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Book offers resources for mothers of the abused

Roseville clinical social worker says mothers play key role after sexual abuse
By: Sena Christian, The Press Tribune
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A Roseville clinical social worker has written a book focused on one person with a huge impact on survivors of sexual abuse: mom.

In doing so, she has published what she considers a much-needed book in a limited field of literature focused on aiding mothers of children who have been abused. There are plenty of books aimed at survivors, the family as a whole and perpetrators, she said.

Kim Johnson’s book, “Mothers of Molestation Survivors: Supporting Moms to Make a Difference in Their Children’s Lives,” was released in late August.

“In most family systems, moms are the caretakers and around the kids the most,” Johnson said. “It’s the (mom’s) pure exposure to children. They notice them, they’re watching their behavior. If they see extreme behavioral changes, that’s a red flag.”

Johnson’s interest in the subject began a decade ago. She has practiced marriage, children and family therapy in Roseville for nearly 20 years, and specializes in clients who experienced trauma.

As she listened to clients who had survived sexual abuse, she realized that mothers in particular play a vital role in the prevention and healing process, yet resources didn’t really exist to assist this population.

In 1998, Johnson’s client Lisa Pierini was one of the women seeking help after noticing dramatic changes in her daughter — she engaged in high-risk behaviors, struggled in school and started speaking backwards.

During counseling, Pierini’s daughter revealed that a young man close to their family had molested her.

“Crying out to Kim, I asked her what resources there were for me to support the nightmare my girl was in as a result of speaking out,” Pierini said. “At the time, there was not a single resource written to shore up our family, tell us what we might experience and how to boldly create boundaries for her protection.”

Two years ago, Johnson began conducting a research study, interviewing mothers of children who had been victimized and adults molested as children to see how their mothers reacted.

“A lot more of that second storyline emerged,” Johnson said. “It was cathartic for them to finally talk about how their mothers did or did not respond.”

Some mothers were proactive and reached out to law enforcement or put their child in counseling. Other moms turned a blind eye, perhaps because they were dealing with domestic abuse, financial dependence on the abuser or low self-esteem — factors that may prevent a mother from protecting her child.

Johnson interviewed nearly 100 people, including perpetrators. She found that more often than not, a person who was sexually abused as a child will blame the mother, even if she didn’t know about the crime.

Johnson found that moms often did not realize the abuse was occurring, or they ignored their gut suspicion. If they did know, they didn’t know what to do next.

Having a child who has been abused takes an emotional toll on the mom, who is sometimes left isolated because the issue is such a taboo, Johnson said.

“It’s very overwhelming,” she said. “Every area of her life is impacted. They take on this huge battle to fight for justice and she has a traumatized child on top of it.”

The book acts as a 160-page guide on how to safeguard children from abuse and what to do if they are hurt by an abuser. The book includes a list of resources and real-life anecdotes from mothers.

One local mom, who asked not to be identified, said several years ago her daughter was molested by the girl’s stepfather.

“I believe (the book) will help moms feel connected and comforted at a time in their lives when everything has fallen apart,” she said. “I know from my own horrible experience how much a resource like this would’ve helped me.”

Johnson also is starting a nonprofit organization called Mothers of Molest Survivors, or MOMS, to provide training, education, resources and a network for parents.

“(Hopefully), this will get women to share their stories, get support and build a network to become empowered,” Johnson said.

Sena Christian can be reached at senac@goldcountrymedia.com. Follow her on Twitter at SenaC_RsvPT.