Factors in Belief

When a child discloses sexual abuse, the response of a mother is affected by many factors. If the mother feels blamed, she may engage in defending herself, rather than supporting the child. She may have suspected something was wrong but is shocked to find out about the abuse. Whether a mother believes the disclosure of the child is the basis upon which many decisions are made for he safety of the child.

Jinich and Litrownik (1999) developed an acronym to help mothers support children when they disclose. This acronym, BRAVE, stands for:
  • Believe the report of the child.
  • Reach out and comfort the child, providing emotional support.
  • Assure the child it is not her responsibility but the responsibility of the offender.
  • Validate the feelings of the child, assuring him that these are understandable emotions. Work to reduce shame.
  • Encourage the child to talk as much as possible about the abuse.

Some of the factors that influence the ability of the mother to believe the disclosure include:

  • If the victim discloses to the mother, she is more likely to believe the report.
  • Younger children and teenagers are more likely to be believed.
  • Mothers are less likely to believe when genital contact is involved. 
  • Medical and physical evidence increases the ability of mothers to believe.
  • Police statements increase the likelihood of the mother believing the report.
  • If the mother is aware of previous deviant behaviors by the offender.
  • If professionals believe that abuse occurred, mothers are more likely to believe.
  • The more support the mother has, the more likely she is to believe.
  • The closer the mother is to the offender, the less likely she is to believe.
  • The better the relationship the mother has with the victim, the more likely she is to believe.
  • If the offender denies, and the child provides a weak accusation, the mother is more likely not to believe.  

See Why Children Don't Tell



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