Empowering boys and men: The psychologically/emotionally abusive mother and her son: Learn to say NO!
Does this sound familiar?
A young man’s story:
Male maternal abuse survivors:
Fact Check-Did you know that Mothers commit the MAJORITY of child abuse according to federal statistics? And that, if not the mother, then her male partner(s) are the other most common abuser? Did you know that mothers are 3X more likely to abuse children than biological fathers?Did you know that the most common type of abuse is emotional/psychological abuse committed by mothers. You didn’t? Hmmm thats interesting. Well what about this: did you know that the sexual abuse of girls is actually the MINORITY of child abuse committed? Really? Well yes… really. Heres another one. that our society hates to admit and often hates to be brought up: BOYS ARE often victims of FEMALE abuse, particularly emotional, physical and psychological abuse that can lower self-esteem and produce internal (and sometimes external) scars that can and often do last a life time. Is that a shock? You don’t believe me? Maybe you don’t care…..well…..there is a REASON why you most likely have never heard of this as there is a reason for everything, and we will get to that in a minute….
So, why focus on child abuse committed by mothers? Whats the importance of this? Why focus on male victims as opposed to female victims? Aren’t girls victims too? And more importantly, why focus on emotional and psychological abuse?
Before diving into the breath and depth of this issue, one must understand the importance of demographics and culture in regards to children and the way they experience abuse. This article focuses on MALE (boy) abuse victims, and you will see why in a minute. What is important to realize before reading this article is that while abuse can and does happen to male children of various socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds, African-American and Caucasian (white) non-Hispanic young males are more likely to suffer from maternal abuse, especially emotional and psychological abuse. Other boys can be victims as well, but cultural patterns and social norms often mean that these groups of males are more likely to be subjected to maternal/female abuse and maltreatment within the U.S. Social and cultural differences often affect one’s experiences with child abuse, and that should always be taken into consideration.
So, onto the subject often asked of me when speaking about child abuse, “Why focus on male abuse victims of female abusers?”. Well for starters: there isn’t a SINGLE website, book, or any other resource that seeks to specifically help male victims of maternal abuse understand their abuse or provide ways to combat and heal from it. While the publishers and directors of these organizations may mean well, they tend to ignore the fact that BOYS OFTEN express their feelings regarding an abusive situation differently than female victims will. The majority of help-style information tends to be unanimously geared toward female victims, often completely over-looking boys as a whole. One search on google or amazon.com and one can see that the MAJORITY of websites and other resources are geared towards either female victims exclusively or focusing on male perpetrators (the abuser should be treated this way REGARDLESS of gender). OR they attempt to lump male and female victims into one group, as if their experiences or treatments are frequently the same. They’re not, and most, if not all, male victims of maternal abuse will tell you that. Although all men are different, our abuse at the hands of our mothers or other women is often not cared about or lumped again under a general mantra of male perpetrators and female victims, inclduing the abusive mother as a victim herself. Another problem facing most young men and boys is that , in an efforts to better our situation and fight back against female abusers, these boys and men often face misandry, the hatred or dislike of boys and men. You can look almost anywhere and see this innate disllike and anger (boiling into rage) towards boys and men who attempt to either criticize or simply disagree with a female point of view. This, combined with the the facts mentioned above often can cause male victims of female abuse to feel responsible for their own abuse, and internalizes a sense of shame about being who they are, a victim of maternal abuse.
Yet another tragedy facing abused boys: many male survivors of maternal abuse, either facilitated by the mother or commited directly by her, are BLAMED for their own maltreatment, or DENIED the right to be a ‘victim’ as their abuse is denied and their abuser(s) are pardoned, or even rewarded. These boys are essentially forced into silence by the majority, leading many to a path of internal and external self-destruction. Not only are the male victims of maternal abuse often blamed or ignored, but society often goes to great lengths to make the abuser (the mother) the victim. Many young men have experienced or witnessed this type of scenario where a boy is uniformly hated for speaking negatively or fighting back against his mother or her male partner, as if a mother is somehow always the victim, or that the abuse shouldn’t be spoken about, or even worse: that there is an ‘explanation’ (excuse) as to why she did what she did and the son should be ‘punished’ for being ungrateful for his mothers ‘love’.
And, when attempting to speak out about these abusers, male maternal abuse survivors often hear these responses:
“Shes your MOTHER!”
“Show her some respect for all she does for you!”
“Its not abuse, its not that serious.”
“Whatever, you’re making stuff up”
“Shes doing the best she can, don’t blame her…”
“You must hate women or something….”
“No, its your fathers fault and she can do whatever she wants!”
“YOU NEED TO RESPECT WOMEN!”
or the ever so famous sentiment: “Poor her…” as if somehow, she herself is a victim.
Now, many child abusers were often once victims themselves, but ask yourself this: Would we blame a victim of a rape? Or try to explain away the actions of the perpetrator? Would one dare to tell a victim of rape: “He was turned on, you shouldn’t have been in that room by yourself with him…”
We wouldn’t do that, yet male victims often face this victim-blaming and abuser-sympathizing. Its a sad moment in most male maternal abuse victims lives, and a moment that often becomes a lifelong reality.
Now, lets define an emotionally/psychologically abusive mother. More than likely you know someone like this (or its your mother, or YOU) and you’ve seen some of these behaviors, but probably didn’t equate them with emotional abuse.
General Characteristics of Emotionally Abusive Mothers
Making the child/teen feel responsible for the mother’s feelings.
Threatening them in general.
Threatening them specifically with rejection or abandonment.
Threatening them with vague, unstated consequences.
Using force upon them.
Invalidating their feelings.
Laying undeserved guilt on them.
Placing undeserved blame on them.
Dominating the conversations.
Refusing to apologize.
Always needing to have the last word.
Judging or rejecting their friends.
Sending them to their rooms for crying.
Locking them out of the house.
Using punishments and rewards to manipulate and control them.
Invading their privacy.
Failing to show trust in them.
Giving them the silent treatment.
Failing to give them real explanations.
Giving non-explanations such as “because it is wrong” or “because it is inappropriate” or “because it is a sin”
Emotional and psychological abuse leaves SEVERE internal scars that often, if ever, take YEARS to recover from…
ad to that, the guise of ‘mommy is always loving, and is always THE VICTIM” perpetuates a constant belief in our society that women are always justified in their actions toward their children, unlike men, who are more easily seen as abusers even when there is little to no evidence to prove that abuse (again, doesn’t mean something didn’t happen, but it points to a wider issue of gender bias in our society).
Saying “I love you” does not mean she is not abusing her children. What often makes female perpetrators virtually undetectable to outsiders is they are often kind and nurturing in public, or even worse, they blame or patronize the boy, in an effort to both win sympathy for themselves, and further enforce their superiority and ‘righteousness’. The son is then often mistaken and/or labeled as disrespectful or abusive to their mother, when in fact, it is often the other way around. Male victims are the only victims not seen as victims, which is why now more than ever, boys need a voice and a way to arm themselves against a society that often blames them for their own abuse, or denies and/or minimizes it.
Signs of Abuse:
Another thing that makes male victims different from female victims is how they often respond to maternal abuse. While female victims of neglectful, emotionally and mentally abusive mothers often sympathize with, or even i ‘defend’, their mothers actions, or act out sexually (another common sign of abuse, but not exclusively related to abuse), male victims often display a very UNIQUE set of characteristics that hint to the abusive behavior. Male victims can also develope feelings of inadequacy, fear and shame that are internalized, partly because they are taught to internalize them. Young male abuse survivors may have trouble in their personal relationships, at work, and/or difficulty with authority figures (after being abused by a parental authority) as abuse distorts a persons view of themselves and how others, especially authority figures, view them. Also, male victims may, and often do, display patterns of either ineffective communication with men and/or other boys, as often maternal abusers will equate gender (men) with a sense of ‘wrongness’ in an effort to further internalize the abuse. While these traits may also be present in female victims, they tend to be mostly present in male victims, making boys (and later, men) feel isolated and insecure about the abuse they suffered, and possibly their fractured sense of security.
Another symptom that often plagues most young male maternal abuse survivors is their inability to maintain steady employment. Employment issues are common amongst female abuse victims as well, from constantly being fired, to continuous problems with co-workers and managers. However, male abusers often suffer twice as hard from this turbulent work history for many reasons. One: there is a stigma that men and teenage boys who have don’t work or have troubles either finding or keeping work are ‘lazy’, ‘weak’, or ‘pathetic’, yet this same stigma is not as strong for women or teenage girls, who often receive much more support in terms of emotional, social, monetary assistance. While this support is equally as important for women, it should exist for boys and men as well. This lack of support, combined with the often misandric tone in our social patterns, reaffirms that he (the young man) is “wrong”. Yet still, despite all he goes through, he can still not manage to heal from his internal wounds, because he is denied the right to seek help, or even have his abuse acknowledged by those who were supposed to be there for him.
Combine this with the fact that boys are often blamed and even PUNISHED for speaking up against their mothers means that we have an entire group in our society that often suffers in silence.
Emotional/psychological abuse is one of the hardest forms of abuse to document yet it is so common in our society. People don’t want to think that a ‘mother’ (and i use that term loosely) can harm her child, but it can and DOES happen. As a youth rights activist and a survivor of emotional, verbal, and psychological abuse at the hands of my mother and her extended family, I seek to widen the definition of what it means to be a survivor of abuse as well as build a network where male abuse survivors can come out and talk about their experiences. By exposing this hidden form of abuse at the hands of their mothers, I hope that other people do not suffer the same as I, and many other boys did, in silence…The more we talk about this issue, the more we realize we are NOT ALONE! Never forget that! Abusers almost NEVER change. But you CAN! The first step to recovering and healing from any type of abuse is acknowledging that it is ABUSE and not normal! The challenge with this is that most abusers and their victims come from abusive families, making the victim (and the abuser) think that this is normal. BUT YOU CAN BREAK THE CHAIN! ALWAYS seek the help of a THERAPIST or other licensed mental health professional, dealing with those problems on your own can be equally as problematic as the abuse itself!Never give up and remember: YOU ARE YOUR GREATEST WEAPON AGAINST ANY AND ALL ABUSE and most important, YOU DESERVE TO BE LOVED! (just not by an abuser)
With much love and courage