad. Put flowers beside those that make you the most depressed and worthless feeling.

Now, give yourself permission to feel all the feelings you have. Go ahead, cry deep, desperate sobs if you need to. Clench your fists in anger if you are angry. Scream if you are alone and feeling rage.

Please, don't cut yourself, drink alcohol, take a pain pill, or do anything else to alleviate the feelings. Just feel them. Just experience them. Sit quietly and shut your eyes while you feel your feelings. Then, when the storm has passed a bit and you feel like a rag doll washed up on the shore, read on.

What just happened

You let yourself face the unspeakable: Your perpetrator was probably not acting alone. Your mother probably suspected what was going on. She suspected and didn't do anything. She allowed your abuse to continue. All she had to do was follow one hunch, one suspicion, one question about where he went off to at night when he thought she was asleep, where he really took you when he went off with you in the car and insisted she not go along, or why her teenage brother or beloved father was always so eager to babysit. But she didn't check. She turned the other way.

If you confront her, she may swear — swear on a stack of Bibles, weeping piteously — that she never knew a thing. Or she'll tell you coldly that you're making it all up, it never happened, and you're evil for even thinking such a thing. But that's because she didn't and still doesn't want to know.

Your positive answers to the questions in Session One indicate that your mother might not have been connected enough to you to help you. She was not connected enough to intrude where she wasn't wanted. She was not connected enough to care more about what was happening to you than about what would make the perpetrator mad.

Oh, God. You're starting to feel angry all over again. It's okay. Take a deep breath and feel your feelings.

You might feel very sad now. That's because you might be facing another fact. You always suspected that she didn't love you, not the way a mother should. You thought that if you just tried hard enough, did enough, put up with the abuse, and didn't blame it on her, she'd see how wonderful you are. Now you are allowing yourself to realize that might not happen, ever. Why? Why, why, why?

There are many possible reasons. You might remind her of someone she hates; you might not remind her of someone she loves; you might be the person she could never be; you might, for reasons nobody will probably ever know, trigger symptoms in her of what might be bipolar disorder or narcissistic personality disorder, or severe envy of some asset — perhaps beauty or a cheerful personality — that attracts people to you rather than to her.

For now, it's best not to think about her at all. Just feel what you're feeling and remember this: Everything you're feeling is good. It's also permissible and even healthy. So for now, don't think. Just feel. Now put your binder and other supplies away, get up, and go on about your day. Come back tomorrow as near the same time as possible.

Session Three

In this session you will: 1) process your feelings of loss; 2) understand why your realizations about your mother mean a partial loss of this person you need so much; and 3) understand why this loss is so hard to bear.

In this session, you might want to use a tape recorder. If you don't have one, just write. The idea is to get your feelings out in a way that will allow you to later hear or read them. Just answer these questions:

• What are you feeling about your mother?

• What did you feel when the incest started?

• What do you feel right now?

• What was the earliest feeling you can remember about anything?

If you don't feel anything in this session, that's fine. Just go ahead with sessions four and five and read the rest of this book. If intense feelings do arise, be prepared to take a nap, call a friend for help, or just sit quietly after the session for as long as it takes for the feelings to subside.

Your feelings may be awful. That's because they are obliterating to some extent the love you have for your mother. Loss of your love for her means, in one sense, loss of her.

This is a serious loss. A mother is usually the most important person in the world to a child. You will hold on to her no matter what, afraid to feel bad things about her because you can't bear to lose her.

Now you might have very bad feelings about her, indeed. All you can do for now is feel these feelings. Pretty soon they'll become bearable.

Your mother will not seem the same to you — but she can still be there. No, she will not be there for you in the same way she was, because now you'll see her in a different light. If it existed, the loss of unconditional love you felt for her is a real loss.

Session Four

This is an unstructured session. It's for reviewing sections one, two, and three, and feeling whatever you feel. Let your thoughts and feelings go in any direction they take, just write them down or record them.

Session Five

In this session you will: 1) understand that you can still have a relationship with your mother and siblings; 2) understand what to expect if you must keep seeing them.

The realizations you have come to in the first four sessions are devastating. You know now that your mother could have done more, probably far more, to stop the incest or molestation. You have all kinds of feelings about that; hate, anger, rage, grief, sadness, and despair could be just a few of them. You can think to yourself: "These are my feelings. They are justified." You are allowed to think these things.

Do you want to confront your mother? If you do, please, please find a psychotherapist who will help you deal with that process. Please don't try it on your own. Instead, feel the feelings you now have, give yourself permission to feel them, and go on with your life. Your mother can now assume a new position. She can become someone you still might relate to on many superficial levels, but who you keep at an emotional distance and no longer adore in the same way you did. You might now feel separate from your siblings, if they go on adoring your mother in the way that you once did and think that you should still do the same. Having that feeling of separation from your sibs is perfectly fine. Many adults have it, and it allows them all to stay on friendly terms for the rest of their lives.

If you go on adoring your mom in the same way you always did, that's okay, too. You can observe yourself adoring her while still letting yourself have all your new feelings. Here's an example of how that observing can work. Suppose you are at a gathering of your family outdoors. The breeze is blowing, the children are playing happily, and you are looking on as your mom brings out some dish she's famous for. You can enjoy the oohs and aahs she gets from everyone present, and enjoy the happy flush that might come to her face. And you can also feel at peace. That's because you no longer have to fight with yourself, pushing down the unexpected and mysterious rage you often feel at these happy family times. Now you know where the rage comes from. If it should bubble up, you can accept it this time, and even embrace it. And you will experience a sense of freedom and liberation you have never felt before.

Also, you can have:

• All the sessions you want. You don't have to stop at five.

• Whatever feelings you might have — no matter what family members say you should feel.

• Help from me finding a psychotherapist. Just e-mail me at audreyricker@yahoo.com. If you don't have an e-mail account, you can write to the publisher of this book and they'll forward your message to me, although this will be slower than e-mail. I'll do my best to find someone in your area who I think will be able to help.

Now, a word about the rest of this book: It's full of case histories about my clients' mothers and their roles in what their perpetrators did to them. Case histories of others are valuable in helping you to understand your own history and to realize that you are not alone. There is also a guilty pleasure in reading case histories, sort of like snooping on someone else's real life, the life kept hidden from public view. This pleasure is normal, natural, and it's perfectly all right to enjoy it. Read on.


The Enabling Mother's Matriarchal Status

Among all the characteristics of my clients' mothers, matriarchal status is the most common. By matriarchal status I mean a position in the family resembling that of a queen — acting as a central figure around whom all family members' lives revolve. She is consulted on all decisions from the names of new babies to which home to buy. This mother often provides indispensable services such as babysitting and making loans for the buying of new homes and other items, but her main capital is approval — if she gives approval to anyone, she allows that person to belong in the family. If she withholds approval from anyone, she exiles that person from the family. In the case of survivors of incest and molestation as children, this "outside the family" status means life outside the protective walls of the medieval estate — which is just as terrifyingly hostile and unsupportive to these survivors as it was to the general population in medieval times.

This power to decide who is in and who is out of the family gives the mother undisputed power among both immediate and extended family members and renders her above reproach. She is a magnet to whom family members are drawn on holidays, birthdays, and other celebrations. She is the one consulted before they make plans for such events, and she decides who will inherit what heirlooms, where trips will be made, who will go along on the trips and, perhaps more importantly, who will not. All family members seek her favor, even when they criticize her behavior, appearance, or manners behind her back. Her mate is usually passive, deferring to her wishes. If he is a second or third husband, he may be a kind of toy to whom the mother caters and on whom she lavishes attention.

Among incest survivors' mothers, this matriarchal status is so strong that it cannot be undermined by anything, even knowledge of these mothers' role in the incest. The case of Clara provides a good illustration of this kind of mother.


Clara's three sisters admitted to Clara at various times that they remembered her abuse during their father's "bathroom sessions" with little Clara (during which little Clara's screams could be heard all over the house) and tried to tell their mother to stop it. But none was ever willing to defy their mother and support Clara openly.

Clara's mother rules over a mansion in a gated neighborhood in a southern state. Clara's father, a successful businessman, made this home possible with his earnings and money inherited from his wealthy Boston family. Clara's five grown siblings, their children and their grandchildren, as well as Clara's aunts and uncles and their families and other far-flung relatives, come to this home paying respect and marking holidays and milestones. Clara's parents take many of them on cruises to various corners of the world. Clara's mother encourages daily e-mail correspondence and phone calls. Only Clara is excluded from these activities and from the family as well — because Clara did two things that were very bad.


Excerpted from The Ultimate Betrayal by Audrey Ricker. Copyright © 2006 Audrey Ricker. Excerpted by permission of See Sharp Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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