One of the most difficult things to handle as a parent is finding out that your child was abused. You may feel confused, angry, grief-stricken, betrayed, or even numb and unable to fully understand what happened. While there is no right or wrong way to process the awful news, there are some things you can do help your family get through this difficult time:
Talking about the abuse can be extremely uncomfortable for children and even adult survivors. They will often delay telling someone (sometimes for years), because they were embarrassed or worried about how others would respond. Being open and accepting of your child’s feelings will help to assuage their fears of being blamed, causing problems in the family or community, or not being taken seriously. Children tend to worry about being stigmatized. For this reason, it is important to avoid the tendency to treat them differently because of the abuse.
Your initial reaction when learning of the abuse may have been disbelief, especially if the abuser was someone you trusted, like a priest or other clergy member. If necessary, take some time to process the information and your emotions, so that you can provide your child with the safe, blame-free environment he or she needs. Survivors of sexual abuse need to be reassured that they are believed, and that what happened was not their fault.
Victims may not feel comfortable discussing the details of the abuse with their parents. Assure them that while you are there to offer support, if they would rather talk to someone else, or they need help from a therapist, they may do so. They should also know that you are looking out for their safety, and that you will do everything you can to make sure the abuse never happens again.
Helping your child to cope can help reduce their risk of having long-term psychological difficulties due to the abuse. Some children express their emotional turmoil, while others keep it to themselves. Everyone deals with trauma differently; therefore, it may not be easy to notice whether your child is struggling to deal with the abuse.
The following are some signs that your child may need help:
It is imperative that you take the time you need to absorb what happened and process your feelings. Some find it helpful to go for walks, express themselves in a journal, or talk to someone they trust. Others may require the assistance of a therapist. Whatever you do, make sure you are coping in an emotionally healthy way and getting the support you need.
If your child was abused by a priest or other member of the clergy, contact a compassionate Scranton clergy abuse lawyer at Williams Cedar. We are committed to protecting the rights of survivors and holding the guilty accountable. Our experienced attorneys provide comprehensive representation to survivors of sexual abuse in Pennsylvania, including those in Allentown, Scranton, Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, Greensburg, Johnstown, Eerie, Wilkes-Barre, throughout South Jersey and nationwide from our offices conveniently located in Philadelphia and Haddonfield, New Jersey. For a free and confidential consultation, contact us online or call us at 215-557-0099.