Preconditions for Reunification

Criteria for reunification of families who have experienced incest, whether perpetrated by fathers or sibling, is similar. The prerequisite for reunification is the abuser's willing participation in sex offender treatment, fulfilling requirements and following recommendations of the treatment counselor. Other family members should also be engaged in counseling. All family members must agree to the reunification. Matthews et al. (1991) outlined desirable preconditions for family reunification. Hackett et al. (1998) outlined criteria for reunification of families where sibling incest has occurred. The following list of factors has been adapted from their work. These criteria need to be present before reunification occurs. 


  • Acknowledges and discusses the sexual abuse.
  • Does not blame herself for the abuse but assigns responsibility to the offender.
  • Is willing to have the family reunified.
  • Is confident regarding her ability to report warning signs observed in the abuser and to report any attempt by abuser to initiate activities that feel uncomfortable or risky.
  • Reports that she feels safe in the home and protected by the mother or parents if the incest involved a sibling.


  • Accepts complete responsibility for the abuse and does not blame anyone or anything else for his sexual behavior.
  • Has exhibited empathy towards the victim.
  • Has demonstrated awareness of the impact of sexual abuse, including short and long term consequences.
  • Demonstrates remorse for the sexual abuse and its consequences to victim and family.
  • Is willing to talk to the victim and family about the sexual abuse and maintains awareness of self-responsibility and consequences of choices.
  • Has openly apologized to the victim and all family members. These apologies were not self-serving and were accepted by victim and family members as genuine.
  • Has explored and increased self-awareness of the motivation for sexual abuse and factors that contribute to future risk.
  • Is able to acknowledge continued risk and discuss his cycle of abuse and triggers and cues associated with the desire to abuse.
  • Can detail his relapse prevention plan.
  • Explored and resolved childhood family issues while in treatment .
  • Is willing to take Polygraph Test prior to return home and to take ongoing polygraphs. (Recommending every three months for the first year and every six months thereafter in order to maintain accountability for the offender and safety for children in the home.)

Spouse or Parents

  • Aware that safety needs and protection of the victim and other children in the home is highest priority.
  • Puts needs of the victim above mother's and parents' needs, if sibling incest.
  • Has confronted the offender and expressed emotions, including anger, and consequences to self and family.
  • Creates a safe environment for open communication in the family about sexual abuse and is able to facilitate those discussions without avoidance, embarrassment, or strong negative emotion.
  • Holds the offender responsible for sexual abuse, whether adult or sibling perpetrator, with no victim-blaming.
  • In cases of sibling incest, is able to acknowledge differing needs of victim and perpetrator and is able to accommodate these in the family.
  • Is able to establish a home environment that includes safety mechanisms, accountability of perpetrators, and adherence to house Rules and Guidelines.


  • All family members involved in the decision to reunify.
  • All family members offered and received counseling or treatment.
  • Open communication about risky places, times, and situations.
  • Open, free discussion of concerns and plans for protection of all children.
  • All family members contributed to development of house Rules and Guidelines and Safety Plan.
  • Boundaries and roles have been discussed and established.
  • Children have copy of Alert List.  
  • Family members are knowledgable regarding Warning Signs in Offenders.
  • Healthy communication and interpersonal behaviors demonstrated.
  • Changes in sleeping arrangements and physical changes to home (such as locks and alarms) have been implemented.
  • Family structure, routine, and expectations have been adequately discussed and adjusted to accommodate priorities.

Family priorities following reunification:

  • Safety of victim and all other children.
  • Accountability for offender.
  • Health and recovery for all family members.



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