Polly's pages (aka 'Donna Williams')

Ever the arty Autie

Mothers who sexually abuse their daughters


However appalling the topic, when it comes to hearing from women sexually abused by fathers, uncles, brothers, grandfathers, society is at least aware of the issue. As a society we have become so used to the potential of men to abuse that men working with children or interested to do so are sometimes instantly under suspicion. Yet up to 40% of those who sexually abuse children are women and around 10% of reported child sexual abuse of girls is perpetrated by the child’s mother.

We hear from women about their abusive mothers; the emotional incest, the mental-emotional abuse, the physical violence and society can get to grips with that, the daughter herself may walk away able to view herself as a ‘survivor’ from that. And we know that sexual abuse is perpetrated by the same parents who have already been capable of other abuses of their children and the lack of boundaries that underpins that. But we hear far less of those women sexually abused by their mothers. Those who were usually won’t speak of ‘that part of things’, if they are not too dissociated from ‘those experiences’ to even be able to face what happened. There is simply something too bizarre about it, unmentionable, alien for both the person who went through it and the society they never told about it.

How could the person who gave birth to you be so disturbed as to see you as a toy, their object, possession, some kind of extension of themselves on which to play out their sexual disturbance, their jealousy of other females, their lust for power over another female, their indulgence in a secrecy and taboo they are certain nobody would ever believe and no daughter would dare to tell?

However much they may have learned to masterfully feign the role, these are not people who are actually capable of healthy love between themselves and their child. Sometimes it will be a mother who is mentally ill, has personality disorders or is psychopathic, substance abusing or otherwise addicted or any combination thereof. Sometimes it will be a mother who has different fixations and perversions about her daughters than she does her sons or even abuses one of her children whilst not abusing the others at all or in the same way. Sometimes the mother who has sexually abused her own children will then continue the abuse on some level with her grandchildren to the extent she can get away with it.

With her own child a mother usually has a high level of private access. If the child is a baby, under 3 years old or has communication or developmental disabilities, the abusing mother may blame the child’s distress or disturbance on being misbehaved, spoilt, or on their disabilities. Children with functional communication are more likely to come to the attention of care services after the abuse has come out through speech, play or artwork.

Mothers who restrain, intoxicate or violently sexually abuse their pre-verbal daughters (or allow or facilitate others to do this for her by proxy) may not bother with the grooming stage at all. When the same abuser then has grandchildren they may have less exclusive or private access to the child so may be more likely to groom the child before overtly sexually abusing them. She may repeatedly expose them to comments, actions or material that desensitizes them to blurred boundaries, dares them to higher levels of tolerance of abusive behaviour, challenges their ability to remain silent in a pact with the abuser. If the child doesn’t disclose, the abuser may take this to another level and if they do disclose may cover their tracks, blame the child, threaten the child or move on to an easier victim.

The mothers who sexually abuse their daughters do so directly and indirectly. At its most subtle level these are the mothers indulging in the oversexualisation of their child, exposing them to porn and graphic language and suggestions. It can be a mother who sexually abuses their daughter in complete secrecy. It can be a mother who endangers their daughter, allowing others to abuse her, even facilitating this or actively suggesting their opportunity to do so. The mothers who do this may do so

* for the power over another human being,
* out of harbored resentment against an unwanted child for being born,
* for financial gain to pay for compulsive gambling, alcohol or other substance addictions,
* to observe replays of their own abuse as a child,
* out of jealousy of other females projected onto the child they wish to see harmed,
* out of hatred for the child’s father (damaging ‘his’ child),
* to win attention/approval from a male pedophile they are with,
* to push their own levels of detachment from empathy or compassion they feel weakens them (to prove/reinforce their toughness),
* as part of identifying with female psychopaths who have also abused children,
* as part of the mother’s unmanaged personality disorders
* because she can and can get away with it

… the motivations are diverse.

Daughters sexually abused by their mothers are among the least likely victims to report the abuse. It’s time to acknowledge that women also sexually abuse children, that mothers do, that this may be their sons or their daughters, that this may happen when the child is a baby, a toddler, or at any time throughout childhood. And just like male perpetrators, they will go to great lengths to hide what they have done. A man cannot so easily hide behind the word ‘love’. But a mother who abuses can use it as a powerful deflection, a hiding place, a means of silencing the child she abused as if to say “if I proclaim ‘I love you‘ often enough, loudly enough, public enough, even co-opting siblings into the chant, then I can feel safer that nobody would ever believe I had been capable of that“.

Can such mothers feign the role of being a loving mother? Come on, … can psychopaths and narcissists con people? Can those with Borderline Personality Disorder play roles that have no relationship to the person underneath? Of course. It’s time we looked past the powerful blinder of the term ‘mother’ we associate with Mother’s Day cards, hearts, roses, aprons, cookies, dolls and dancing lessons. Mothers who sexually abuse their daughters are human beings, disturbed and disturbing, and their title of ‘mother’ is no more than a mask.


* pedophiles exist
* incest exists
* around 20% of pedophiles (1 in 5) are female (some of whom will be mothers and somebody will be their children)
* most pedophilia occurs in families
* though some are (Myra Hindley is an example) most pedophiles are not sadistic
* most pedophiles appear to be ‘every day people – you wouldn’t know if you met one in the street
* pedophiles give the emotional responsibility to their victim
* most pedophiles see themselves as ‘children’
* a pedophile can be or appear thoughtful, gentle, quiet, even shy yet still be pathologically narcissistic


Mother’s are not human,
they are mothers,
they somehow… change.

They are not fallible like the rest of us.
They snap their fingers and are transformed
By virtue of hormones and soiled nappies
Into selfless human beings,
Forgoing their own needs,
Overcoming their own lacking, their own losses,
The missing cogs,
Into some meta-being protecting their child at any cost.

In a formulaic society ‘Normality’ is God
And someone wrote a book on it somewhere for sure.
‘Normality’ could not be simply what one has.
There’s no soap opera like that.
If it doesn’t fit the formula, it doesn’t exist.
It’s amazingly invisible.
You can flaunt it under the nose of the world
And as long as you wave the flags,
Nobody will dare to say stop.

It is unthinkable, surreal,
To admit that ‘normality’ is a game
That can be played by a fragmented actress,
A camel, its back broken by too many straws,
A barbed wire prison warder.

My life, therefore, like all those like it, did not exist
In your circumscribed view of ‘normality’.

Donna Williams, BA Hons, Dip Ed.
Author, artist, singer-songwriter, screenwriter.
Autism consultant and public speaker.

I acknowledge Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as the Traditional Owners of this country throughout Australia, and their connection to land and community.