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Sexual Abuse?

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When I was 11 my parents had a very ugly divorce and custody battle. I loved and trusted bother of my parents equally and didn’t want to choose who to live with. After therapy for all four family members the courts decided to give parents 50/50 custody. Thinking back now my mother’s behavior probably started at least a year or so before but it was at this time that I recognized my mother was often saying things like “did you sleep in your father’s bed when you were there” or “you know you shouldn’t be naked in front of your dad”. I want to make it clear that nothing like this was happening. My father has always been amazing and never acted inappropriately at all. But since I trusted my mom these comments did stick with me and made me feel unsure and unsafe.

When I was 12 my mother took me to the police station saying that I had to talk to an officer as part of a court order to help with custody arrangements and that it was totally normal for kids of divorce. Suddenly I was alone in an interrogation room with an officer who was asking where my dad touches me. It was traumatizing and I burst out in tears. The whole ordeal left me feeling nauseous and somehow dirty. This memory was suppressed and only came back to me in my early 20s.

The comments continued into my teens and I only felt more confused and disgusted in myself. Sometimes questioning if I had forgotten an incident or if everyone knew something horrible about my amazing dad that I didn’t.

As most girls do, I became interested in boys at around 13 or 14. Still trusting my mom and seeking out an open relationship I shared these thoughts and feelings as well as stories about some of my friend’s first kisses. Each time I was made to feel like I should be embarrassed and not act or talk about anything romantic. When a boy was interested in me and we became friends he would come over to hang out after school from time to time. He was such a great kid, always polite and had amazing grades in school. But my mom couldn’t say anything good about him and I slowly pushed him away and didn’t let the relationship progress.

I finally left my mom for good when I was 16 to preserve what was left of my mental health. The psychological abuse involving my self-worth and the threat of escalating physical violence is what brought our relationship to a close.

Since then whenever a man has shown interest in me I get excited but then quickly feel disgusted. Part of me does want a physical relationship to form but a bigger part of me feels sick at the idea if it could realistically happen. I also have felt like “he’s so great and deserves better so I won’t let it go farther”

So… I’m still a virgin at 30. But I only put together that maybe my mom’s comments have contributed to this in the past few days.

When I read about girls who were sexually abused I see that they sometimes have the same symptoms that I do. But I wasn’t abused. I did always know that many neighbors, family friends and family members suspected I was though.

Would love to know a professional’s opinion on the matter. Why won’t I let men near me even though I am very attracted to them and fantasize about making a future with one? (From Canada)

Sexual Abuse?

Answered by on -


The difficulty is that with so many people having such a powerful opinion the doubt and confusion alone have become the central concern. Rather than identifying your mother as the culprit—or your father—let’s take the view that the conditions you grew up in were not ideal, and you’ve been given messages that conflict with your experience. These things we know are true and give us the facts that you’ll need to move forward.

Since the conflicts surrounding this issue involves alleged inappropriate sexual relations that you don’t know if you have placed all romantic and sexual feelings into the psyche’s file folder under “trouble.” The avoidance keeps you from having to confront the possibility that you’ll be made to feel bad somehow.

I recommend beginning individual therapy where your story and the struggle with intimacy can be talked about in a safe environment. This alone should have some healing effect. You could not talk to your mother, talking to the police wasn’t a good experience, and you aren’t talking to a potential partner about the issue—you are simply breaking it off. Talking about it with a professional with experience in this matter already begins the process of healing.

Wishing you patience and peace,
Dr. Dan
Proof Positive Blog @ PsychCentral

Sexual Abuse?

Therapists live, online right now, from BetterHelp:

Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA, MAPP

Dan Tomasulo Ph.D., TEP, MFA, MAPP teaches Positive Psychology in the graduate program of Counseling and Clinical Psychology at Columbia University, Teachers College and works with Martin Seligman, the Father of Positive Psychology in the Masters of Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) program at the University of Pennsylvania. He is Director of the New York Certification in Positive Psychology for the Open Center in New York City and on faculty at New Jersey City University. Sharecare has honored him as one of the top 10 online influencers on the topic of depression. For more information go to: He also writes for Psych Central's Ask the Therapist column and the Proof Positive blog.

APA Reference
Tomasulo, D. (2019). Sexual Abuse?. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 4, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 22 Feb 2019 (Originally: 24 Feb 2019)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 22 Feb 2019
Published on Psych All rights reserved.