My mom's rape and the consequences

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Dear Sex Counselor,

About three months I was looking through my mom’s dresser - looking at old photos and letters, you know - stuff like that. I found something that shocked me, scared made, and almost made me cry. It was a letter my mom wrote to a man that I found out later lived with her family when she was a young girl. The letter talked about when he raped her when she was around 13 years old. I did not know what to do when I found it - my mom is 47 years old now, but no one has never said a thing about the rape. Should I let the matter stay closed? The reason I’m asking is my mom sometimes get depressed and talks about how things would better if she was not around (this talk has not happened in a long time). She has low self esteem and is a shopaholic. Could all this come from the rape? Also, when I was young around 10 my dad started to sexually abuse me. I wondered, did she end up with a man like this because of her sexual abuse?


You ask good questions, but ones that ultimately no one can really answer. I would not suggest that you talk with your mom about her experience, since she chose not to tell you about it. You found that information in a way that would feel to her that you were violating her privacy.

As for why your mother sometimes gets depressed and has low self-esteem, well, the rape may not have a lot to do with that. The fact that she wrote the letter may mean that she was working out her feelings about it, and has put that incident away. There are many factors that come into play when you look at why people are depressed or struggle with issues around themselves. One incident is not always enough to cause that. While those who have been physically or sexually abused are statistically more likely to physically or sexually abuse their children, there are not such strong correlations for those who are abused marrying abusers. It is possible that she found herself attracted to a certain kind of person, and that played a part, but the reasons people abuse are also complex. I would not focus on trying to attribute all this to this one experience. I would work to be supportive and understanding of what your mother struggles with, regardless of its origin. You can try to make it safe for your mother to talk generally about her experiences growing up, but you should let her decide what she wants to tell you.

In the meantime, I suggest you look at how you feel about this situation, and what it means to you. Do you blame her for your abuse? Do you feel responsible in some way for helping your mom? While you can help yourself, and work on your own self-esteem and life issues, you cannot do that for her. The best thing you can do is grow strong and sure of yourself, and that way you are likely to have a different life than she does.

The Sex Counselor