After sexual abuse
have many fears about the consequences. The disclosure may affect almost all areas of their lives, depending on the identity
of the offender
to the victim. Mothers fear what will happen to them, their children, their marriage and primary relationships, their other children, extended family members, community relationships, jobs, health, finances. They fear the legal process
, the court
process, interactions with social services
. They fear the perpetrator. They fear their inability to support and help the child victim
. They fear their ability to get through this and survive the emotional consequences. They fear a reoffense
. They fear signs that look like a possibility of a reoffense.
Mothers may also develop posttraumatic stress disorder, PTSD
, and have anxiety
and panic attacks
associated to their child's abuse.
The greatest fear that a mother experiences is losing her child. She is afraid that the court will take protective custody
of her child, and for almost all mothers, that fear is cataclysmic. She is confident that she would not be able to survive that event. If the court took protective custody of the abused child, it may take her other children. The pain and anxiety associated with that fear is overwhelming.
If the offender is her husband or partner
, she may fear losing him. This sets up a double-bind that feeds the ambivalence
. She loves both the offender and her child and has to decide who to support. If she decides she will support her partner, she may lose her child. If she chooses to support
her child, she loses her partner. This dilemma seldom has a solution. Reunification
of families is fraught with danger to the child. Treatment
providers may say that the offender is safe now, but no one has the ability to know that for sure.
Mothers struggle with so many conflicting and painful emotions
. They blame themselves for the abuse. They feel desperate, lonely, isolated
, ashamed, and stigmatized.
Mothers are also afraid of the consequences to their jobs, professions, and finances. If they lose the financial support of their partners, they do not know if they can pay for housing and other bills. Perhaps the mother did not work and now has to find a job. All of these concerns add to the weight of responsibility and fear that mothers carry.
Mothers are also afraid of not being believed and supported. Similar to the child victim, they may not be heard when they report the abuse. The perpetrator may be well known in the community or have a good reputation. Mothers fear powerlessness.