Daily, frequent feelings of fear
are common following disclosure
that your child has been sexually abused
. Depending on the perpetrator
, you may be processing feelings of intense grief and loss
. You may be having to make decisions
regarding the safety
of your child. This may include severing relationships with people you care for, or it may mean moving to a different location. Post-disclosure
is a chaotic, painful period of time.
Some of the fears you may experience:
- During the initial shock phase: Difficulty in believing it is all true and fear that it is all true
- Fear of re-abuse of your child
- Fear of leaving your child with others
- Fear of relationship losses
- Fear of what people will say about your family
- Fear of the judgments of others
- Fear of the loss of your child if you are not judged a protective mother
- Fear that you are not a good mother
- Fear that you cannot function
- Fear that you will not survive this
- Fear of your inability to provide for needs of children if the perpetrator is a primary financial provider
Fears may become generalized and may attach to many different situations. It is important to be aware of your feelings and take care of them. It is also important to engage in counseling.
You may begin to feel anxious more frequently. Anxiety can occur at any time. Some events that may elicit increased anxiety:
- Talking to extended family members or friends and telling them about the abuse
- Talking to extended family members or friends and not telling them about the abuse
- Being near the perpetrator
- Being near someone reminding you of the perpetrator
- Seeing something that reminds you of the abuse: a book, a movie, a newspaper article
- Hearing someone mention abuse
- Being in the area where your child disclosed she had experienced abuse
- In interviews with social services, law enforcement, or medical professionals
- Sitting in court
Virtually anything can elicit anxiety if it connects in your thought process to the sexual abuse. This is an immediate process and will not usually be long-term. It is important to take care of yourself, maintain awareness of your anxiety, and get help from professionals. Many anxiety-reducing skills are useful. Take time out for walks, listening to soothing music, meditation, exercise, time with friends - good self-care is essential if you are to provide care for your child or children.
If the perpetrator remains in the home, you are responsible to provide protection to your child and to remain alert and aware. This is a difficult task. Developing a Safety Plan with Rules and Guidelines will increase boundaries and safety in the home. Mothers may experience panic attacks when not aware of where the child or the perpetrator are at any given time. This can be an emotionally exhausting process.
You may start to feel like you cannot live in your own skin. You may wonder who you are. It is important that you talk to someone about your feelings and gather as much support as possible. Membership in a support group with other mothers of abused children will be a safe place to talk about these issues.