Mother to Mother – Sandie Kaiser
As a social worker I have had the opportunity to work with many families struggling with the trauma of incest. The experience, however, did not prepare me for my own personal one. Since there is so little information available on how to deal with one of life’s most devastating circumstance, I would like to share with other parents my experience and perhaps it will help to know that others have traveled the same road and survived.
A few years ago, my sixteen-year-old daughter disclosed to me that she had been sexually abused by her father. My daughter, as with most victims of sexual assault, was afraid that I would not love her anymore. I still remember holding her in my arms and reassuring her that I loved her, believed her, and would protect her. She has since shared with me, as have other victims, that these were the most important words that needed to be heard.
In the process of comforting and supporting my daughter, I realized that there was another victim in this crime-it was Me.
Kubler Ross wrote a book years ago called On Death and Dying. In this book she discussed the stages of grief in relation to a death. I found that the stages she spoke of, shock, denial, anger, and depression, were similar to the grief I experienced in response to a loved one being violated.
As my daughter disclosed that she had been sexually abused, my reaction was on of shock. A numbness settled over me as my mind desperately tried to absorb what had happened to my daughter, to myself, and to my family. I found myself experiencing differing degrees of denial. I wanted desperately to believe that this was all a terrible mistake.
As the reality of the situation took hold, I began to experience intense anger. Anger at her father for causing this to happen. Anger at my daughter for allowing the abuse to take place. Anger at myself for not seeing what was happening. And even anger at the people who were trying to help because I felt as if my life had been invaded and I was losing all control.
As the anger dissipated, depression set in. I felt as if I couldn’t handle all the stress. Life had become a continuous struggle and I often felt too tired to deal with it. This was the most difficult time for me, but I found some ways to cope that were helpful.
I found the best way to deal with my anger was to gain back control by getting as much information as possible. Learning more about sexual assault and talking to others in similar situations helped me reach a better understanding of why this happened in my family. Breaking the silence and having frequent family discussions helped everyone involved to communicate their feelings and allow healing to begin.
I started a journal early on to record my feelings and the events as they occurred. Writing helped create some order amidst the chaos of my life, and reading earlier entries made me feel better. It was an excellent record of my progress. I rarely felt like I was moving forward, but reading my journal proved that I was.
Dealing with one thing at a time was crucial. Often times, well meaning friends and family members would bombard us with helpful suggestions. Listing matters in order that needed to be taken care of helped me feel more in control.
In the midst of dealing with the abuse, my world became smaller. I seemed to include only my family, supportive friends, and the professionals working with us. I had to expand my life and take care of myself. Taking time for myself, going to lunch with friends, and exercising, helped to recover my self worth.
Through hard work and the support of others, I discovered that I was in the last stage of my grief process. It was like early spring. I seemed to bounce back and forth between cold wintry days and warm sunshine. Soon, I was able to listen to friends’ problems instead of them always listening to mine. I found myself smiling more often and my step became lighter as I began to have more good days then bad. I began to like the person I saw in the mirror again.
I was no longer a victim! Like my daughter, I am a survivor!
by: Sandie Kaiser