In addition to listening to your child, listening to yourself is just as important. After a child or teen discloses their abuse to you, be sure to stay calm and seek support for yourself. Children will often think or feel that the anger and disgust their parents are expressing at what has happened is directed towards them and that could only further traumatize them. Feeling any of the emotions listed below is completely normal, and as a parent it’s important to cope with them in a healthy manner in order to properly support your child.
- Denial – At first a parent may not believe or accept what has happened to their child. They may believe that it happened but their child hasn’t been affected by it. This is a way for parents to cope with the overwhelming feelings of what has happened.
- Anger – Parents may feel angry at themselves for not knowing and protecting their child. Parents may feel angry at the perpetrator, or even frustrated with the child for not telling them immediately.
- Helplessness – Parents aren’t likely to know what to expect and therefore may be feeling things that are out of control. Talking to an advocate or a detective here at CUSI & CAC can help you in learning more about what you can expect throughout the process.
- Lack of Assertiveness – Parents may feel invisible and believe that there isn’t anything that can be done to improve the situation. Our advocate is ready to help guide you.
- Shock, Numbness and Repulsion – This experience isn’t only triggering for the children, but for parents who may have experienced sexual abuse themselves. Memories from the past may resurface, so seeking support for both your child and yourself is critical in the healing process.
- Guilt and Self Blame – Parents may feel like they are to blame for being unaware that the abuse was taking place. Always remember that the perpetrator is responsible, not you.
- Hurt and Betrayal – It’s normal to mourn the loss of your child’s innocence, and also a relationship that you may have had with the perpetrator. It’s important to grieve for both losses, it’s a part of the healing process as well.
- Fear of Violence – Parents may fear that the perpetrator will try to cause more harm to the family after the child or teen has disclosed. Talk to the Department of Children and Families, the police department, or even an advocate about this.
- Loss of Privacy – Parents may be concerned that others in the community will hear about what has happened to their child. Child and adolescent abuse investigations are confidential and will remain that way throughout the entire process.
Support & Resources. (n.d.). Retrieved April 19, 2016, from http://www.chittendencac.org/support-resources