Father-Daughter Incest and Mother's Betrayal

It’s a curious thing that many survivors of father-daughter incest seem even angrier at their mothers than at their fathers. I speak from experience. It’s puzzled me for a long time why my mother’s passivity and lack of protection seemed to hurt me even more than my father’s acts of violation.

Here’s how I understand it now. My father’s incest broke my world, but my mother’s lack of recognition and protection broke my mind and spirit. If I had had one witness to stand with me and vouch for my reality, I could have kept my sense of self intact. But when I tried to tell her (I know though my memories are vague and fragmented), she could not hear me. She told me to forget it, pretend it didn’t happen.

Any ground I had to stand on was shattered by my mother’s betrayal. As in many families, there was no one else in my family to go to. (Now I understand the poem “The Attic” by Marie Howe in which her brother’s silent witness is the thing that keeps her sane.) That’s why my mother’s betrayal felt worse than my father’s.

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