Sexual Abuse and DID – Judith Machree


Many therapists believe that extreme sexual abuse is the cause of DID in children and teenagers. There may be some truth to this judiththeory but many psychiatrists are skeptical about this claim. There is no scientific proof that sex abuse causes DID. There are no longitudinal studies on DID that could answer many questions about this profound disorder, including its causes. Reliving memories and experiencing the emotional responses, known as abreaction, doesn’t seem to heal the patient. This would suggest that sexual abuse may not be the cause since the therapeutic procedure isn’t healing the patient’s memories or history. Without a cure, it is very difficult to pinpoint the cause.

Author Judith Machree,(pictured left), herself an alleged former multiple and victim of childhood sexual abuse, claims otherwise. She cites a number of examples that alerted her to the fact that she was a multiple. These are some examples:

  1. After Machree married a supportive man she claims kept her on “an even keel”, she became more aware of her confusion and breaks with reality. She offers an odd example “I could park my car and go into the mall and not be able to find my car at all. I had no idea where I parked it.” If that’s a legitimate example of DID then I might have reason to worry: I forget where I have parked my car on a regular basis. I have spent up to a minute or two searching for it. I don’t see that as a sign of trauma.
  2. Machree cited a major depressive episode she had after her 17-year-old son left to join the military as a symptom of her DID. I doubt that claim. Many people have major depressive episodes, including when a family member leaves for an extended time period. It seems extreme, but as Machree explained, she was very close to her son and was quite dependent on him.
  3.  Her therapist suspected she had been abused because she had several gaps in her memory about her father. I don’t know what she refers to as gaps. Does this mean she cannot remember years of interacting with her parent? Neither can most people. I have a general idea of my relationship with my parents over the years and some specific memories associated with them, but I certainly cannot recall in detail most of my interactions with them.
  4.  As with most DID stories, Machree claims “the things that happened to me happened at such an early age.” Actually, those who believe in the phenomenon of DID claim that DID can occur at all ages in life, from early childhood to adulthood. Some people even claim that DID can be inherited. Ergo, children may be born with the disorder and it isn’t the result of childhood trauma.

Was Machree a victim of childhood sexual abuse? Who knows? Many women are, so that is entirely possible. Did she develop the extremely rare phenomenon known as dissociative identity disorder as a result? I find that hard to believe. Her story is so familiar it is practically an echo of all the published documentation of people’s experiences with DID. I have only read about one woman who claimed she was born with the condition. I have not read yet about people who developed DID in their teen years or in adulthood but this development is now identified in the DSM-5. Now that this information has been published, I expect that many people will suddenly come forward with stories of developing DID in their teens and later years. Trends often develop from suggestions about various disorders that are published in psychiatric manuals and journals.





The Abuser


I have referred to Dr. Sam Vaknin, video The Abuser’s Mind in researching this blog.Link is enclosed.

The Abuser’s Identity
Abusers are male or female, adults,senior citizens, teens or even children. They molest, rape, beat and starve their victims. They taunt them, insult them and tell the victim s/he has no escape and is worthless. In extreme cases, the victim is a sexual toy for the abuser and sometimes friends of the abuser. When physical torture is involved with sexual abuse, this is often the extreme that causes MPD.  Thankfully, it is rare but according to the accounts of MPD victims, it happens.

The Abuser’s History and M.O.
The abuser frequently hails from an abusive background. S/he was once an abuse victim and continues the cycle dalia facewith his or her own children or other victim. The abuser usually offers a type of “split personality”: one is the respectable persona presented to the world outside the house; the other is the monster within the family. It is almost as though the abuser has a “mild form of multiple personality.” Sometimes the abuser is a respected member of the community, “a pillar of the community” so to speak. S/he is not a split personality of the DID/MPD variety. Rather, this person is in full control of his/her faculties and chooses to don a disguise when functioning in public. The abuser also has a choice in abusing the victim and is fully capable of seeking help, rather than creating an abuser-victim cycle in the home.

The Abuser’s Mind
At the abuser’s core is a very insecure individual with extremely low self-esteem. In order to feel important and powerful, the abuser needs to abuse and humiliate others. Often the abuser has made no significant accomplishments in his/her life. The victim is merely a 2-picdimensional object. S/he doesn’t merit empathy. The victim doesn’t exist as a real person. Sometimes the victim doesn’t realize there is something wrong with the relationship and believes this lifestyle is normal.  Both the abuser and the victim suffer from disturbances in their sense of self-worth. This doesn’t apply to child victims. Vaknin refers to adults in this type of relationship.

Abusers are narcissists. They “are steeped in grandiose fantasies about their own self-importance.” At the same time, the narcissist fears that he doesn’t “measure up” to society’s expectations. S/he enters a fantasy world of personal accomplishment and self-worth. The victim is well aware that his or her sense of important is false but the victim plays the role of a child and greatly fears abandonment, even by the abuser. The victim is known as “co-dependent” in an unhealthy relationship. The abuser punishes the victim whenever she attempts to establish her own boundaries and independent needs. The abuser is terrified that the victim will develop enough autonomy that he will one day leave the relationship.

Types of Psychological Abuse 

Patrician Evans lists a number of psychological abuses used by abusers:

  1. Withholding – or the silent treatment. An abuser can ignore the victim for days.
  2. Refuting the victim’s statements or actions.
  3. Discounting or “putting down” the victim’s emotions, hopes and fears.
  4. Sadistic and brutal humour which are insults poorly disguised as a joke. When the victim is injured, the abuser can claim innocence. “I was just kidding,” is a typical response.
  5. Blocking or avoiding a meaningful exchange in conversation
  6. girl_rape1-300x210The ruination of intimacy
  7. Blaming/accusing – “if you didn’t get me so angry I wouldn’t have to hit you.”
  8. Judging and criticizing.
  9. Threatening
  10. Name-calling
  11. Denial – “I didn’t say that or do that”
  12. Smothering – this one is covert at first and is very dangerous. The victim isn’t allowed contact with other friends or even family. This isolation is meant to isolate the victim and prevent her from seeking help and solace from the abuser.
  13. Unrealistic expectations – these tend to be directed at children and youth. The abuser knows the expectations are unrealistic and controls the victim by “setting the bar too high.” When the victim fails to reach the unattainable goals, the abuser is victorious and has succeeded in degrading the victim.
  14. Being unpredictable is a significant form of abuse. One day the household rules are firmly in place. The next day the household rules change and the victim is punished for trying to follow the rules. Over time the victim is so disoriented that s/he doesn’t know when to expect physical or emotional abuse for unpredictably incorrect behaviour.
  15. Pretending s/he is victimized rather than being the abuser This type of tactic can be very convincing and can mislead people outside the family.

t_272cee0dc3e44b738b5766bdcbee0c2eThere are many more evil tactics an abuser uses with her victims. All of these tactics disarm and alienate the victim, rendering him or her helpless.

Social and Cultural Influences
Identifying unhealthy patterns between abuser and victim can depend on a close examination of prevailing social and cultural influences. Oftentimes, specific cultures belittle women and treat them as second-class citizens. When a woman attempts to distance herself from the abuse, her family and friends may abandon her. The community works hard to maintain the abusive cycle while pretending the abuse doesn’t exist. In this situation it is extremely difficult for the victim to seek help for herself. Once she crosses that line, there is no turning back and her entire community rejects her, leaving her alone in the world. This leads to an excruciating aftermath where the victim becomes isolated and very depressed, sometimes leading to suicide.

Working with social mores and beliefs is part of the complicated process of separating abuser and victim. It is also a barrier in supporting the victim in her own belief that the behaviour she receives isn’t deserved. On the one hand, she is unhappy living with an abuser. On the other, her family and friends live this way. It is a very confusing and complicated process to assist this victim in leaving the abuser. The abuser in this type of culture cannot be “cured.” He is supported by his cultural norms and this increases his sense of righteousness and his power over the victim.