The Baggage & Motherhood Guest Writer’s Series gives a space for moms around the world to share their story of what life has thrown their way and how it has impacted them in their role as a Mom. This post by Samantha Flores and she shares about how childhood abuse has impacted her as a mother.
All of the posts in this series touch on the real life struggles of bringing your “stuff” with you to your most important job: Motherhood.
As I came to the realization that my child needed to be placed in daycare following my return from maternity leave, the memories haunted me. Suddenly, I couldn’t breathe and I was back to being the kindergartner who didn’t realize that what was happening to her was not love.
The haunting of my childhood assault stopped me in my tracks and from then on, I didn’t know how I could trust anyone to care for my child. After all, the person who assaulted me was a member of my family.
How could I even trust family to protect my child? The long-term effects of childhood abuse has put up a wall between me and anyone else who desires to have contact with my child.
As I came to terms with the reality that I could not trust anyone with my child, I landed on the opportunity of becoming a stay-at-home-mom. I never suspected that the memories from over two decades past would become so real and current today.
Long-Term Effects of Childhood Abuse
This is an unfortunate topic to have to discuss. However, 28-33% of women and 12-18% of men were victims of childhood or adolescent sexual abuse. While this is a high percentage, this number only reflects the number of victims who actually reported their abuse.
Considering the effects of sexual abuse, it’s reasonable to wonder what was taken from those children when they were abused. Their innocence is gone. Their spirit a little less bright. Additionally, their trust in anyone is damaged. How will this impact their future?
Childhood sexual abuse has been correlated with higher levels of depression, guilt, shame, self-blame, anxiety, and several other long-term effects.
I know in my heart that I am doing what I feel is best for my child. However, I can’t help except to feel guilty for my decision. Will my child resent me for this? Will my child’s growth and development be hindered by not being in daycare? Am I being unreasonable?
I won’t know the answers to most of my questions for years to come as my child is not even two years old yet. However, I know that the guilt will pass with time. It is my job to protect my child. Therefore, my heart knows the guilt I have is unreasonable.
Before becoming a mom, my anxiety levels were high enough that I needed medication to help me function. I had the highest separation anxiety as a child. Now that I look back on those feelings, I can see how the long-term effects of childhood abuse were effecting me back then. As much as I believed I was over the trauma, this is never really true.
Unfortunately, the trauma never leaves you. You just get better at being a survivor and learning from your experiences. While I believe I have not let this experience hinder me, in a way that is a lie. I have my anxiety to prove that.
My child’s way of life is in direct relation to my childhood experiences. Would his life be different had I not been assaulted as a child? Absolutely. Does that mean his life would be better if I didn’t have these memories steering his life? Truthfully, I don’t know.
When I remember those times when the assaults were taking place, I try to make sense of why it happened to me. I can remember as far back as being in kindergarten when it happened. What did I do as a kindergarten girl to deserve this? Clearly this happened because of something I did, right?
This is the irrational side of my mind telling me it was my fault. Knowing what I know now, there isn’t possibly anything a child can do to deserve such abuse. However, I find myself two decades later still blaming myself.
I never wish for my child to know what happened to me in my childhood. However, I know that I might not be able to always hide this secret. I try to hide it and repress the memories around my husband. But the truth is I actually show my shame of the assault more often than I realize.
There are times when I find myself disliking who I see looking back at me in the mirror because of what I’ve been through. I mentally tell myself why I’m not desirable or appealing to the eye. My self-worth is lower because of my experiences.
In hindsight, I probably should have sought counseling some years ago when my secret was exposed. However, my secret didn’t come out for some years after it happened to me. Therefore, I felt I should have gotten over it by then.
I know better now. And I know that for me to be the best mom I can be for my child, counseling is the next step in the healing process for me. It is difficult for me to relive those memories and admit that I was a victim. This is a shameful feeling. However, it is not my fault that it happened.
How to Protect Your Children
Abuse takes on many forms. Unfortunately, children experience assault more often than we desire to admit. Childhood is supposed to be a beautiful part of life filled with laughter, running and playing, and making memories. It’s a shame that so many children have these things taken away from then.
Teach your children how to identify tricky people. As much as you might think you are open with your child, really take time to be in the moment with them so that they always feel like you have time for them and to listen to them.
I am guilty of this too, but put the phone away! Truly see your child, notice any changes that may be out of sorts, and talk to your child. This could help identify the grooming phases of childhood abuse and could potentially save your child from harm.
Always report any cases of abuse. In the event that you need to know how to help a child get through their experience of abuse, find these seven tips about helping victims of assault.
Samantha Flores is a first time parent to an incredible little boy residing in Northern California. She holds her M.A. in Education with a Specialization in Culturally Responsive Education. Her mission is to consistently provide helpful content for other parents to draw from. Parenthood is ever-changing! She looks forward to sharing her experiences with you and hopes that her posts are insightful.
Follow Samantha’s journey on her website and Facebook page.
I want to say a big, big thank Samantha for her bravery in sharing her story as well as providing you all with important data and resources. Experiencing trauma in your childhood, especially sexual assault, is something that often stays with you and has impacts in your everyday life. I am glad Samantha is seeking therapy in order to process what happened to her and continue to move forward. What a strong Mama.