Family doesn't believe abuse happened.


Dear Stop It Now!,

My teen daughters were sexually abused by the same person who abused me when I was a child.  We are dealing with a lot of issues right now and am getting them the help they need.  However, family members are now bashing them, calling them liars and looking for attention.  They are becoming victims all over again.  How do I help them get over this when they have other issues to deal with?

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Dear Concerned Parent,

I'm so sorry to hear that both you and your daughters have been affected by sexual abuse. This must be such a difficult time for you and your children, but it’s great that they have you as their protector and advocate, looking out for their wellbeing and safety.

Feelings After Disclosure
Sexual abuse is such a complicated matter, and when it is brought to light it doesn’t just magically erase all the damage that has been done. Often, it gets worse before it gets better, and it rarely just affects the victims of the abuse. It is much more far reaching than that and its effects can be seen rippling throughout the lives of relatives, spouses, significant others, and friends.

Let's acknowledge that there has been a profound breach of trust – physical, emotional, mental – by the abuser once, and to have their family turn on them and you may be, as you have said, as bad as reliving the experience again. As you mention this was the same person who abused you, their not believing your daughters might also be incredibly hurtful to you, and you may feel betrayed yourself.

Many people often have difficulty believing that someone they know or love could do such a thing, and they may even lash out at the survivor, as you are seeing with your own family. If the abuser is a close friend or relative, this sometimes makes it even harder to comprehend, and finding faults in others, be they real or imaginary, may be their own way of dealing with this. Although your family may have trouble believing your daughters, there is no excuse to further harm them purposely as they are doing now. However and unfortunately, it is not always possible to sway the beliefs of others. Yet there is hope, and healing is possible.

Healing for Your Daughters
Right now, continue to focus on your children’s recovery, as well as your own healing. This could mean temporarily severing ties with other family members and just focusing on surrounding yourselves with positive people who support you and your daughters. For now, distance yourself and your children from hurtful relationships.

You said that you were already getting your daughters the help they need - and I wanted to share this resource list for survivors to further support you: Child Survivors. Working with a professional is the best way to ensure that your children heal, and is also the ideal resource with whom to bring up any difficulties, like those you're experiencing with your family, so this can be something you work on with them together.

Necessary Self-Care
Making sure that you’re taking care of yourself is also crucial. As you mention this same person abused you, I’m wondering if you ever told anyone about this abuse. I encourage you to look for a counselor trained to work with Adult Survivors; this person will understand the challenges that you’re facing now, these difficult emotions that you may be feeling, and help you work through this, as you are helping your daughters. This person will understand the barriers people in situations similar to yours face in talking to their families about such a difficult topic – one that seems to have been swept under the rug for so long, or maybe not even addressed at all. Healing treatment can be a source of personal strength and growth for you, and you deserve that.

Considering Reconciliation
Eventually, when the time is right – determined by how your daughters are doing and also by having ongoing discussions with their therapists – I would hope that some sort of action plan can be put in place to bring your family back together. It's possible that with time and healing, and maybe even professional support for your relatives, your family will start to mend. But again the focus you place on your daughter's and your own healing will help this process.

Also, use the positive supports you all have in your life to your benefit like any professionals, therapists, friends, members of the clergy, or their guidance counselor, and talk to them, lean on them, and work with them. Please also check out our Parents of Survivors, as many have found these useful as an additional form of help, support, and understanding.

I wish you and your daughters the best.

Take care,
Stop It Now!


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Last edited on: September 20th, 2018