The response of a mother to the disclosure that her child has been sexually abused is different for all mothers. The grief
reaction of the mother varies depending on such factors as her relationship with the child, relationship with the perpetrator
, available coping skills
, level of belief
in the disclosure, life stress, and anxiety
level. Grief reactions, mourning process, and grief tasks are similar to that of the victim. Responses to the disclosure of sexual abuse include:
- Shock. This is a normal human response to unexpected, painful events.
- Denial. Denial is also a normal human response that occurs in the short-term following the shock of painful news. However, denial is not healthy if it cannot be overcome fairly quickly. Acceptance of the reality of the abuse is the only way that the mother can provide support and protection to the child.
- Anger. Anger is also a normal human response to shock, pain, and betrayal. However, if not managed, anger can become a destructive force that impedes healthy communication and processing and consumes the energy of the mother. It can either focus the mother on protective action or defocus her from the immediacy of her role. Anger management skills are crucial during recovery from the shock of discovering your child has been sexually abused.
- Guilt. Guilt is also a normal maternal response to disclosure of sexual abuse.
- Depression. Depression will occur if the pain, sadness, guilt, and other negative emotions are not addressed and managed. Depression is debilitating and will interfere in effective function as a mother.
- Fear and anxiety. Fear is the normal response to threat. Anxiety is the normal response to the unknown. Mothers face a life-altering threat with no knowledge of the outcome.
- Acceptance. Acceptance is the final stage of a grief process and, in effect, entails facing reality.
- Confusion - Confusion is a response common to any event out of the ordinary. We try to make sense of it and have conflicting thoughts and feelings.