Experiences of women fostering a victim of maternal sexual abuse

Dorijn Wubs, PhD student, University of Groningen, the Netherlands 

Hans  Grietens, Researcher University of Groningen, the Netherlands 

Laura  Batstra, Researcher, University of Groningen, the Netherlands    

Although the consequences for all victims of child sexual abuse are serious, when a child is abused by mother figure, the abuse is considered to be especially harmful. Yet, maternal sexual abuse remains a taboo, as females are often not thought to be capable of committing such crimes. Literature suggests maternal abuse is often concealed, as women are seen as loving caregivers. In research on fostering children with a history of sexual abuse, foster fathers often voice the risks of a child’s sexualized behavior and abuse allegations. Because of these risks, and because they feel they are possibly threatening to the children, they often distance themselves and leave the nurturing tasks to the females in the family. However, victims of maternal sexual abuse may experience fostering mothers as threatening. In Project Iris, narratives were collected on the experiences of five women who foster a child who was sexually abused by a mother figure. Three consecutive episodic interviews were conducted with these women and a synthesis of the narrative for each individual was based on an inductive thematic analysis. Our findings suggest that their foster children’s history impacts the foster mothers who struggle balancing their lives, partly because their male partners remain (temporarily) distanced. Furthermore, some mothers reveal how their foster children show sexualized behavior specifically towards them as women. Protecting the foster children from further harm, for instance by limiting (female) sexual triggers, motivates the foster mothers. Each narrative reveals a unique story which contributes to our understanding of this unexplored area of research.

Key-words: maternal sexual abuse, narratives, foster mothers

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