(Un)-blaming mothers whose partners sexually abuse children: in view of heteronormative myths, pressures and authorities

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    17 Citations (Scopus)


    Mothers of children who have been sexually abused are often shamed, blamed and held guilty for their male partners' sexual perpetrations. These feelings are constrained by the dominant heteronormative discourses, institutions and systems that devalue women, that silence them and which subsequently blame women for the abuse as well as their silence. Paradoxically, the risks for mothers speaking out are reinforced by social criticism and professional response that draw on heteronormative discourses that accuse women for 'failing to protect' their children, for being 'bad' mothers or for making poor choices in their lovers. With these issues at the forefront, this paper illuminates how heteronormative discourses may operate to not only shame and blame women unable to leave their adult relationships and protect their children, but they also strengthen the perpetrator's power as strategic actors in concealing child sexual abuse. It is argued that the heteronormative discourses that reinforce women's sense of guilt obstruct professional intervention and make service engagement of these women difficult. In light of the power of discourse, the importance of combining an overlapping systems approach in which individualized client-centred support is provided to each family member involved in child sexual abuse matters, including for the mothers in their own right, is discussed.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)439-448
    Number of pages10
    JournalChild and Family Social Work
    Issue number4
    Early online date2013
    Publication statusPublished - Nov 2013


    • Child protection
    • Child sexual abuse
    • Mother blame
    • Motherhood
    • Shame
    • Silence


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