If you are a parent of a child who has been a victim of sexual assault, you may be experiencing a wide range of emotions and have many questions. Often parents deal with a flood of feelings that may include fear, guilt and uncertainty about what steps to take. Talking to a professional may offer the opportunity to provide you with safe and confidential information to help calm your fears and anxiety. You may call the Crisis Shelter’s 24 hour hotline anonymously at 724.656.STOP.
I believe my child, but am still afraid to step forward. What do I do now?
I am experiencing overwhelming emotions… As a parent, you may experience feelings of shock, denial, anger, and guilt. It may take you some time to process that your child has been assaulted and it may be difficult to believe your child at first. Be sure your child knows that you believe them. Your anger for the abuser may be extremely overwhelming. Remember that your child needs you with them, not in jail! Also, if charges are pending against the abuser, confrontation could harm the case. You may feel you should have been there to protect your child or that you should have taught your child more about child sexual abuse and safety. You may find yourself getting caught up in “what if…” thoughts. Remember, you are not to blame for the actions of another, the fault lies with the abuser!!!
Am I going to be in trouble because someone has sexually assaulted my child?… If the abuser is a family member or someone living in the home, then Children and Youth Services may see fit to place the child at another residence deemed safe for the child prior to and during the investigation process. This may happen upon disclosure due to the immediate need to keep the child safe from possible continued abuse. As the case progresses, depending on the results, supervised visitations are scheduled with the intention of returning the child to the parental home.
The legal process is confusing… The police will investigate cases initiated by Child Protective Services where a caretaker is the perpetrator as well as cases were the perpetrator is not the caretaker. The police will conduct a criminal investigation to determine if criminal charges will be filed. The decision to pursue criminal charges are generally made by the district attorney and the police. This may be a frustrating process for you as a parent. Decisions are frequently based on evidence and the credibility of the witness/victim. It is important to consider the impact that pressing charges will have on your child. It can be very stressful to go through the legal process. It is important to allow the child to play a role in this process. Counseling can help your child to become more comfortable in discussing the sexual abuse, and therefore, reduce the stress of testifying.
My child being sexually assaulted will be public knowledge and people may perceive me as a bad parent… It is important to remember that child sexual assault happens in all racial, socioeconomic and religious backgrounds. Child sexual assault does not discriminate! No child asks to be sexually assaulted!! The blame of sexual assault lies with the abuser committing the act against an innocent individual. The best thing you can do as a parent is to believe your child, continue to be an active parent and role model, enroll you and/or your child in counseling to cope with the assault issues, and be an advocate for the best interest of your child. It is not their fault! Respect your child’s privacy by talking to them about who should be told about the abuse. If you insist that no one know, you may give the child the message that they should be ashamed of what happened. However, damage may be done if you tell everyone without regard to your child’s feelings. Be honest with your child and allow them some
sense of control regarding others knowing or not.
I have abuse or sexual assault issues in my past… Unfortunately, sexual assault crimes are prevalent in our society, often times not being reported, documented, or brought to the criminal courts. A vast majority of people live secretly with past sexual assault and abuse issues. If this describes you, and your child has also been assaulted, this time may be extremely difficult for you. Many feelings and issues that you have attempted to suppress for several years may now come to the surface. Unfortunately, the issues are here to stay and may impact many areas of your life and relationships. If you find this is happening, it may be time to seek a professional sexual assault counselor, for both you and your child, who will be able to guide your family through the healing process.
The perpetrator is a member of my immediate family, this will tear our family apart… There is no doubt that families are significantly impacted when a child is abused by a family member. Other family members may experience disbelief, disgust, anger and shame; there may be very practical issues to deal with, for example, perpetrators may no longer be able to live with or have unsupervised contact with any children in the family. The police, courts and children’s services may become involved. However, it is possible to move forward and heal from this situation. Many families find counseling support very helpful, both for the child victim and other family members. The opportunity to talk about what has happened, explore feelings about the assault, and develop healthy coping skills may help a family manage better.
While the family may never be the same, there is hope for a safe future.