If the father
is the abuser
, it was appropriate for them to leave the home following the victim's disclosure
of sexual abuse
. The victim
then could remain in his or her own home. However, the victim is sometimes removed from the home following disclosure. This occurs when the Department of Human Services/Child Welfare (DHS/CW) determine that the child will not be protected
from further abuse if left in the family
home. Several factors may lead to this decision:
- The mother does not believe the child, is angry at the disclosure, and will not support the child.
- Sufficient evidence is not available, and the offender will not be arrested. He refuses to leave the home.
- Domestic violence is ongoing in the home, and prior reports have been made to DHS about this family.
- Substance abuse is ongoing in the home, prior reports have been made to DHS, or the social service specialist identified alcohol/drug risk factors while in the home.
- The home did not meet "minimally adequate" standards and was unsafe for the child to continue to reside there.
- The child requests to leave the home.
Many courts and counselors recommend no contact between offender and victim. If there is a criminal Trial, no contact should occur until after the victim testifies as the abuser may attempt to persuade the child to recant and/or not to testify. If mother and/or family members are unsupportive of the child victim, it may be untenable for contact to occur with them as well because of undue pressure that may be placed on the child.
If the child does not want visitation, there should be none. No unsupervised visitation should occur until the child feels safe with the abuser. The abuser needs a psychosexual evaluation to determine safety regarding re-abuse. At other times, the child victim may want visitation with the abuser, supervised and unsupervised, when it is not considered to be in the best interests of the child. Professional opinion should be followed.
It is possible that all family members want visitation to occur. The abuser, victim, mother, and other family members are in treatment and making progress. Visitation may be started and become more frequent and with less supervision. Prior to each step of increase in the abuser's access to the child, the child should agree to this change. Either the multidisciplinary team involved in the child's case or the child's therapist needs to lead in making these decisions.
Another scenario is possible, however. Enough evidence may not have been gathered for the abuser to be prosecuted or to result in a conviction. He is not required to go to treatment. It is possible that DHS closed the case at that time. The mother is then left in the difficult situation of making decisions to protect her child, and these decisions may not be what the child, abuser, or other family members want. It is up to the mother to seek advice and counsel, remain strong in her belief and support of the child, and make decisions that will best protect the child and other children in the home. This may mean separation, divorce, or a move. Mothers need to have healthy coping skills and strong support. Having the victim, mother, and other children continuing in counseling is the best predictor of maintaining the child's safety. If the abuser applies to the court for relief in these circumstances (i.e., limited contact with child), professional involvement will assist in protection of the child.
See Red Flag Behaviors in Perpetrators.