He has Rights and Access

It is possible that your child disclosed that her father sexually abused her, and the investigation did not confirm the allegation. It is possible that you did your part in reporting the abuse, cooperating with law enforcement and Child Protective Services. Perhaps your child went through a forensic medical examination and an interview at the Child Abuse Assessment Center. However, enough evidence was not found, and the case was not founded. It is possible that the case was not investigated by Child Protective Services following the report. It may have been dismissed, or they may have been unable to determine that the allegation was valid. The father continues to have legal right to visitation and access to the child. You, as mother, can not interfere with those rights without potential legal consequences. 

Child Protective Services may have found enough evidence to recommend that the father have supervised visitation during the investigation process. Specially trained law enforcement officers, abuse interviewers, and physicians examine the child, produce reports with recommendations, and provide this information to the District Attorney. If an abuser does not confess to the crime of sexual abuse, the investigation must provide sufficient evidence of abuse that the District Attorney is willing to move forward with criminal charges. This is very difficult because medical evidence is usually required, and both high and low-probability medical indicators are very specific. It is unlikely that these would be found in most cases. Medical evidence is also controversial as some indicators are found in children who have not been abused. Most reports of child abuse do not result in legal charges. If a suspicion of abuse, rather than disclosure, motivates the investigation, and if the child is too young to articulate the abuse, it is particularly difficult to provide sufficient evidence for charges and conviction.

Child Sexual Abuse: Intervention and Treatment Issues by Kathleen Coulborn Faller (1993) is a manual published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It contains protocols for child interview, forensic examination, and consideration of psychological criteria in substantiating abuse. The determination of child sexual abuse, without perpetrator confession, is difficult to obtain.

You, as mother, are still in a position of needing to provide protection to the child. If your child has disclosed, and no protection is available from law enforcement or the court, then your child continues at risk of further abuse. You can minimize the risk by separating and/or divorcing your spouse. However, without conviction of abuse, the father has legal rights and access to the child. In a custody case, he will be afforded the rights and access due him, based on his role as father. 

If the child is older and states clearly that she does not want to spend time with her father, then the court will listen to her preference. A parent custody evaluator may provide a recommendation to the court regarding custody and parenting time. 

This is a difficult dilemma. You are responsible to protect your child, and you may be unable to keep her from her abuser. It is important that your child know that you believe her and support her, and that open communication occurs. It is important that your child be in ongoing therapy so that she has a safe place to talk about her concerns. Therapist's recommendations, based on the welfare and best interests of the child, are often considered by the court as determinative in child safety issues. It is also important that you be in ongoing therapy to address issues related to your child's abuse. A support group will provide a safe place for you to talk to other mothers of sexually abused children.  

If you have chosen to reunite with the perpetrator because of emotional attachment, it is important that you face safety issues regarding your child. Your child may interpret the continued presence of the abuser in her life as a betrayal - your betrayal of her - and this will most likely alter your relationship with your child. She will not consider you a safe resource. If the perpetrator lives in the home with children, a Safety Plan needs to be in place. That plan would set Rules and Guidelines for the household in order to keep your child or children safe. This may include alarms and other safety devices within the home. 

The most relevant issue is the safety of your child. If your child has disclosed abuse, and if the abuser does not confess to the abuse, and if the abuser remains in the home, your child is at high risk of continued abuse. For those children who disclose and no protection occurs, the abuse usually continues, and the child will experience long-term consequences of the abuse.

See Abuse Prevention


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