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Finding it difficult to support my mum (Trigger warning)

(6 Posts)
ElephantDreams Tue 10-Nov-15 21:44:43

Don't really know where to start sad

I've been wanting to write a post like this for a long time. Concerns about privacy and it not being my issue to talk about have overridden, but I feel as though I need to talk about it now. So a new name for this, to protect the other people concerned (I'm not shy with details normally.) I'm a Relationships regular, so if you recognise my posting style, hello. smile Would appreciate a hand hold.

So the issue is my mum, really, not me. Ten years ago when I was 16 she confided in me that she'd been repeatedly sexually abused by her brother, every night from when she was about 13 or 14 until he left home. I found this information difficult to deal with at the time but I didn't really have anything to do with it, so I just tried to be there for her and be sympathetic. Perhaps she should not have told me then, but she'd held onto it for so long and there was nobody else.

Over the next few years when she spoke about other encounters I realised that almost every interaction she has ever had with a man has been abusive, and most sexual in nature.

Two or three years ago, she brought it up again as the emotions had been stirred up by the historic abuse cases in the media. She'd spoken to a friend who works as a counsellor and her friend told her that (Mum's) attitude of oh, it wasn't that bad, much worse things happen to other people is absolutely textbook of abuse victims. She used the "r" word for the first time. Thanks to mumsnet and various things I had read online I was now able to inform her of the existence of the helpline Rape Crisis and of a sexual abuse counselling centre which I've seen people fundraising for near us. She was surprised and moved that such things existed. I felt awful that I'd never thought to mention it before but glad that she knew of it now.

She did seek counselling, and went along to a few sessions, but found that it was bringing up emotions which were too strong and she felt unable to continue.

Issues are coming up again at the moment because there was a recent family event where she was going to come face to face with the brother for the first time in years and at the last minute she was unable to attend, which was a mixture of relief and sadness, I think. But it's brought feelings up and she's been talking about it and I know that she needs to feel safe to talk, but sometimes she drops details into a conversation out of nowhere, like as though she thinks that I know everything so it's no big deal to hear this particular aspect clarified and I find it really, really hard to cope with. It makes me feel like I'm going to be sick. She did it today and I can't get the image out of my head. I'm sure that's not at all what she intended to happen.

I'm not really asking a question - maybe how I can support her without being affected myself? Is it possible? I have a sister and she knows too, she still lives at home so perhaps she knows more, I don't know. We don't talk about it together, which is more to do with the fact that we don't often talk about anything serious than the fact that we are avoiding it, or anything. But Mum wants to talk about it a lot at the moment. Not so much the actual abuse, but how it's affected her and how she's coping and the fact that she's struggling with how her (elderly) Dad is responding (he has a tendency to brush things off with a "there there, never mind" type attitude.)

I really hope I've removed enough detail for this to be anonymous.

ElephantDreams Tue 10-Nov-15 21:49:27

I actually have to go offline now blush I have just noticed the time and I've got an early start in the morning. But I have time tomorrow to read responses. Didn't want anyone to think I had posted and run. Thanks in advance if you have anything to say brew May be back if I can't sleep!

Shameandregret Tue 10-Nov-15 22:06:21


I can completely understand that the images and recall your mum is telling you are difficult for you to hear. Unfortunately due to the historical sexual abuse stuff being in the media it is really triggering for people who have experienced it. In my experience I need to talk it through because if I don't get it 'out' I internalise it and start to spiral so my coping strategy is to discuss it. I've got a counsellor through rape crisis who I use though because I found it too difficult to talk to my family about and my friends didn't cope well. Maybe you could ask your mum if rape crisis might be an option? Not as a replacement for talking to you but as a supplement IYSWIM?

All I can say is yes, the images / incidents she is recalling may be distressing for you and make you feel sick but your mum did have to actually experience them and it might be that what she is telling you is her 'normal' so she doesn't realise how it would impact you.

I've noticed my friends physically recoil when I talked about my childhood rape and to be honest I didn't realise that it would upset someone as I was just focussing on my memory and trying to purge I guess.

I've noticed that since I've told the police and done my video interview I've not felt the need to go into any detail with anyone in my real life as psychologically, due to the amount of detail the police pull out of you, I kind if feel I have offliaded the information on to them. All I can advise is maybe it would be helpful for you to talk to someone in your own right as whilst it is very very difficult for you to hear it is obvious your mum does need to talk to you. I have had an awful triggering case tonight in our local area and have tried to message an ex to talk about it because it is impacting on my parenting capacity and he hasn't responded so my shame has kicked in. Being ignored can make you feel the shame more acutely. Stick with your mum, she really needs you.

timelytess Tue 10-Nov-15 22:11:18

Get yourself some counselling from someone who doesn't know your mum. Hearing about it is traumatising.

LoveAnchor Tue 10-Nov-15 22:11:42

Well, deep traumas like this, they never really go away. Even with lots of counselling it's more about learning to cope rather than healing. Meeting the abuser can cause a major, and extremely serious, setback. It's common, and to be expected.

Listening to this kind of stuff is also traumatising, a bit like second hand smoking, so you're right to be careful. What if you kindly and calmly emphasize that you're not in a position to offer professional help that your mum deserves? What if you keep diverting the conversation to information on charities, counsellors and other sources of help, rather than discussing the actual situation?

You can tell her that you can see that she needs to talk / process things now, more than ever before, and that you want to help her do it in the most helpful way (i.e. with a professional). I think if you stop engaging in the actual substance of the conversation (without being rude or unkind), your mum's enthusiasm to share her feelings on this matter with you should gradually die out. But don't just shut her out, if you can, keep helping her to find the person who she can share this stuff with.

ElephantDreams Wed 11-Nov-15 07:50:06

Thanks. I do totally get that she needs to be able to talk, and it's NOT graphic details, nor is it all the time. I understand that something explicit will slip out every now and again. Sometimes it's just wording that he used or she'll mention something she saw or heard and said that it's the same as what happened to her. It's not as though she's describing things in lurid detail, and I don't want her to feel like she can't tell me. I suppose I'm just thinking I need somewhere to debrief. I expect there is no "stately homes" type thread for this kind of thing. smile

Whether she will go back to counselling, I don't know. I hope so in time. But that's her choice when she is ready. She is sensitive and the problem was that the counselling she had (which by all accounts is top notch, this wasn't a badly trained counsellor) was too much and she couldn't do it alongside living her normal life. She has to work to support herself and she can't take time off sick, so it's not an option at the moment.

She's very into energy and all of this what MN calls "woo bollocks", so she is working through it in her own way and definitely she is much stronger and more able to call it out for what it was now than ten years ago. She doesn't just push it down, she's less ashamed to tell people because she now understands that it wasn't her fault. She has female friends in her circle who have had related experiences she can talk to, and because of being on the "woo" circuit she knows several people who work in counselling or different kinds of therapies and I'm happy that she's aware of the different options in that regard now. She's also got DSis who is pretty switched on - somebody gave her a copy of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, FFS, because they thought she might find it inspiring and DSis said no, don't read that, it's really graphic.

Sorry that you've also been abused, Shame. flowers It just beggars belief how people can do such things.

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