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How Should I Tell My Mom About Sex Abuse

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Missing One Thing: Mothers Don't Always Believe

I really appreciate this letter and response, because it is something that I know others have struggled with before.

However, I am very surprised by the omission of one of this mother's possible responses: disbelief.

I have worked with sexual assault victims/survivors since before I started my clinical training, and many, many stories have involved women (or girls) telling their mothers about abuse and their mothers not believing them.

I am very hopeful that this will not be the case for this young woman, but...it might be...and it might also be for others who are reading this post.

That is an excellent point.

That is an excellent point. Thank you for making note of that Dr. L.

Uncle abuse

A gentle and warm response to the pleas of this unhappy and unfortunate young woman.

I felt touched by your gentle holding of her and by your tentative suggestions to her, until I got to the part when you mention that perhaps the uncle molested the mother too.

Where on earth did that come from?

The girl's letter does not indicate the relative ages of the mother and the uncle, yet you jump to an unwarranted assumption of possible abuse by the uncle of the mother when the reverse could well be possible. You don't know that perhaps the mother is older than the uncle and that if some entirely hypothesised other abuse occurred, it was by the mother who abused the uncle. As well you know, research has shown that people often become abusers after they themselves have been abused.

In any event however, I am uncomfortable with the seemingly gratuitous ad hominem suggestion of the uncle being a possible serial abuser in the absence of anything to indicate it. And to have introduced it out of the blue may have unintended consequences for all concerned.

Uncle abuse

A gentle and warm response to the pleas of this unhappy and unfortunate young woman.

I felt touched by your gentle holding of her and by your tentative suggestions to her, until I got to the part when you mention that perhaps the uncle molested the mother too.

Where on earth did that come from?

The girl's letter does not indicate the relative ages of the mother and the uncle, yet you jump to an unwarranted assumption of possible abuse by the uncle of the mother when the reverse could well be possible. You don't know that perhaps the mother is older than the uncle and that if some entirely hypothesised other abuse occurred, it was by the mother who abused the uncle. As well you know, research has shown that people often become abusers after they themselves have been abused.

In any event however, I am uncomfortable with the seemingly gratuitous ad hominem suggestion of the uncle being a possible serial abuser in the absence of anything to indicate it. And to have introduced it out of the blue may have unintended consequences for all concerned.

Mike, it is a possibility. I

Mike, it is a possibility. I wanted the young woman to be prepared.

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Barbara Greenberg, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist who specializes in the treatment of adolescents and their well-intentioned but exhausted parents.

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