Recognizing My Mother Was My First Abuser (Triggers)


Through journaling and EMDR I’m able to recall much more about my mother’s abuse. It pains me to call it abuse, it never clicked with me that what she did was abusive, because there was never any contact between us. I chalked it up to her being open with nudity (she made it a point of telling my wife the first time they met that she had always slept in the nude and don’t be alarmed if she got up during the night to use the bathroom, sometimes she forgot to put on a robe when guests stayed over).

In reality, she was an aggressive exhibitionist and voyeur, and as I got older I sought and welcomed some of her behavior.

***** Triggering Examples*********

My mother had no boundaries around nudity, hers or mine. She would never close the door to the bathroom when she was using it, or allow me to lock it when I was in the bathroom (since we only had one bathroom sometimes “we had to share” she said.) All of these are post pubescent incidents. She did these things around and to...her 13 year old son, and repeated it often until I was 17.

My mother would sit across from me on the sofa in a short nightgown with nothing underneath and casually spread her legs, making sure I could see her genitals. She would come into the bathroom when I was getting out of the shower and undress in front of me to get ready to shower. Often she would sit on the toilet and urinate, again making sure to spread her legs so I could see. Often I would become aroused and she would openly look at my genitals. I would attempt to cover up early on, but she told me that she had seen my penis every day since I was born, I didn't have to be embarrassed by her seeing it now.

She would come into the bathroom while I was sitting on the toilet to take a bath. In the two feet of space between the toilet and tub she would bend over to run her bath, completely exposing her genitals to me at eye level. I began to reciprocate by spreading my legs, so she could see I was aroused.

She would suggest I take a bath when I was sore from track practices. She would then come in and “have to get ready to go out.” On more than one occasion she would shave her legs putting one foot up on the edge of the tub so that I was staring up at her genitals. She would finish by washing her genitals, in reality she was masturbating, again while I was looking up at her, and she could see my arousal.

Occasionally I would get home from school and she would be in her bedroom with the door open so I could see her completely naked with her legs and genitals spread wide open masturbating. I would watch until she finished. I began to do the same thing. As soon as she finished I would go to my room, undress and lay on the bed facing the partially open door to masturbate. I could clearly see her shadow as she watched from the hall.

The last time we exhibited ourselves to each other I was 16 or 17. I was masturbating to the sears catalog on the toilet, she came into the bathroom “to shower”. I continued to masturbate, she told me that it was disgusting and I was too old to see her naked anymore.
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Yes, that was abusive John. This is all tricky material because of our confusing attitudes toward boys and sexuality. The idea is we want it any way we can get it and if we do, we're lucky. There is a whole genre of pornography about boys and mothers, girls and fathers as though this is great stuff. It can take a lifetime of messed up relationships and confusion about our sexuality to discover that introduction to sexual feelings and behaviors with a family member is going to be fraught with problems. Sadly, these things happen much more often than one would expect, especially so with a group of men struggling to make sense of their own sexual experience.

For most of my life I didn't remember what happened with my mother when I was very young. When I did remember I discounted it as important, despite the fact my life had been fucked from the very beginning. It was only within the last year and a half that I've finally come to understand how her behavior really destroyed my life... my capacity to feel secure in my body or safe in the world.

You're unpacking all this material at the moment, which is a very good thing. Yes, it can be unsettling and even painful to remember but we can only heal when this material no longer holds us in its grip. By that I mean when we carry this material but unconsciously, we will act out our feelings. The way we act out is uniquely our own, the product of our life experience. We'll keep doing that until we no longer need to do so. That is when we've told the truth and finally released ourselves from the bondage of the past. Then we will have compassion for ourselves as survivors of the trauma we experienced. This is exactly what you're doing at the moment... and coming to terms with what you mother did and what she didn't do is important.
In reality, she was an aggressive exhibitionist and voyeur, and as I got older I sought and welcomed some of her behavior.
Hi John67,

I think when we are children we don't know the meaning of what is taking place when something like this happens. I definitely agree this is a form of abuse and how could it help but not confuse you when you are the age you were when this was going on? I mean if this is all you have ever known, and you were a child it would be overwhelming. I am not a psychologist, I am a computer guy and this is a different variety of abuse than I was subjected to. I would think, or conventional wisdom would lead one to think, because this was your own mother, it would be particularly devastating. Don't get me wrong all abuse is bad and it causes trauma and it damages us in terrible ways. I also agree getting this stuff out is the only way you can really heal and get on down that road in a meaningful way. It is so unfortunate that you had to go through this, or any of us here what we had to endure. I hope that as you continue your journey, you are able to get all of this stuff out and be able to move on in a good way. All any of us can do is work on it and try which seems to me that you are doing.

With Deep Respect,


here is something about the exhibitionism dimension of sub clinical narcissism

on the whole men tend to sub-clinical narcissism more than women except for the dimension of exhibitionism

so maybe your mother was a narcissist, and in that case maybe the vast literature on narcissistic abuse could help you too

As for myself it is obvious, exhibitionism is one of the foundations of the - still - so "invisible" sexual offences perpetrated by women


This is all tricky material because of our confusing attitudes toward boys and sexuality. The idea is we want it any way we can get it and if we do, we're lucky. There is a whole genre of pornography about boys and mothers, girls and fathers as though this is great stuff.
I’ll give my mother the benefit of the doubt and assume that there is some sickness she picked up in her own childhood that caused her to be the way she was with me. Perhaps as someone mentioned it was strictly narcissism. Maybe it was as simple as her feeling validated that as an obese woman in her early 40’s she could elicit a physical response from a teen aged male.

I chose to ignore the implications for the longest time. I could convince myself then that we weren’t being sexual. In reality our “accidentally” allowing ourselves to be seen masturbating was completely sexual even though there was no physical contact. My mother’s “routine” was to show off her body before pleasuring herself. It occurred to me that she was posing the way that women in magazine’s did…until she actually pleasured herself. I certainly knew that she was watching me and displayed myself accordingly. In reality it was mutual masturbation…just without acknowledging that we were being watched.

I think what put an end to it was her fear that it would go further. The last time she openly displayed herself in the bathroom I masturbated with her in the room until she demanded I stop.
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Honestly, I don't imagine any of us come to distorted sexuality without earlier experiences that led us in that direction. One of the things that spending time on this website has done for me is show me how much brokenness there is in families, even the families that might look normal on the outside. As we tell our stories on these threads a window is opened and others peer into the distorted reality in which we lived.

I live in a cottage behind a family of lovely individuals whose way of relating is quite disturbing. The daughter has an infant whose father shows up from time to time... a couple of meth addicts trying to get their lives together. I told the young woman a few days ago what a fine job she is doing with her daughter. Yesterday as the woman screamed obscenities at her mother I imagined what this six month old girl was taking in. The anger wasn't directed at her, but it was her mother's voice raging. The infant has no way of rationalizing what is happening. She doesn't know the rage is directed at someone else. There is no telling how these behaviors will affect this child but you can imagine the world isn't feeling too safe in those moments.

I mention that to say simply healthy development is dependent on an environment in which we feel secure in ourselves and safe in the world. There are many things that happen in families to disturb that process. Physical and sexual abuse are surely the most damaging, but then so is neglect and so is chaos within the system... The folks who find their way here have an abundance of damage to contain, to work through. What happened with your mother happened in the context of everything that came before both for you and for her as she grew up. Your challenge is to make sense of all of it... hopefully with compassion.