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Dear Dr. Saltzman,

 I have just found out that my 3-yr old daughter has been sexually abused by my father. Professionals ask if I was also abused by him. I have no memory of abuse but I used to have dreams of him coming to my bed at night and I have always been uncomfortable around him. But even when I worked on this in therapy I came to the conclusion he never abused me and even with lots of digging I cannot remember anything. What is the likelihood that my daughter is his first offense? Is it most likely that he did abuse me and I can't remember? Once my daughter is healed, how should I proceed with my own healing when I cannot remember?



Age 32

Dallas, TX


Hello, Diane--

I would only be guessing, but there is a good chance that your daughter’s molestation was not the first one committed by your father. Whether his previous crimes included abusing you I simply cannot say, but it cannot be ruled out. You don’t necessarily need to remember any specific abuse in order to see that a man who would abuse a three year old is has some crossed-wires sexually, so I assume that one way or another he managed to intrude on you at the very least. Your dreams could be pointing at some kind of non-physical child abuse, or they could refer to some actual incident or incidents. At a distance, I cannot offer any interpretation.

Recalling specific past abuse is not always an essential condition for healing in the present. Healing can take many forms, and therapy can proceed in many possible directions. I recommend that you make every effort to take care of your daughter, and every effort to take care of yourself. That "taking care of" could be therapeutic too.

Be well.

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