I need advice - Long

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by flutterbee, Apr 2, 2008.

  1. flutterbee

    flutterbee Guest

    I'm uncomfortable posting this, but I need advice. I really am at a loss with this one.

    My daughter is 13 and she will not talk about her body at all or body functions or anything even remotely pertaining to it. She shuts down, becomes very uncomfortable, embarrassed maybe, but more like ashamed.

    When she was 4, she started with she hates herself and that she's ugly. My daughter was the beautiful child that people stopped and stared at. Not that that matters, but she was in no way ugly. At that age, she also started with me being the only one allowed to be in the room when she got dressed. Not even my mom was allowed. And she would close and lock the door while getting dressed. That just seems uncommon at that age. And while my daughter was born anxious and challenging, it was at that age that the hellacious meltdowns began. It's the age she was when she first started to see a therapist.

    She did very well with that therapist and after 4 months we were done with therapy. I could leave the room without her falling apart. She was out of my bed. All that stuff. Then about 3 years later, easy child was diagnosis'd with severe depression and difficult child regressed back into super high anxiety. And we've been dealing with it ever since.

    I got her the American Girl Body Book for Girls when she was around 9 or 10. Told her to come to me with any questions. She took it and I never saw it again - but I do know she read it, it's definitely been looked through repeatedly. When she was 11 and started her period, she wouldn't tell me. She came to me and said she had something to tell me, but was too embarrassed. I had to delicately guess what it was. I figured it was her period, but if it wasn't it and I guessed it she would have been mortified. So, it had to be handled delicately. If I even ask her now anything about her period, she yells at me.

    A friend of hers, M, that is just a few months younger, started her period at the same age. (This was 2 years ago.) M's mom called everyone in the family, plus friends to tell them and took M out to dinner to celebrate her becoming a woman. I thought it was bizarre, but whatever.

    M spent that weekend with us. On Monday, difficult child calls me at work, highly upset. Tells me she did something bad and that she's grounded herself. I asked her what she did and she said she looked at stuff online that she shouldn't have. That M was talking to her about it over the weekend and she was curious and looked and it was bad.

    So, I called M's mom to find out what she was letting M look at. M's mom told me she showed her educational sites and that's it. Of course, I find out later from a mutual friend that M's mom was showing M porn. M's mom is a whole 'nother story.

    difficult child was so upset that I left work and came home to find her in the fetal position on the couch. She felt sick, she was crying, she was shaking and she wouldn't speak. I looked through the history to see what she looked at and none of the sites were that bad, but a pop up came up that was very graphic.

    Now when difficult child's anxiety is getting high, she looks at these things. She always confesses a few days later - and after a few days of feeling sick and beating herself up. (I'm talking about twice a year - not an everyday thing.) I'm not angry with her and I'm not going to punish her because she is punishing herself enough. She says she doesn't know why she does it, that she doesn't like it, that it bothers her, that she thinks she's a bad person, and that there is a little voice in the back of her head telling her to stop but she can't. She can't even say the words out loud - like sex, or breasts, or anything like that. She's so miserable when she tells me and she starts to crawl inside herself.

    And I don't know how to handle it. I asked her if she wanted me to put blocks on her internet and she doesn't. And I'm not inclined to without her asking me, too, because like I said I don't want to punish her.

    What I'm more worried about is her perception of her body and of sex. I don't want her to have such negative feelings about her body. I really don't know where it came from and it's been there since the age of 4. I mean, she won't even allow me to help her adjust her bra strap through her shirt.

    I've talked to her about sex between two people that care about each other being a nice, natural thing. She seems to have the impression that it's bad and ugly and shameful. I just have to word things so carefully because she becomes so mortified.

  2. SRL

    SRL Active Member

    I wasn't embarrassed to the degree of angst like your daughter but I was terribly embarrassed and far more modest than my mother, who thought nothing of talking about sex openly and walking around the house in the buff. I was mortified when she showed a friend of hers my first bra and had she called everyone to announce my first period I would have up and died forever. My 14 yo is equally mum and in comparing notes to other parents I've decided that some kids are just very closed while others are open and even eager.

    Personally I'd block the porn on the computer, just as I would for any 13 year old. It's highly unlikely she going to see anything that would contribute to a healthy self image out there.
  3. flutterbee

    flutterbee Guest

    I get there are differences in everyone's personal comfort level on this subject.

    I'm talking about way more than that. She's more ashamed than uncomfortable. I want to help her love and respect her body.
  4. LittleDudesMom

    LittleDudesMom Well-Known Member Staff Member


    I do understand that everyone is different when it comes to their level of comfort with sexuality, body image, etc. I came from an open enviornment, and I live in an open enviornment. Both my kids are comfortable in their skin and think nothing of asking questions regarding sex, etc. Even difficult child - no other male in the house so he has to talk to mom (and I've had to educate myself on the "boy" stuff)!

    But, I think with your daughter it is different. I don't think it's a case of her just being uncomfortable with the topic of sex, or periods, etc. I think there is some serious anxiety issues that rear their ugly head.

    I would suggest two things. First, I would suggest it is time for her to get back into therapy. I don't think this is something that you will be able to work through. It's sounds a little too intense. Second, block the porn on the computer. Heather, it's not about punishing your daughter, it's about what is and isn't appropriate for minor viewing. Your chidlren should not have access to pornography, period.

  5. Jena

    Jena New Member


    so i read through it all and my daughter is very similar to yours in regards to speaking of her body, etc.

    i think that alot of kids react differently to talk of sex and their bodies. my older one had no problem whereas the little one's skinned crawled. so that in itself wouldn't scare me too much. i would put hte blocks on her computer. not to punish her but to keep her safe from the moments when she does go there because some of that stuff can be damaging on some level especially for a kid.

    also i'd probably do the therapy thing so that she can work through her extreme anxiety issues regarding sexuality. so it can be a more comfortable topic for her in time.

    im so late to this and i am sorry for that. i hope it's going well.

  6. timer lady

    timer lady Queen of Hearts


    This sounds eerily familiar - kt gets this way with her PTSD. Another anxiety based disorder, so I'm not surprised.

    Saying that, I agree with the therapy component. I'd also contact psychiatrist & see if there is a need for medication adjustment - possibly a PRN for anxiety to help her through these rough times.

    I've seen with kt that if we don't contain that level of anxiety therapy will do no good as she's stuck in her loop. It builds to a point of no return for her. I can't say if that's the case for your difficult child or not.

    Another thought, would difficult children pediatrician or another objective person be a better person to talk to difficult child about her body? Right now, kt won't talk with me about "girl" things. She will talk to others about girl things, even if I'm in the room though. Just a thought.

    Keeping a good thought for difficult child today.
  7. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    Heather I understand your concern. We went through similar things (although maybe not quite so extreme; but almost) with easy child. In her case I remember arriving to collect her from after-school care to find her pulling her dress up and showing her knickers to the boys in the playground. She was 5. When I scolded her, she told me the boys had told her to. I said the usual things, "If the boys told you to jump off a cliff, would you do it?" and when she began to be much more modest after that I was relieved. Then it went almost as far as it did with your daughter. A year or so later we changed schools to the local school near our home. While she bathed with her younger siblings, she began to be very self-conscious about other people, including her grandparents, seeing her naked. I can't remember when she wouldn't let her father in the bathroom any more. We always used bubble bath, she would cover her body with bubbles.

    Then when she was 7 and watching "Degrassi Junior High" on TV and it was dealing with Spike's pregnancy, she said to me, "I don't understand how anyone could ever let themselves get pregnant."
    I thought that was unusually astute and judgmental for a 7 year old, so I asked her to explain a little more.
    "To get pregnant you have to have sex, and sex hurts." Then she seemed to realise what she had said and began to clam up. Within minutes she was sobbing in a heap on the floor and finally told me a fragment of what it was about - when she was 5, a boy at school (7) had molested her. She wouldn't give me any details, I never did find out and she has since blocked it out of her mind (and now she would like to know!). But the gist of it was he had got her in a place she identified (it was a hidden space that was part of the playground equipment), held her down, removed her knickers, told her he was going to have sex with her and it would hurt. What happened after that, she refused to say. Wouldn't even tell her counsellor, who later blocked me out of any information at all on the grounds of client confidentiality - at the age of 7! But she did say that he had told her that if she ever told anyone, he would send his father round to our house and he would kill me by running me over with their lawnmower.

    This poor kid had lived with this awful secret for two years. And although I got hr into therapy fast, it was fairly useless in terms of us helping her from then on. She was always more self-conscious about her body, always covered up more, avoided wearing anything remotely sexy.

    When her little sister had to start her schooling back in the city, attached tot he school community where the abuse had happened, easy child insisted on being transferred there too. I asked her if she was doing it to protect easy child 2/difficult child 2, because that boy was no longer there. I had actually tried to do something but the boy and his family had moved on and nobody knew where. I didn't go to the police because easy child begged me not to, and with her refusing to tell the details anyway, I knew we would get nowhere.
    She wanted to transfer partly to look after her little sister but also because she hated the school she was at.

    I was worried about how she would handle puberty, she managed OK perhaps because she saw a few friends going through it; but she hated the whole concept of growing up and becoming a woman. She was very much in denial.

    First bra - didn't want one. Didn't want to know about it, but then changing at school was an issue and she wanted to be covered, so she reluctantly accepted she needed something to not only cover her up but to stop anything jiggling. She wanted something to flatten her a bit. I tried to find pretty bras, there were nice ones with little bows or jewels, but no, they had to be white and unadorned.

    She wouldn't wear make-up except for dance concerts. Any toiletries had to be unperfumed where possible. She didn't object to smells in general, she just didn't want any on her.

    Like your daughter, easy child was very pretty. More than that - she had the sort of beauty in childhood you saw in Brooke Shields or Elizabeth Taylor. It was a beauty very dangerous for the child and I had always worried.

    (There is a family anecdote, rather funny - when easy child was a baby only a couple of months old, we were at a family reunion sitting with mother in law's family. One aunt, noted for being a loud gossip with her foot always in her mouth, exclaimed loudly over easy child. "What a pretty baby!" she said. "She's absolutely beautiful! And who'd have thought YOU'D have such a pretty baby!" She didn't mean to be nasty, and I was laughing too hard to be offended. Besides, I knew what she meant. Her husband, however, was mortified.)

    I worried about how easy child would handle boys. I wondered if she was a lesbian. But she was just anti-everything, when it came to sexual attraction or anything to do with it. And she began to binge on junk food, she became obsessed with always having her share (or more) of food, and the weight began to pile on.

    Then at a camp for teenage carers she met BF1. He lived in Newcastle, we lived three hours' drive away. She was 14, he was 15. They rarely saw each other face to face but would talk once a week on the phone, usually for several hours. Having him for a boyfriend meant all other boys knew she was off limits, and it was also safe because they rarely met. The best of both worlds.

    Whenever he DID travel to see her, she would be so anxious she would be vomiting. Amazingly, he stuck around, despite having a weak stomach and unable to cope if someone is vomiting near him (he will join them). As their relationship became more serious and several years passed, I told him about her history - I didn't want them getting to the sex stage without him knowing what he was likely to be in for.

    Over the years they broke up twice and each time she was devastated. Each time they got back together a few months later, the last time when she was 17. They have been together ever since.

    They both have a weight problem and it's getting worse. She is less self-conscious now about her body and sexuality, but she's still far more a prude than her sister. I suspect sex is for her nothing special, something she endures because she wants to be near BF1, she feels safe with him. She will talk about her body and health problems with me a little bit now, but this has only been in recent years.

    While easy child's problems are not to the same extent as your daughter's, I was still very concerned. I organised counselling for her again when she was 15-16, but her anxiety issues could never be fully dealt with. And as I said, by then she had blocked out the memory of the original abuse, although she knows intellectually it happened.

    I do wonder if at some stage your daughter was molested in some way. If easy child hadn't told me, I would have said there was no way such a thing could have happened to her, we were too vigilant and the school had guards on the gates and good playground supervision. However, much of that supervision was focussed on keeping the danger outside. They had no idea that their elementary and pre-school kids could pose such a danger to each other. The school age range was from 3 to 7. Why would you ever think kids of that age could be sexual predators? easy child had been in child care with that boy, from only three months old.

    For easy child, BF1 has been her best therapy. I think we've just been lucky, but even so, she's clearly still got problems. I wish I could have helped her more effectively when she was younger.

    As for what you can do for your daughter - I just don't know. You're already doing all you can. But some advice - we didn't force things with easy child, we let her develop at her own pace. We reassured her that she was free to choose her own pace to develop emotionally.

    Possibly because we were concerned at how she would cope emotionally with a physical relationship, we didn't push the morality thing with her as hard as we might have. I didn't want to give her any more hang-ups than she already clearly had. We were almost grateful when we discovered she and BF1 had been sexually active for some time, and she hadn't come apart. I only found out when she got a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) and symptoms got so bad she finally had to tell me she had a problem. She was darn lucky it hadn't gone to her kidneys by the time she told me.

    Hang in there. I'm not sure what more you can do, except pray.

    About the porn - it sounds to me like her curiosity is getting the better of her hang-ups. This could actually be a good sign, if only you can turn this interest into something more positive and communicative. She needs to know it's OK to access good knowledge, but not OK to look at stuff that will give her a distorted impression of it all. She needs to get away from the 'sin' side of it, and towards fact-based knowledge. Sometimes medicalising it can make it more acceptable to access? That was what we had to do with easy child (still do).

  8. meowbunny

    meowbunny New Member

    I think Marguerite said it well. As you know, my guess is some kind of molestation or that the early porn viewing kicked her anxiety into high gear. Ditto on getting her back into therapy. This is not something that can be handled at home, no matter what the cause.

    Mine suffered through the body consciousness -- probably because of sexual abuse -- but did get over it to an extent. Today she is very self-conscious again but it's more a weight issue. She can talk about sex and body functions but she has to be the one to bring it up, I can't do it.

    I hope she can get over this hurdle. She is a beautiful young lady and needs to accept that. She doesn't deserve this kind of shame and pain.

    Hugs to both of you.
  9. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It


    It sounds like therapy is very much needed. While the degree of modesty, and the comfort level in discussing sex, varies from person to person, what your daughter is experiencing is WAY past what is typical.

    Please find a counsellor who is very qualified in dealing with sexual abuse issues. At the same time it would probably be extremely helpful if the therapist is experienced in body dysmorphic disorder (eating disorders).

    It sounds very very much as though she was molested or otherwise sexually abused. Without help she CANNOT heal and have a safe and happy life. She won't feel safe, will start even more drastic behaviors to abuse herself. I think this is where she is headed, esp since prior to age 4 she was not this way. The self-hatred, etc... are signs that it is a big problem. But who thinks that this could be the reason? We are all pretty careful with our kids, and as Marg said, who thinks of it being another CHILD who may have done this?? (3 little boys in J's kindergarten class would conspire to get the teacher and aide very busy with fights or whatever. Then they would grab a girl and drag her into the coatroom to molest. These were kindergarteners and it was very very premeditated. NO ONE thinks of this happening! )

    She likely may not remember what happened in the easily reachable part of her memory. I know for some people it takes hypnosis - be very careful with the person who hypnotizes her if you go this route. Also be sure to stay in the room or have a video and audio tape of what happens. For some women this is the only way to find out what is going on and to cope with it.

    I am so sorry. It is terrifying to think your baby was abused this way. It must hurt your mommy heart so much to think about this.


  10. CAmom

    CAmom Member

    I've got to agree with others...I wasn't anywhere near as distressed as your daughter is, but being sexually molested (and it didn't even come near to intercourse) at age 6 totally affected my feelings about myself and sex in general, and that went WAY into adulthood.

    I would certainly seek some sort of counseling, just in case this has happened to your daughter. My parents touched base with me over and over during the years to gauge how much thought I gave to the incident and assumed I was fine since I told them I was. This was in no way the truth, and I believe counseling would have very much helped me.
  11. SearchingForRainbows

    SearchingForRainbows Active Member


    I also agree with those that think your daughter may have been sexually abused. Unfortunately, this was the very first thing I thought of when reading your post. I'm so sorry!!! I can't even begin to imagine how horrible it is for you to think about, or the pain your daughter is going through...

    You're a great mother and I think therapy combined with your love and support will get her through this. I wish I could find the words to express my thoughts...Just know that I'm thinking of both of you. Hugs, WFEN
  12. Mikey

    Mikey Psycho Gorilla Dad

    Heather, I'm so sorry you and your daughter are suffering through this. My experience with my own daughter has been a little easier - we've never been a family ashamed of nudity because we don't explicitly associate it with sex. I think it's made it easier for Dancer that way, and it's only now that she's started to be self-conscious around me (which is a good thing). But if I accidentally walk in on her showering, she doesn't scream at me and end up traumatized; in fact, she joked with wife about traumatizing ME when it happened.

    However, that's us, not necessarily anyone else. For many reasons, I won't venture any ideas about the earlier issues with your daughter. I would, though, recommend that you block the porn. Now. Unconditionally.

    Why? Well, I wouldn't rule out abuse, but I don't necessarily mean direct physical abuse. I know that looking at porn at that young age can be very traumatizing, and in my humble opinion constitutes a form of abuse. To a confused adolescent trying to find their way, porn is NOT a good roadmap. It is damaging, degrading, and confusing. Porn is misogynistic, does NOT depict "healthy" sex, and portrays women unrealistically when it comes to sexual relationships.

    For that matter, if a young lady has body image problems, most of the "plastic babes in pornland" would only serve to make them feel worse about themselves and how they look. It can also completely skew (in an unhealthy way) how they think boys/men/males see them, which makes relating to other boys/men more uncomfortable if anything even remotely physical is intimated.

    So, regardless of what she says, block the porn. It's a start. Take it from a man who was exposed to hardcore porn at a very young age (11), it can really skew your growth, and make it more difficult to understand healthy physical relationships later. Especially when it comes to acceptable behavior, "performance", and other things that are so totally unrealistic in porn. Believe me, I don't measure up to any of the porn studs I saw when I was too young to understand, and it hurt me for a long time. It also screwed up what I thought women wanted, and how they wanted to be treated. Overall, it was just plain bad for me and my friends to see that stuff so young.

    I would also think about taking her to a mental health professional, preferably one that deals with adolescent addictive behavior. The way you describe how she goes back to view porn, and then regrets it, and then does it again worries me. It may be the start of addictive behavior. It may also be part of a negative behavior cycle where the porn reinforces whatever it is she may believe or think. Regardless, though, I'd get some help for her to mitigate whatever her porn exposure has done.

    Another reason to block the porn is that maybe it will help with your daughter's behavior. With my sons, before we knew how nasty the Internet was, I never thought twice about them being online. That is, not until they both started spending a lot of time online, and started showing bad behavior problems. I found that they were cruising for porn. I blocked the porn at home, and forbade their use of the Internet at their friends houses (enforced by speaking with their parents). I don't for a moment think it was a complete removal of porn from their lives, but it really cut back on it, and their behavior improved. Keep in mind that I'm speaking specifically about MY kids, and their reactions. I don't know for certain if doing the same would help your daughter, but it sure couldn't hurt.

    Finally, and I say this with some trepidation, you need to think about what constitutes abuse. In my very humble opinion, an adult has no business exposing a child to porn, period. I'm no prude, and parents have a right to whatever they think is best for their children (within reason and legal restrictions). But what M's mom did was wrong, and I hope your daughter knows that.

    There may be some legitimate sites on this topic; However, the concept of "educational" sex-ed sites is ambiguous, and calling porn "educational" is a stretch by anyone's definition - and downright wrong when it comes to children. Porn in the early twenties was even marketed as "public health education" to get around prohibition, if you can believe that.

    But regardless of whether you or I agree with it, M's parents showing her porn is their family problem, not yours - unless there's any chance your daughter was exposed to porn at M's house. If so (i.e. she wasn't just told about porn over the phone), then that's another issue entirely. I would at least ask the question....

    One other thing you may want to investigate is whether your daughter has been inappropriately contacted online - either at home or at this friend's house. Porn is bad, but at least it's superficial and vicarious - i.e., it involves watching other people. When chat, social network sites with pictures, and other venues draw children into inappropriate communications, now THEY are involved. At that point, it becomes personal and more intense because it's no longer someone else - someone they don't have any connection to. Now, it's them and their lives in the script.

    Porn is bad, but inappropriate online contact with other kids or predatory adults is far worse. Yet another reason to install porn and other Internet blocks in your house.

    I would block the porn and filter other Internet activity to the best of your ability so that your home is a "safe place" for your daughter without temptation. I would get her some help to deal with the problems she may be facing from it, and I would make sure she doesn't get exposed to it somewhere else.

    Sorry for the rant, but this is a very touchy and important subject to me and my family. I hope that it helps in some small way. If not, feel free to blast back :crazy1:

  13. flutterbee

    flutterbee Guest

    I know what M's mom did was wrong. Wynter knows it was wrong. Every kid and every adult that I know that has had anything to do with M's mom knows that she is just wrong period. She would not admit to me what she had done because she knew how I would react. However, she offered it up to a mutual friend without prompting and when I was telling that (now former) friend what happened with my daughter, she told me what M's mom had done. Like I said, M's mom is a whole other story.

    Has she herself allowed access to porn to my daughter? Oh, hell no. She's not that stupid.

    I think it's over the top to be associating this with any kind of addictive behavior. First of all, it's happened all of 3 times in the last 2 years. Initially she was curious because of M telling her what she had seen. However, the sites that she looked at - while inappropriate and not for kids - were not graphic in anyway. The pop up that came up that one time, however, was. And this latest incident she wasn't searching for anything along those lines. She was on youtube looking for guitar stuff and this particular video was new and came up with the keyword guitar. She could tell by the picture that it wasn't appropriate and she watched it. Then she said she flagged it. Then a few days later she confesses to me.

    She has a very strong moral compass. So, I'm really not sure if she's more upset by what she sees or that she's done something that is wrong. There have been other times when she's coming to me very distressed with a need to confess something she's done that ended up being so insignificant as to not even be memorable. And then I have to be very careful to not make too light of it because to her it was a huge deal.

    I do worry about her body image issues and her impulse control - or lack of it - in this area. It worries me more that she looks at something that makes her feel bad - and then does it again - than her actually looking at it. The only reason I hesitate about blocking anything is because she does come to me and she already beats herself up enough. If I block it, she is going to turn it into 'I'm really a bad person'. I'm not dealing with a kid who is looking at this daily and trying to get around blocks in order to do so. I'm dealing with a kid who is way harder on herself than anyone ever could be and I have to tread carefully in order for her not to feel even worse.

    For that reason, I'm not going to just go out and block it and let her find out after the fact and then feel embarrassed and horrible. It will be a discussion along the lines of helping her helping herself not do the things that make her feel bad. Not about you shouldn't see this, this is bad. I think she already has that feeling down well, enough.

    I'm not anywhere near ready to jump on the she's been molested bandwagon. She has such super high anxiety and is so hypersensitive that I don't think it would take all that much to cause this kind of behavior in her. For example, she always had the 'brown' (her words - 'I want the brown one, Mommy') baby dolls. All of her dolls were black, not a single white doll from the age she could speak until she was about 8 when a black neighbor came over to talk to me as we were getting in the car to leave and, surprised, said to Wynter, "What are you doing with a black baby doll?!!" She jumped in the car and wouldn't look at him. She then thought she wasn't supposed to have a black doll and never asked for one again. She also wouldn't talk about it and wouldn't take her black dolls out of the house anymore.

    My point is, it doesn't take much for her to completely clam up and think that something is wrong even if it isn't.

    I do think counseling is in order because I do think this is more than I know how to handle.

    Thanks for the ear.
  14. flutterbee

    flutterbee Guest

    Marg -

    I just said the same thing last night. She's only 13 so of course it's early, but she's just anti-everything.

    That's exactly the point I'm trying to make. I don't want to make her feel even worse than she already does.

    Part of the reason I hesitated posting is because I knew there would be a lot of responses saying 'porn is bad, block the porn'. And I agree that it is totally inappropriate for a child and gives a false impression of sexuality. There's no disagreement there. However, my bigger concern in this case is that she already feels so bad. If we were talking about easy child - well, there wouldn't be a discussion, it would just be blocked.

    I'm just trying to figure out how to handle this delicately without making her feel even worse and causing even more angst. And as I already stated, I agree that this is more than I alone can handle and will be seeking therapy for her again.
  15. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    While I do understand where Mikey is coming from, I agree with you, Heather, that this doesn't seem addictive behaviour. Not addictive to porn, anyway. The problems started long before she was exposed to porn and seem to be linked to something else. Issues related to damage caused by porn exposure - while it should never be trivialised, I don't think that is the problem here. I think it's a symptom of something else.
    Why is she seeking out the porn? Clearly you can't ask her why, but I'm wondering if she's looking for more information and also testing herself as to how much intimate information she can handle. Also, there is perhaps an aspect of morbid curiosity in there. That's where I did what you did - made educational books available, got TV documentaries (Robert Winston's "The Human Body" is brilliant, but watch it first yourself to make sure she can handle it) and found that for easy child it put quality, balanced information there for her to access. On top of that, she had to be able to handle the sex education that is part of the curriculum in Aussie schools. Mikey is correct in that porn gives a distorted, unrealistic view of sexuality in general and also very much sexualises stuff that really shouldn't be. The problem here is in trying to remove the extreme sense of shame, which I don't think came from porn.

    I mentioned my own daughter's experience because what you described in your daughter sounded so familiar. I had the advantage that she did tell me when she was 7. By 13, she had blocked it out. I wouldn't recommend you asking your daughter about it, you might get a denial-from-fear, or you might get a genuine, "I don't remember," denial and considering the state she's in, I don't think either result would be helpful. I just mentioned it for you to bear in mind, that's all. Sometimes it can give you a different perspective, or help shed some light.

    I remember being asked, as an adult, why a group counselling session on the topic of childhood sexual abuse had left me so distraught. One of the other counsellors came to me and suggested I really give serious consideration to the possibility that I had been molested as a child, and blocked it out. She felt my reaction was way out of proportion - and she was right, it was. I also wanted to consider the possibility - but when I did dig deep into my memory, I had to accept that nothing happened, if only because my memories of my childhood are so deep, intact and comprehensive. I don't remember having gaps I couldn't remember, if you know what I mean. Realising this gave me a little relief, but I then had to consider why the topic had so distressed me.

    It took me a few more years and difficult child 3's birth, to show me what was wrong.

    The damage done to a child who is molested is on a broad scale. It is a crime of violence, of the child having someone else take control over them and use that control to deeply hurt them and to make them afraid, with that fear lingering for a long time afterwards. The child is made to feel of worse than no value, so insignificant that they don't deserve to be here. If this is part of a sexual attack, this can bring in other confusing emotions and hurt linking in to body image and attitude to sexuality and sin.

    I worked it out for me - it was far simpler. It involved being deliberately emotionally degraded by adults who for their own reasons used this degradation as a means of control. That I was not the only victim only made me feel more insignificant - we were all powerless and would remain so, the best defence was to try to stay below their radar. In our case it was the Elementary School principal and his wife. I also had a couple of siblings who used me as their emotional punching bag, which didn't help.

    What I'm saying here - my daughter is one example, I mentioned her because her problems after a sexual attack revolved around sexuality and her progress into womanhood. But other damage can be done in other ways which can destroy confidence. It is complex and again, I suspect you won't be able to raise the subject with her because part of her coping strategy is to shut down communication on the topic.

    And another possibility - that this is just who she is, how she is.
    Example again - difficult child 1. As a toddler we observed he was terrified of animals. ALL animals, even cute ones. Mostly mammals, actually. Birds seemed to be less of a problem. I recall getting him out of the car outside our house, and a little white kitten was on the other side of the road. It was only about two months old and a cute ball of white fluff. It saw us and came closer to the road. difficult child 1 became hysterical, screaming in terror and trying to climb up my legs. I picked him up and he was still crying, clearly afraid that the kitten would cross the road and come near.
    His fear extended to dogs and anything else with fur. A friend met us at the shops, the kids were in the car. She had a tiny puppy, the size Paris Hilton would go crazy for, and easy child wanted to pat it. I held the tiny handful of puppy through the front window where easy child was sitting, and difficult child 1 in the back seat began to scream. I reassured him, said I wouldn't ask him to pat the puppy and I was holding onto it firmly. He quietened down a little but was clearly terrified.

    At about the same time, he showed the same reaction to getting water on his head anywhere. We couldn't shower him at all, and although he would sit in a shallow bath, we had to wash his head and face with a moist washer, for years.

    No explanation at all. People kept asking, "Did he have a nasty scare with an animal?" No, not as far as we know. Animals, unlike predatory abusive humans of any age, are not sneaky about traumatising our children. Like all my older three kids, he was in Long Day Care five days a week from 12 weeks old. The place was impossible for animals to get in and the supervision was tight. Any zoo visits - we knew about. None happened while difficult child 1 was there.

    The water - it is possible that his grandfather aggravated the situation by forcing difficult child 1 to have his hair washed in the bath by throwing him back so he was lying down in the bath, but he wouldn't have let his face go underwater. My parents-in-law minded difficult child 1 and easy child while I was in hospital having easy child 2/difficult child 2. By then his phobias for both water and animals were already a problem. They had no pets and didn't tolerate any animals on their place.

    What I'm saying - difficult child 1's problems seemed to have no cause. He's overcome those fears now, mostly. Certainly, he was loving working with animals when he volunteered at the local zoo. He said he's not totally over his fear. He copes now with water, washes his own hair and while filming "Mary Bryant" as a convict, he was enjoying having fire hoses of water played on him and garbage bins of water thrown at him, hour after hour (a scene of a storm at sea, convicts in the hold getting wet).

    But why was he like that to begin with? We just don't know. I think he had an immediate fear reaction on his first exposure and it escalated from there. For difficult child 1, it was just part of his Asperger's/Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD). With your daughter's constellation of descriptors, it could simply be just a part of who she is, and just as we give our kids speech therapy, now she's needing other therapy to find a way around this problem. Has Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) been ruled out? It would explain a lot.

    Whatever the cause - counselling can help. It's causing problems and it needs to be addressed.

    Can you raise the topic with her of her fears and negative self-image? Or maybe just her fears? That way the topic needn't go anywhere near bodily functions (or similar), but just discussing feelings. You probably will need her cooperation to get her to a counsellor. If you can simply say, "I notice you seem very unhappy with yourself, you seem very critical of yourself sometimes and that makes me sad for you, I would like you to feel happier," how would she react?

    I think you've done all you can, as her mother. She's at an age where she might more willingly talk to a stranger (such as a counsellor). I'm glad you're thinking along these lines and I hope it can help.

  16. flutterbee

    flutterbee Guest

    Has Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD)-not otherwise specified been ruled out? No, it hasn't. We had 6 hours of neuropsychologist testing and she did say she could do more if we felt we needed it at a later time. She definitely has some spectrum traits.

    I don't want to dismiss anyone who mentioned the possibility of abuse - and I appreciate you all sharing your stories/experience - I just don't want to make any assumptions. I think going into this with presumptions could cause as much damage in itself. Instead, I want to present it as this is what's going on and let's work on that and see what, if anything, comes out.
  17. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    Heather, you're doing everything right, as far as I can see. I totally agree with the caution and I'm glad you're still keeping the possibility at the back of your mind. That's as much as I wanted, to make sure the possibility had been made known to you. Because if so, at this stage there's nothing you can say to her about it, it's a matter of digging to find out just how bad she feels about herself, and how to help her feel better. Certainly I wouldn't recommend digging to find out if she had been abused - just to work on feelings, that's all. CBT.

    That means that whatever the cause (even if it's just the way she is, as it was with difficult child 1) it should be left alone until/if it comes up. The issue now is the overlay. There are now layers of emotion and feelings that a professional has to carefully dig through, to work primarily in teaching her that she is a good person and that the mixed feelings, the confusion, do NOT mean she is bad, she needs to find ways to feel more positive and to find her confidence.

    difficult child 1 is a lot better these days - a lot of things help him stay on an even keel. Knowing he can raise a subject and talk about it does help. It makes a big difference. If nothing else, if a counsellor can open a few communication doors for her, it's got to help her - if she can feel freer to come and talk to you about a wider range of things.

    But you've been working on this, you've done as much as you can. If you keep doing what you have been plus can get her to a counsellor, hopefully this could help.

  18. Steely

    Steely Active Member

    Heather, I would never go into the details on this board, but my son has had some weird issues in this same regard. I have researched every avenue, and been to many doctors. I have never ruled out sexual abuse - because the way your daughter and my son act, are the same way I acted - and I have been abused. However, in my intensive research, I found that many kiddos with NonVerbal Learning Disorder (NVLD) have these weird, for lack of a better definition, sexual issues. NonVerbal Learning Disorder (NVLD) is different as we all know from AS or Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD)...........and the research I came across was little and far between..........but it does seem as if this disorder can cause some aberrations in the normal development of sexual behaviors.

    I know I am being vague, and I apologize, but I do understand what you are saying. I do know how you can look at your child, and just feel that angst that whatever they are feeling about their bodies is so off the spectrum, that you are not able to define what it is. It does not fall within the normal boundaries of anything we know or are able to define.

    I wish I had more advice - but keep searching - and please update us with all you find or discover. I believe there are many of us on this board that are in your shoes and need that information, we are just too shy or embarrassed to ask for it.
  19. flutterbee

    flutterbee Guest

    I never even considered the NonVerbal Learning Disorder (NVLD) side of it.

    I'll keep you all posted. We have to go through county mental health now and I'm sure there is a good 6 month waiting list at least. That's once I can get the intake person to call me back. Everytime I call I get voicemail and a promise to call back within 48 hours. Uh huh.

    She does have regular insurance through her dad, but it's BCBS and so many providers are dropping it so I'm having a hard time finding one that will take it.