Words of Wisdom

by Tom & Gail

This was a response to a woman who has her child in therapy because she suspects abuse by the father, but no disclosure has yet been made. I thought it would be appropriate to add it here for other parents going through the same, or a similar, situation. --annie

We are so very sorry to hear of you and your family's current extreme strife.

First and foremost, your daughter needs loving and safe support. Counselors tell us that it can often take at least six counseling sessions before the victim feels "safe" enough to disclose the abuse and by whom.

In order for you as the mother to "be there for her" self-care of your own well being is key. This includes surrounding yourself with "safe" people including your own trained counselor, support groups of people dealing with the same issue and loving, supportive, and "safe family members who will not "take sides" but be there to listen without trying to fix it. Leave fixing it to the professionals.

Finally, avoid trying any attempts to have your daughter disclose directly to you. Whoever the perpetrator is will be able to use the disclosure and to whom the disclosure is ultimately made to discredit them, and your daughter will face attacks of "she's lying" to get attention, etc. You will likely get blamed also for making her disclose/lie to drive a wedge in the relationship between the abuse victim and the perpetrator.

Be on-guard for other family members to "take sides" as this issue most often severely polarizes families, creating more pain and confusion for all concerned, especially the abuse victim, your daughter.

Sometimes the abuse victim will feel so much pressure and pain to see how the people around her are reacting that either before or after a disclosure, she will "recant" or deny that any abuse ever occurred. In a child's mind this is one way that they rationalize that the pain (theirs, yours and other family members denials) will all just go away.

Perpetrators and their attorneys love to see the child recant as they can then state that "she was just trying to get attention". How sad this type of situation can become. Why would any abuse victim want the painful attention a false accusation can bring to themselves and the ones they love?

Finally, reading all you can (resources on our web page) and praying for peace and guidance will over time be therapeutic to you and your daughter. Try as best you can to not deal with this issue of the abuse in front of her. It is easier said than done to "be strong" for her, but she needs you desperately to "be there" for her and to know you will believe and love her unconditionally no matter what happens in the future.