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What happens after the abuse is reported?

Question: 

Dear Stop It Now!,

What happens to the abuser if reported? The step great grandfather touched a 10 year old girl. I reported it to the mother, now I am afraid of what will happen to my husband since they plan on calling the police. He is 88 and this is the first time anything like this has happened. Will they put him in jail?

Response: 
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Dear Concerned Wife,

Please know that you did the right thing in speaking up. This little girl cannot protect herself, and your husband needs help – you did the best thing for both parties involved. I’m so glad you’ve reached out to us for guidance.

Speaking Up is Important
Sexual abuse thrives in secrecy, and bringing these allegations into the open may be painful, but it is a necessary step to ensure that everyone gets the support they need. Many people struggle with Facing The Practical Difficulties of Speaking Up – you may recognize some of these feelings in yourself before you spoke up, or even now. It is so scary when the abuser is someone we love because we don’t want to see anyone hurt, but in order to heal everyone needs to start getting the treatment they deserve. What you’ve done is fantastic – this will finally allow your husband to stop struggling with these feelings alone, and your great-granddaughter can get the support she needs to overcome these traumas.

Legal Concerns
I understand your concern regarding what will happen next, as this may a very confusing and scary situation. Stop It Now! is not a legal service, so I cannot say with any certainty whether or not your husband will be put in jail. I’m unsure if Child Protective Services (CPS) is involved, but they are often the best way to ensure that everyone in the family is getting the support they need – here you can read more on Reporting. Also, if you have not already, I strongly urge you to get a lawyer as soon as you are able. A lawyer will be able to speak with your husband, assess his needs, and find further resources that can help him. They will also be able to speak to you about what the best course of action to take will throughout all stages of your husband’s legal process.

Support For Your Family
The most important next step will involve Professional Support. As I said before, what you’ve done is wonderful, because bringing out this secret allows everyone start their healing journey, as Adults Who Have Sexually Offended or Feel At-Risk Need Very Specialized Help. Many abusers want help to stop, but don’t know where to turn. With specialized treatment, it is possible for abusers to stop hurting children, and to go on to lead abuse-free lives. A specialist who works with Adults At-Risk or Who Have Offended can give your husband the tools that can help him take back control of his life, and manage the feelings or thoughts that are bothering him.

Many people often hold common misconceptions of adults who have been convicted of a sexual offense. Understanding some of the FAQs on Sex Offender Treatment may also help you understand what challenges your family may face, and what sort of outcomes can await your husband if he chooses treatment and to commit himself to keeping children safe. The only thing standing between your husband and his road to recovery, is himself. He can heal, and it’s great that you have chosen to support him through this difficult time.

As I already stated, you took an immensely important role in this, and getting your great-granddaughter the help she needs will be vital as well. With a specialized counselor, it is possible for Child Survivors of sexual abuse to recover. Please pass on this information to her mother.

Working Towards Safety
It will be necessary to make sure your husband is never alone your great-granddaughter unsupervised. When working to keep your husband and children safe, it is important to implement a Safety Plan. There are things you and he both can do every day to reduce temptation while increasing positive events in both of your lives. Some people reach out to someone they trust in their life as a support – your husband has you which is fantastic. Perhaps there is someone else he can look to, like another relative or friend. Other good strategies involve not engaging in activities with or around young children, increasing the number of social interactions with friends and family, and fostering more of his own personal healthy interests.

Recovery is Possible
It may be helpful for your husband to read about Wayne's Story of Recovery. Wayne has sexually abused children, but after being turned in, he turned his life around. Mr. Bowers is now the director of CURE/SORT, an organization dedicated to educating those at-risk and who have offended of the benefits of sex offender treatment.

Please also check out, from our same Stories of Hope page, Loving Them Both. It is about a grandmother who discovered her husband was abusing their grandchildren – how she spoke up, what happened next, and how her family is moving forward.

Taking Care of Yourself
As you’ve reached out to me in such a critical time for you, your husband, and your family, I want to make sure that you are doing some self-care as well. I hope that you have someone who you can turn to during this stressful time: a friend, relative, member of the clergy, or professional support. You may also want to look to this chat board called Daily Strength, for Families of Sex Offenders (Daily Strength). This is a peer-monitored group where you can find people who have gone through similar situations and be able to reach out, lean on, and find strength from their stories and by sharing your own.

Never doubt what a fantastic thing you have done for everyone involved – you’ve enabled everyone to be honest, stop hiding, and get the help they need. You truly are a remarkable person, and I wish the best for you and your family.

Take care,
Stop It Now!

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Last edited on: March 1st, 2016