Family Matters: Mothers as Secondary Defendants in Child Sexual Abuse Actions
Supreme Court Law Review, Vol. 17, No. 2d, p. 179, 2002
21 Pages Posted: 21 Aug 2009
Date Written: 2002
In this paper we focus on the emerging possibility for mothers to be joined, either by the plaintiff or as a third party by the primary defendant, in actions by an adult child for sexual abuse committed by a father figure. Such actions are premised on the argument that the mother was either negligent or in breach of her fiduciary obligation in failing to protect the child from injury at the hands of the father, and they create an obvious dilemma for mother who may find it virtually impossible to provide effective protection for their children given conditions within the family. The possibility (and reality) of a daughter victim/survivor of incest bringing a tort claim against her mother must be analyzed in the context of the multiple potential responses to the needs of that survivor and must be informed by an appreciation of the gender-specific dynamics within the family. Such an analysis should help ensure that a (partial) "remedy" in the form of private tort law will be shpaed to take account of the tensions between women's victimization and mothers' responsibility that Gordon identifies as marking the phenomenon of incest.
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