Sedna’s Daughters: Healing from Family Estrangement

Families in patriarchal cultures often mete out similar types of domination and oppression on their daughters that women experience in the larger world. For many daughters (and sons/trans/genderqueer folks), this includes scapegoating and rejection. Sedna’s Daughters provides a safe space for discussion on earth-based, spiritual approaches to healing from the confusing experience of family estrangement and recognizes all people's inherent belonging to Mother Earth, the human family, and the cosmos.

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Stop Double Talk for Daughters

 

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A key nourishing part of many people's personal healing is re-connecting with Mother Earth and the Goddess traditions, which is the heart of SageWoman, I believe. Thankfully, in the United States, Europe, and many other countries here on Mother Earth, violence against women is seen as the pariah it is and is outright condemned--not by everyone, sadly, but the movement is making headway. Unfortunately, Domestic Violence, or Intimate Partner Violence, is still widespread.This type of aggression/violence is a pattern of abuse by one partner toward another partner. However, though this form of abuse is widely regarded as absolutely unacceptable behavior between partners of any gender identity, family aggression targeting daughters remains absolutely acceptable even when the abuse is precisely the same. This is the Double Talk I am bringing to light in today's blog.

Today, intimate partner violence is seen and condemned, but

Family Aggression targeting daughters (and sons) remains an invisible

and an acceptable form of abuse.

The practice of Family Aggression in all its expressions, from the extremes of Honour Killings and Female Infanticide to the much more widespread and insidious norm of making daughters family slaves and scapegoats, arises from cultures that understand women to be second-class citizens and subordinate to men. Though the connection is rarely made, misogyny (hatred of women) is a cultural phenomenon that has deep roots in the twin evils of domestic/intimate partner violence: Power and Control. Abuse is a pattern of behaviors meant to control, confuse, undermine, and maintain power over another person. Abuse can be verbal, psychological, sexual, emotional, economic, or physical, or combinations of these. A single incident of abuse can make a powerful enough impact on a person to elicit a lifetime of control and power over the target.

When a person or a group of people (like families) attempt to control another person, they do so by engaging in behaviors that create an atmosphere of fear, intimidation, self-doubt, and denigration. A daughter's attempts to address the behaviors with her family, much like the abused wife/girlfriend, often only provide an opportunity for her to be further attacked, the abuse denied, and her intellect and mental health denigrated. This is the pattern that keeps many daughters "under water" and unable to escape from an abusive family dynamic: the family's vicious group behavior is devastating, which is overwhelming to the target and very confusing--which is the intended point!

Family Aggression is an unrecognized form of violence against women that is perpetuated and enacted not by an individual partner, but is psychological violence that is enacted, aided, and abetted by the whole family as a unit to terrorize daughters (and sons). Worse, women attacked or shunned by their families are expected to minimize and endure the abuse as dutiful daughters. In national conversations about the abuse of women, there is no clear ethic that daughters should absolutely not stay in an abusive family setting, as is espoused unequivocally for women being abused by their male partners.

For example, if a husband or boyfriend routinely denigrates his wife/girlfriend, berates her, even pushes her sometimes during an argument, American culture condemns this behavior, and typically the woman's friends are going to tell her to leave the relationship. To great contrast, if a parent routinely berates an adult daughter (emotional abuse), denigrates her in front of others (humiliation), or even slaps or throws objects at her (physical abuse), the daughter is expected to endure, cope, and minimize the behaviors, even blame herself for the abuse. In some communities, daughters in this situation are expected to "rise above it", be "enlightened", be "non-reactive", understand her parents as emotionally damaged as children, and be loyal because the abusers are her family. This is misogynistic Double Talk! Few people would expect a wife to let her husband keep hitting her because he was emotionally damaged as a child (though some people still do).

In other words, when daughters are abused by their family they are supposed to

betray themselves,

endure soul-crushing abuse,

and pretend the treatment

is acceptable

and they deserve it.

This message is WRONG!

Unlike a woman who is abused by her husband, daughters are told to seek counseling to better cope with and accept abuse from relatives, to psychologize and endure them despite the very high price on daughters' physical and mental health. Friends of daughters seldom recoil in shock and outrage when daughters reveal the abusive treatment they receive from their families as they do when women reveal a secret life of abuse from their husbands. Daughters are to be dutiful when abused; Wives are expected to "stand up for themselves" and leave the relationship.

This is the Double Talk of our culture: in the case of an emotionally or physically violent partner, the reaction to women is “leave”; when these same acts are committed by a woman's family (especially her mother), the expectation of American culture is “stay”. When a husband abuses, a woman who stays is pathologized, treated like there is something wrong with her for staying with him. When a family abuses, a woman who leaves is pathologized, labeled as betraying her family and not being a good daughter. In a relationship with a man, a woman is expected to reject abuse; in relationship to her family, a woman is expected to endure abuse and keep the family secrets. Indeed, daughters who give away their own lives and health caring for abusive parents are practically sainted and canonized in the public eye; whereas wives who stay in abusive marriages are ridiculed and condemned. In both these cases, women are expected to have no needs of their own and are blamed for problems in the relationships.

In some spiritual communities, coping with and accepting abuse is strongly linked with an awakened consciousness. I once saw a life-sized poster at a popular spiritual retreat that pictured a smiling man sitting crossed-legged, hands in prayer position with the caption underneath "my parents' denigration used to upset me, but now that I have a regular [yoga] practice, I don't take the bait when they condemn me." The message is not just that yoga will center you in the now, but that if you are being abused and it still upsets you, then YOU HAVE FAILED. You are not enlightened or spiritual enough. Imagine such a public message in a spiritual setting that features a smiling woman in Tree Pose with the caption: "my husband's violence used to upset me, but now that I do yoga I don't take the bait when he's screaming at me"--ludicrous!

Whether it is a spouse, partner or one's family working as a cohesive unit, psychological violence against women--and any person--is wrong. Everyone's life is precious and abuse robs a human being of fully expressing the life s/he was given. Daughters deserve the same support and public condemnation of abuse when it is from their families, as wives and girlfriends receive when they are terrorized by husbands and boyfriends. We cannot continue to have double standards when it comes to abuse, setting women up  that no matter what we do, especially when we are targets of interpersonal violence from individuals or families, our response is wrong.

Raising awareness about Family Aggression Against Daughters is critical for our communities and cultures to move forward to more loving, safer behaviors that value women enough to never accept situations where our silence and denigration are required in order for us to be acceptable.

For more information, see our Facebook Page https://www.facebook.com/SednasD/

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I have a Ph.D., am a victim's advocate, college-level educator, and was shunned by my maternal biological kin and their family friends over a decade ago. I have built an international community of daughters (and sons) committed to supporting one another and thriving despite the aggression of our relatives. “Sedna” is the EuroAmerican name of a revered Inuit Creatrix who was violently rejected by her parents and cast into the sea to die, but instead survived to create otters, seals, and whales.  Sedna is also the name of a star just appearing in the farthest reaches of our solar system and discovered by astronomers on November 14, 2003. Nick Anthony Fiorenza writes that "Sedna's message here is that humanity must recognize the truth about the suppression, persecution, abduction and exploitation of the feminine force in the world; and this mentality perpetuating such must be addressed and changed." Healing women is my life's work. See my Facebook Page at https://www.facebook.com/SednasD/

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