How Non-offending Parents May Feel
When abuse is reported, parents sometimes feel as if they are on a roller coaster of emotions. This is normal. The report can affect your life in many ways and it takes time to adjust. The following are some of the common thoughts and feelings parents have. You may feel one or more of these or you may move from one to another.
- Denial. Your first reaction may be to not believe or accept the possibility that it really happened. Or you may believe it happened, but that no real harm was done. Parents often experience denial because it is too overwhelming to accept that the abuse occurred and that there will be after-effects. For some people, it takes time to overcome denial and face the realities of abuse.
- Anger. At times, you may feel angry with yourself for not protecting the child. You may feel angry with the perpetrator for what they did. You may even feel angry with the child. Be honest about your feelings and share them with a trusted adult or group.
- Helplessness. You may feel that things are out of your control and do not know what to expect. Some parents may fear that their children will be taken away. Try to stay aware of how cases proceed through the system in which you are involved.
- Lack of assertiveness. You may feel invisible and think there is nothing you can do to help the situation get better. We will help you learn what you can do to change the situation and take appropriate action.
- Shock, numbness, and repulsion. You may have memories of being abused as a child, which may lead to shock, numbness and repulsion for the new situation in which you find yourself. If so, you may need to seek therapy for yourself to recover from the abuse. Therapy for yourself may also enable you to help your child.
- Guilt, self-blame. You may feel it is your fault, but the offender is responsible for the abuse, not you. The best thing you can do now is support your child and learn all you can about how to make things better.
- Hurt and betrayal. It is normal to feel hurt from the loss of your child's innocence. You may also have lost a spouse or partner if that person was the offender. You may even have lost friends. It is very important to take time to grieve for these losses.
- Sexual inadequacy. Some parents believe the offender turned to the child because their relations with him/her were inadequate. It is important to learn the dynamics of abuse in order to realize that sexual relations with an adult partner do not affect a person's likelihood to abuse or not abuse children.
- Concern about money. You may be worried about finances because of lost income. There are state programs that may be able to help you.
- Fear of violence. In homes where violence is common, you may fear the offender will try to harm you or your children. If so, call New Beginnings, a local domestic violence shelter, at (740) 349-8719.
- Fear of drug or alcohol abuse. You may be afraid that you or the offender will abuse drugs or alcohol because of the stress, or that one of you may have a relapse to an old addiction. If you need help, do not hesitate to find a recovery center. CAC staff can provide you with names and phone numbers of local resources.