On the young feminist blog fbomb there’s an article that examines the developing awareness of a young woman whose mother was a survivor of sexual abuse.The blog post includes an essay that the author wrote three years ago, when she was 17.
Liz P talks about her feelings of isolation and the effect that knowing her mother was abused had on her own childhood. Many of the same feelings of isolation and “this doesn’t happen to normal people” that survivors of abuse experience, resonated in her own, second generation experience.
She looks at, among other influences, the role of a children’s book, Promise Not to Tell, that I wrote years ago. It was given to her to let her know “how something like that can possibly happen.”
Liz’ post raises a little-discussed consideration. When a parent has been abused as a child, and I’m thinking here of those of us who have done significant healing, what is the impact on his or her own children?
A lot has been written on the generational impact of the Holocaust, how the secondary trauma–and the secondary resiliency–gets expressed in the second and third generations. And the meme of “abusers were once abused themselves” is everywhere (not so frequently cited is that the great majority of child abuse survivors do NOT go on to abuse children).
But what about the secondary trauma of having a parent with PTSD or other post traumatic issues? What about, as Liz points out, the disruption of normal, and expected, family relations? What other ways are the lives of daughters and sons affected–for worse and for better?
I think this whole consideration is under explored. We know how prevalent child sexual abuse is. We know that it has profound consequences for those who experience it. A lot of work has been done on how people heal. But the secondary trauma/adaptation issues are playing themselves out without much notice–yet.