Child Sexual Abuse is a heinous crime that should be disclosed and reported – but often it is not and you’d be surprised to learn why it isn’t. Research reveals that most abused children do not tell their parents about the abuse and many adults don’t report the crime to police or to a Child Protection Agency once they do find out. While the entire situation is tragic for all involved, ironically, hurting parents with disclosing children should consider themselves to be blessed more so than those parents who learn too late that their children were or are being abused. Parents that know of the abuse hold a powerful position. When a parent chooses to believe the validity of the abuse and then acts accordingly and in a way to support and encourage healing – the child has a greater chance to grow beyond the pain. On the contrary, should parents disbelieve the abuse and neglect to provide appropriate medical and spiritual treatment – then the child will probably grow into an adult with detrimental attitudes and low self esteem. Make no mistake at all nor minimize the gravity of the adult’s reaction here– the power of a parent’s believing often boils down to a life or death situation.
Abusers use manipulation to successfully gain control of your child’s mind which they needed to keep them submissive and silent. Abused children are told “No one will believe you if you tell” or “Good little boys and girls don’t tell secrets”. So although your child may sense that the abuse is wrong they are unable to negotiate their feelings in the midst of the distorted lies the abusers repeatedly tell and so remain quiet. Your child rationalizes that it is best to keep quiet – and with good reason – they fear that someone may be physically hurt, they may be punished or even worse – they won’t be believed anyway and Mommy and Daddy will be and stay angry with them. This thought pattern, although erroneous, reveals two significant facts; one, it characterizes what really makes children what they are – children. Second, the thought pattern brings to light the role of well intentioned parents in every child’s life – including and most importantly an abused child. Abused children are scared children in need of guidance. It is very evident here that when children tell parents it is so the abuse will stop, the child will be protected and safe and receive the guidance, direction and treatment they deserve and need.
In the midst of the pain and shock of disclosure the issue for most parents now becomes how do I walk out and demonstrate the beliefs that are in the best interest for my child. Now is the time to understand that there is a strategy to purposeful believing which rests on the following principles:
- The focus should consistently remain on the child’s well being. The child, not the abuser, is the priority. A parent’s job is not to protect the abuser. It is to protect the child.
- Consistently believe that your child is telling the truth about the abuse or that your child was actually sexually assaulted. Be stable. If you believe your child today don’t tell them the next day, the next week or the next year that you have doubts about the abuse.
- Believe the abuser to be what he or she usually is. Don’t spend time talking and negotiating with the abuser. Abusers are manipulative and charming. Time wasted looking for reasons to believe that the abuser could never do something like abuse a child could be time spent on dealing with your child.
- Believe in yourself. Now is not the time to turn to alcohol or illegal drugs to cope with the trauma and your own thoughts of inadequacies. Your job is critical and your child is depending on you for guidance and direction. If you believe that your child will heal then the child will also believe this. As a parent, you are capable of helping your child and now is the time to demonstrate that fact. Most children will blame themselves if they rationalize that by telling about the abuse they have caused you a significant amount of grief and pain. The abuse is not a reflection of your ability to adequately protect your child it is a reflection of the evil that exists in our world.
- Believe things will get better. Children are able to grow into loving, powerful, successful healthy adolescents and adults with wonderful lives.
- Believe that your child is not guilty and that you are not guilty either. The only guilty party is the abuser.
- Believe that you must actively seek and maintain adequate health care for your entire family including yourself. This includes medical, dental, mental and spiritual help. Seek help from a medical doctor, a psychologist and a spiritual leader.
- Most importantly, believe in God. Healing from abuse takes supernatural strength and love. Parents can get through this but not alone and they don’t have to. Set aside thoughts of blaming God or asking unanswerable questions. Resist the urge to be angry with God or withdraw from Him because you rationalize that he neglectfully let the abuse happen. Instead, use this time to turn to God, accept His love and direction. Above all, have faith, pray and grow closer in your relationship with Him.
Purposeful believing includes consistency – don’t take away your belief. Believe from your heart and eyes and then act like it – don’t play the fence – you can’t believe both the abuser and the child. You must choose. Remember, that talking about the abuse is difficult for children. So if they were brave enough and thought enough of you to tell you then the least you can do is believe in them. So, thank your child for telling and trusting you – and believe that one day you will hear them say thank you for believing in me. Believing is so critical, that the money, medical care and treatment – will all be undermined to a certain extent if you don’t believe your child. Be warned that your disbelief could actually cause the child to spend a good portion of their recovery time trying to understand and heal from the fact that their parents didn’t believe them. This is unfortunate as we need the child to focus on healing from the primary abuse not the secondary abuse you will inflict on your child when you don’t believe them.
Believing matters to the child – almost more than anything – they want to know that you are on their side. Lastly, abused children need to believe that their parents are resilient and that the disclosure did not change the love you have for them or the terms of your relationship with them. Remember, when you believe in your child – you are helping them to believe in themselves and this is at the root of the self esteem and self love that will ultimately translate into the long lasting health and success you desire for them in the long run.