In this post, I continue the series by reviewing one of two articles that focuses on the particular type of sexual abuse that appears to only happen in MSbP families. These are literally the only two articles we found focusing on this particular type of abuse.
Harmful Genital Care Practices in Children: A Type of Child Abuse
This 1989 article is the first one to be published. In it, authors Herman-Giddens and Berson describe several cases.
Case 1: Schoolteacher and 6-year old
A schoolteacher took her 6-year-old to the doctor because she had cough and abdominal pain, and upon examination, the healthcare professionals noticed the child’s vagina looked traumatized. The opening was bigger than it should have been, and hymen tissue was missing from where it should have been.
They interviewed the child, and the child reported the mother would wash her by using her finger, adding soaps and creams, and penetrating the child’s vagina, moving the finger in and out.
The child reported it was extremely painful. The mother was interviewed and corroborated the child’s story.
Case 2: Schoolteacher and the 12-year-old
In this case, the 12-year-old was presenting for “leaking urine” and vaginal discharge, and reported her schoolteacher mother was always rubbing creams on her genitals to “tone things up”. The child’s pediatrician had already worked her up several times for vaginal discharge and “leaking urine” and never found these claims to be substantiated.
The child had already undergone three invasive medical investigations for this at age 5: a vaginoscopy, cystoscopy, and intravenous pyelogram.
This case is a great example of how MSbP perpetrators not only cause health care providers to wrongly believe their victim has a medical issue, but use this to their advantage to recruit the medical field to help them with their abuse. In this case, through these three procedures, the medical field added to the medical abuse and trauma this child was already enduring.
Case 3: Dad and the 6-year-old
In this case, a dad and mom were divorced, and the dad perpetrated medical sexual abuse on his 6-year-old because he purportedly believed that the daughter experienced “chronic chafing due to lack of poor hygiene” when visiting her mother.
He slept with the child, referred to her vagina as, “Boobley”, and asked about Boobley several times per day. He would rub creams and powders on Boobley.
Even though this situation came to the attention of healthcare providers, the authors report, “The child was seen twice more during the next several years, with increasingly abnormal findings on genital examinations”. This is a classic example of how instead of intervening, the researchers allow the abuse to continue so they can study it. This is similar to what happened in the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment.
What do you call this?
I believe this type of abuse should be called “medical sexual abuse” and be defined as “ritual genital inspection and cleaning”.
- The “medical” in medical sexual abuse covers the fact that this is seen as a medical intervention by the perpetrator, not some sort of sexual relationship as typically seen in sexual abuse of minors.
- The “ritual” covers the fact that there is a ritual involved – the perpetrator conducts the abuse according to ritualized steps that she feels are necessary, the way people with obsessive-compulsive disorder conduct their pathological rituals.
- “Inspection and cleaning” cover what the perpetrator believes she is doing when executing the ritual. She believes (or wants others to believe that she believes) that she is protecting the child through inspection (because she purportedly believes someone else is sexually abusing the child and she is looking for evidence), and/or thorough cleaning (she is just keeping the child clean).
I hope future researchers and journalists will look into this angle when studying MSbP from now on, and will use the terms “medical sexual abuse” and the phrase “ritual genital inspection and cleaning” when talking about this issue.
Want to read more case studies of medical sexual abuse?
See my next blog post in this series, which talks about the second scientific article on aberrant genital practices.