Feelings of Unfairness

Following the disclosure of the sexual abuse of a child, mothers may experience a pervasive sense of unfairness and injustice. They may ask questions like "Why me? or " "Why did this happen to my child?" They may feel rage that someone else made a choice that affects them in this way. They may observe other mothers and families going about their lives and experience feelings of jealousy that they are experiencing this pain while others are not. Mothers may begin to doubt the safety of their family, community, and the world.

If the perpetrator is a partner or other close family member, the sense of unfairness is more acute. When it is a person you trust that harms you or someone you love, you feel betrayed. It is expected in close relationships that the other person will consider your feelings and needs and will not knowingly and deliberately harm you. If you then are hurt by that person, it feels like a betrayal. A common thought is: "If he really loved me, he would not have done this."

When the betrayal is caused by someone you care about, you want an apology. You want reconciliation. You want to see remorse and sorrow for their harming you and your child. In the case of sexual abuse, that probably will not occur. Most sex offenders will deny the abuse. They may call the victim a liar, blame someone else, or shift the responsibility to someone else. The abuser may not be able to provide meaningful amends or restitution. In that case, mothers have to utilize coping resources and support to get past the sense of unfairness and betrayal. 

Acceptance of the situation, the fact of the abuse, the betrayal of the trusted person, the short-term and long term consequences to the child victim, as well as your own emotional response - These are all a necessary part of the process. Mothers cannot expect truth from a sex offender. The most important predictor of a child's recovery from sexual abuse is her mother's belief and support. Although ambivalence  and denial are natural responses to grief, including the grief experienced at the disclosure of your child's abuse, you are responsible for protecting your child. You are responsible for making wise decisions regarding his or her ongoing safety. Your relationship with the perpetrator, no matter who he is, will never be the same.  


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