Why didn’t she protect me?

A recent thread at After Silence made me think about my mother.

My mother knew about the abuse. She saw it happen. One of the clearest memories I have is my father being on top of me and then rolling off of me. I look up and she is standing in the doorway just watching. I have no idea how long she was standing there and staring into the room. I was probably about 7 years old at the time. My hair was still extremely long, which helps me narrow down the time frame.

She didn’t do anything about what was going on. And I don’t understand why. I mean, I have my suspicions. My gut feeling is she was abused by her father (as he was also one of my abusers). I never have asked though. And I’m not sure if I want to know.

But she was also a guidance counselor for a local school district. She knew (at least on a professional level) the ramifications of abuse.

I’m trying to figure out how I feel about this. It isn’t easy to figure them out. It’s a mixed up jumble. But I’m going to try to pick them apart. I found a list of emotion words at Wikipedia. I just picked the ones that seemed to fit. My ideas are in alphabetical order because I can’t say which ones are stronger than the others.


Anger: It’s hard for me to feel anger. But I’m sure it’s a part of what I’m feeling. It’s part of a mother’s role to protect her child. How could she let him do that to me?

Confusion: I don’t understand why she didn’t (or couldn’t) protect me. I’m confused by all the stuff I’m feeling.

Disappointed: I wish someone would have protected me. And it’s disappointing that nobody did.

Grief: I lost most of my childhood because she didn’t (or couldn’t) stop it. All those years I’ll never get back. All the experiences I didn’t have. And all the experiences I don’t remember.

Hate: I hate her for not protecting me. I hate her for just watching. I hate how I’m feeling.

Sadness: It makes me sad to know that there was no one out there to protect me. I couldn’t protect myself.

18 thoughts on “Why didn’t she protect me?

  1. Every step is a breakthrough and a challenge. It’s good that you are able to put it into words and try to process it. You may never get the answers, but you will make it through. Keep pressing on.

  2. You’ve processed and written this beautifully. I hope this sort of exploration will be helpful to you.

    Thoughts about what the whole experience meant to and felt like to your mother float through my head. Part of me wants to look for reasons to connect — not to negate the negatives, but to integrate, to include any positives that might be there, too — if there are any. Like, did she do nothing because she felt hopeless, powerless, dismayed, scared… unequipped because of her own past… unable to face what was before her eyes?

  3. I just wanted to say I think you are so brave to be writing about all of this.

    I have a lot of issues with my mother although certainly not the same ones as you and I struggle with a lot of questions about my feelings regarding her as well.

    I also can’t express my feelings or sometimes even *feel* them at times either.

  4. Thanks Marcy.

    I’m not sure what was going through her head or what she was feeling. I’m having enough trouble sorting out what I’m feeling. I’m not sure I could even being to try to figure out what she was thinking and feeling.

  5. PA:

    I have such a hard time feeling emotions. I used to be almost totally emotionless. It hasn’t been easy trying to feel them. I always want to stuff them because the majority of the time they feel so bad.

    I’m only starting to try and sort out how I feel about her. Just coming up with names was a huge challenge. But in a way, it’s sort of a breakthrough too.

  6. Oh yes, it absolutely is a breakthrough. I’m still working on my issues and problems with my therapist. The majority of the time I feel our time together is so useless but I still keep up with it.

  7. Elle and Mon…

    She did not molest me. But she was physically and emotionally abusive. She was a functional alcoholic and took out a lot of her anger on me. But that is for another dozen or so posts…

  8. kprsjohn says:

    our mother did nothing to stop it either, in fact she often set it up. We hated her more than the people who physically did things, insert dad and uncles here. yeah, we understand how you feel, we will never understand her motives though.


  9. Lisa says:

    Mothers can be great at making you feel sorry for them and their ‘powerless’ situation…whilst leaving you in one. I think her behaviour is inexcusable and I am sure she would be carrying a lot of guilt, well at least I hope she is. My mother stood by as well, as did my nana, and now when I ever bring the topic up it is quickly shut down. I think it’s really important to process your emotions, but also vent them a bit and let her know exactly what it’s done to you. That way she can absorb some of the negative energy – she deserves it. The irony of the guidance counsellor role is very similar to my mother as well…kind of makes you feel a bit sick, doesn’t it ?
    Clearly I am speaking for myself as well….need to resolve this before it rots me inside.
    Good luck and remember what happened was not your fault.

  10. Kevin says:

    Lisa, you said it all in your first sentence. Mothers are indeed great at making you feel like YOU did something wrong or that you somehow deserved it by their refusal to want to discuss it or address the issue. The truth is, the bitches didn’t do their jobs and protect their children like they were supposed to. When someone attacks your child, even if you are scared, you are supposed to muster up the courage and the strength to do whatever you can to protect them. How some mothers can sit idly by and watch their children be abused in excusable and they should do jail time for it. My mother did it to me and I had to take the worst beatings from an older brother who weighed 40 pounds more than me from the time I was 11 until I was 17 because I am gay. There is a part of me that feels sorry for my mother who didn’t protect me and many times sat right there while it was happening. I’m not talking about 2 boys fighting, I’m talking about him slamming my head into the wall, spitting in my face, stomping me and kicking me. Once he beat me with a twin bed stick and dislocated my finger. The part that makes me angry is that they both expect me to be quiet and not say anything at this point.

  11. Kayla says:

    These mothers that let this happen ARE responsible for the abuse. They are just as responsible as the men who do it. You need to get angry and then move on with your life. You should confront these women and men. You should also tell people that know them. These people only deeply care about their selves, you were just an object. They deserve to be exposed for what they are (child molesters/monsters). Do not keep a relationship with them. Make sure other people in the family know what happened (to protect other little kids.) Finally, these me and women didn’t and don’t love you, get past this and you will beat these toxic people and the poison that they inserted into your life. They do not expect to answer for what they did, because they are good at brain washing you and others around them. God bless you.

  12. Kate says:

    My mother neglected me in so many ways and when I told her I was being sexually abused by her husband, she dismissed it. Years later, I have so much anger toward her. She takes no responsibility for her role and always has a “victim” excuse. She did admit that he hated me and I was unhappy after she married him but she still did not protect me. The anger is killing me and no amount of therapy seems to help. Any suggestions? Please dont ask me to forgive her. I accept she may not have had all the skills at the time, but the fact she knows he molested me and hated me proves that she was complicit in my childhood trauma.

  13. Kate,

    I wish I had some words that would make the pain go away. After years, it’s still there for me. My mother died 2 years ago, and I don’t think I’ve ever forgiven her. I don’t know if I ever will be able to.

    Really, the only thing I can say is “therapy”. Yes, it’s trite, but it’s the only thing that helped me. Well, that and moving to the other side of the globe.

  14. Four Blossoms says:

    Kevin, I’m so sorry to hear about what happened to you just because of your sexual orientation. It’s atrocious and inexcusable. Your family members were brainwashed into thinking something biological was somehow wrong. Nature doesn’t make mistakes and you are perfectly normal just as you are! One thing that I do want to point out though is that although you blame your mother for standing by while your brother assaulted you, I hope that you also hold your brother fully responsible for his actions too. Although your mother gave him tacit permission, he was the one that actually did the punching.

  15. Four Blossoms says:

    Although your intentions are good, your advice isn’t really helpful for survivors of child sexual abuse. Many of us have one characteristic that makes us very different from most people in the world–We Cannot Trust. Because our fathers sexually abused us and our mothers simply stood by and allowed it to happen we grew up believing the world is a scary place fully of people that will hurt us if given a chance. So, many of us cannot trust other people. If I broke the connection with my mother I think I would be breaking the connection with the world. There would be no one else on earth that I can trust. Sure, you can say “hey, trust me, I wouldn’t hurt you”. Yes, but would you actually care about me? My mother might care a little about me because she thinks I’m going to take care of her when she is old. But I don’t believe you will care about me. After all, what reason do you have to care about me? I am not rich, I have no money to give you. I can listen to your problems sometimes, but I have nothing else to offer. Why would you care?

  16. Jazz says:

    It’s so weird that my dad dished out all of the abuse but years later he is my favorite parent. He got help and Changed on His own. It’s my mom I hate beause she is responsible for sitting their and pretending to be helpless.

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