Financial issues may be a significant stressor
of sexually abused children
Additional expenses and reductions to the family's income may result from:
- Attorney fees
- Counseling fees
- Reduced family income
- Child care expenses
- Transportation costs
If the offender is the father and the principal wage-earner of the family, the mother may face grave financial losses. If he is prosecuted, convicted, and incarcerated, he will be unable to provide any financial assistance. This may initiate a financial crisis for the family. Consequences may be loss of the family home, changes in school districts for children already destabilized, inability to maintain car payments, and application for food stamps or other state assistance. Each of these potential consequences creates stress in mothers who need to be fully present and available to the victim and other children who require their support.
If the mother has been working prior to the disclosure, she may find it difficult to maintain her work schedule while attending legal, investigative, therapeutic, and court appointments. She may also have difficulty coping with post-disclosure emotions. These may interfere with her job, and her employer may not be understanding. Mothers who have not been working because of small children in the home may have to return to work. This will require adjustments by mother and family.
Mothers may have young children that require babysitters while attending appointments. If they have to obtain employment, child care my be necessary during the job-search and after employment. Depending on where the family lives, travel to and from appointments may be costly.
Counseling for victims and other family members is critical. Financial assistance for victim counseling is usually available through funds designated for victim services.
Victims need counseling to lessen the traumatic effects of the abuse. They need to process feelings, recognize that the perpetrator is responsible for the abuse, correct false beliefs, and rebuild trust, sense of safety, self-esteem and coping resources. Counselors can facilitate victim empowerment and teach resilience and self-protection during sessions. Other negative consequences to victims (e.g., damaged goods syndrome, blurred roles and boundaries) are addressed during counseling. As the child recovers and mental health improves, risk for future abuse is reduced.
Mothers and the victim's siblings also need counseling. Mothers need a safe place to process pain, anger, guilt, and confusion. They need support in problem-solving and decision-making. Siblings need a safe place to discuss the family crisis and how it is affecting them. SIblings also need evaluation to assure that they have not experienced sexual abuse. The family unit requires counseling if it is to heal and function in a healthy manner. Many families do not have health insurance or do not have mental health coverage in their plans. In those cases, counseling may be out-of-pocket expense in the family budget.
If the father or husband is the perpetrator, a divorce may occur following disclosure. When marriages and family partnerships dissolve, wives and mothers are generally the financial losers.Their standard of living is usually negatively affected. In these cases, mothers may need to carefully evaluate thoughts and feelings about offenders, as the financial stress may be a motivator for family reunification. This may be an unconscious process with mothers and not a deliberate choice to allow him back into the home because of financial considerations. It is helpful to discuss finances and relief options with supportive resources and access assistance wherever it is available.