Denial is a normal, healthy reaction following disclosure. Mothers have to move out of the shock stage and gather strength to face the reality of the sexual abuse and deal with it. Sometimes denial is present for the first few minutes, few hours, few days, few months, or it may be ongoing. The psychological health of the mother and a host of other factors influence the ability of the mother to come to terms with reality. Psychological risk to the child is immediate if the child does not perceive that the mother believes her disclosure of sexual abuse. Belief is the most important factor in maternal support and the most important predictor of victim recovery. If the mother remains in denial and does not accept the sexual abuse of her child, she places the child at risk of future abuse. 

Denial may present itself in different forms:

  • Denial of the sexual abuse
  • Acceptance of the sexual abuse but denial of its harmful effects
  • Denial of the need for help in resolving the crisis
  • Denial of perpetrator responsibility for the abuse

Denial is a factor by which mothers are judged as capable of continuing to care for their children. Its importance cannot be overemphasized. Denial in the face of shock. Ongoing denial of the event of sexual abuse, the immediate and long-term negative effects, and the absolute responsibility of the perpetrator presents as inability to parent. Another aspect of denial is the tendency of some mothers to move back and forth between denial and acceptance. Denial can feel safe and comfortable. The grief process and acceptance of reality engenders pain, confusion, stress, anger, and losses.

Mothers need support as they come to terms with the abuse and support the child as she processes through the aftermath of child sexual abuse. 


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