Home > What You Can Do

What Sexual Abuse Survivors Really Expect from Their Parents

Sexual abuse can change the victim’s life in the blink of an eye. They can no longer go back to the way things used to be. More than ever, the survivor child or adult need their parents for understanding and support. It is through their care and unquestioning belief that healing can begin and spare the victim from a lifetime of negative emotional suffering.

Providing support to your loved one after the tragedy can be painfully tough but being there will mean a lot to them. For many victims, support is the key to healing, and receiving support and compassion from family and friends can mean a world of difference.

There are times when both victim and parents struggle with feelings of helplessness, and it can take a while to learn how to respond correctly, especially during periods of despondency, flashbacks or panic attacks.

The lack of support from family, the parents in particular, is one of the most painful things for a sexual abuse survivor. Victims have often expressed that, next to sexual abuse, it is betrayal and apathy of parents that are most destructive. Here are some pointers that parents of survivors need to understand.

Don’t pretend to believe that sexual abuse did not occur

Pretending that no sexual abuse ever happened will not spare the victim from more pain. It can be interpreted that either you don’t believe your child or you don’t care. If you are going through a denial phase, don’t let your child share the pressure. It is not their job to help you accept the truth. Believing and accepting what happened to your child means taking the necessary action. This includes reporting the incident and avoiding the abuser.

The child needs to know that you don’t blame them

Assure your child that it is what happened to them that is bad, and not them. The trauma the victim went through sears their mind and body. It is stored inside them until they are able to express it. When their pain is ignored, they react through the only means of expression they know – they behave undesirably. Because of this, parents sometimes brand the child as “bad”, which is even more destructive.

Be willing to listen to what they need to say

While some survivors would rather not talk about their traumatic experience, they want to be assured that their parents will be there to listen compassionately should they find the need to tell their story. Other victims, on the other hand, can’t stop talking about it. Both are normal reactions. If you think that listening will be hard, your child has experienced the actual pain. As a parent, you need to be the strong one for them.

Shield the victim physically and emotionally from the abuser

Part of the evil effects of abuse makes the victim protective of their abuser. No matter who it is, and even if the child misses them, the victim can’t be safe with the abuser and should be kept away from them. They shouldn’t be pressured to forgive, nor should they be forced or manipulated to continue their relationship with the accused.

Accept your responsibility

Painful as it may be to accept, failure to protect your child is seen as abandonment, even if the incident was beyond your control. Whether the victim thinks you have a part in their abuse or not, you should ask for an apology to your child without second thoughts.

Sexual abuse has long-lasting and destructive effects, but the support and understanding of parents can hasten the healing process. As a parent, you can either prolong the pain or make it a whole lot more bearable.


Ryan Rivera
www.calmclinic.org