Ambivalence is the presence of two different attitudes or emotions at the same time.   A simple example: you are grateful for having a job and you hate having to get up every morning and go to it. A more related example: you love someone but sometimes you feel like you hate him. Ambivalence can also relate to uncertainty about a decision. You may not be able to decide and you go back and forth - like you have two minds about an issue. 

Sorting out feelings is very difficult when ambivalence is involved. In the case of child sexual abuse, you may experience ambivalence about:
  • Believing the report of sexual abuse of your child
  • Reporting to the authorities
  • Prosecuting the abuser
  • Leaving your partner if he is the offender

If you have no options, the ambivalence is more severe. If you have an either-or, and you are ambivalent in that choice, you are destined to suffer ongoing, perhaps chronic, ambivalence.

If your husband or partner is the abuser, you must take immediate, decisive action to protect your child. But your partner may say he did not do it. Your daughter has reported that the abuse occurred. Typically, and unfortunately, this type of dynamic causes the child victim to recant, retract her report, so as not to distress her family. She is afraid of the consequences of telling and does not want the responsibility of breaking up the family. The father-perpetrator may have made other threats, also, that the mother is not aware of. 

If one of your other children is the abuser, you also will need to immediately move forward with protective decisions for the victim. Because a child offender is a minor, this is more complex than an adult offender because of your additional responsibility for care of this child. Living arrangements, financial care, and ongoing decisions about reporting, prosecution, and treatment will be more difficult. Your emotions may threaten to overwhelm you. Healthy coping will help you get through the crisis and stay well.    

Although ambivalence is normal in these cases, it has to be overridden. The only way to do that is with support, accountability, and responsibility. The perpetrator needs to have consequences for his actions. The child needs to never suffer being abused again. Ambivalence is a barrier to clear thinking , problem-solving, and decision-making

No easy way exists through ambivalence. Recognizing, naming, and accepting ambivalence will help you get through the process. (See Mindfulness.) You may experience ambivalence for a very long time. That is one reason why you need a strong ongoing support system. 



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