Survivors as Parents

My younger sister, Jeanne, who at the age of three had witnessed my father raping me (she slept in a crib next to my bed), decided once she grew up that she did not want to have children. She was killed in a car accident at the age of 25. She had prophesied her own death, saying that it was life’s last great adventure. It’s only been in the last few years that I found out she not only witnessed my rape but remembered it. It explains why she wet the bed till she was three and spoke in a childish lisp that only I understood until she was ten. It might also explain why death held no fear for her.

I so understand why many survivors may decide not to have children. Numerous reasons illustrate why this happens. They may be afraid they couldn’t protect them or worried that what they had inherited as a result of their trauma may in some way be inflicted on any child they had. These are concerns that have a strong chance of happening.

Even survivors who became parents worry and fret at the slightest sign of someone being inappropriate with their child, physically, mentally and especially sexually. This becomes a difficult burden to carry. They must keep one eye open all of the time. Even if they don’t fully remember the trauma that happened to them they instinctively react to any possible danger to their child.

Those who didn’t fully remember until after their children were grown may have unwittingly passed on behavior patterns, especially codependent behavior patterns to their own children. In my case, I didn’t find out until I was halfway through my own recovery and my children were fully grown that two of my daughters had been sexually molested not only by my second husband but by a family friend.  I was devastated. When I looked back on my history with men and my own codependent behavior I cringe with shame. Despite my girls saying it wasn’t my fault I will carry the guilt for the rest of my life. They told me that I was having so many marital problems, alcoholic husbands, a husband who was cheating on me and all that went along with that kind of mate, that they didn’t want to add to my burdens. They didn’t think it had impacted them. But one of them was with an alcoholic husband for several years. She was herself an alcoholic who entered recovery and is today a regular at AA meetings. The other was married to an unstable, violent man for several years before she escaped.

What can someone who was sexually molested and is afraid to have children of their own do? What if they desperately want children but are too afraid? Since untreated adult children of a sexual assault victim stand a five times greater chance of being abused themselves it behooves them to enter a program of recovery before they have children. Only then will they be able to insure that they have rid themselves of unhealthy behavior patterns. Only then will they be able to keep a watchful eye on their progeny and with newly acquired wisdom guide them safely into adulthood thereby giving the next generation a chance of a happy life.

A stable environment is a prerequisite for children as they grow up. With an untreated child sexual abuse victim as a parent this is difficult to achieve. Often, the child of a parent who had been sexually abused, find themselves victims of that parent. While it is difficult to wrap your head around the why many victims turn in to perpetrators. So if your father was your perpetrator and he had been sexually abused as a child you can see that this heinous cycle of violence must be stopped. How can anyone have healthy, stable children with a background like this? First we must repair the damage done to the adult child, then make a decision about having children.

Take a look at the REPAIR program on our website at It may be a perfect fit for you. Email me at if you have any questions.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *