Maternal Support

mother's belief in her child's disclosure of sexual abuse and her empathy and support result in reduced stress in the victim. Studies show that the majority of mothers believe their children at the point of disclosure (Lovett, 2004). Maternal belief in the allegations and continued support of the child following disclosure are directly related to the child's emotional distress, self-esteem, behavioral problems, and number of PTSD symptoms. When the relationship with the mother is impaired, victims are vulnerable to increased consequences of the abuse.

Maternal support includes cognitive, emotional, and behavioral elements: Knowledge of the abuse, empathy, and actions taken to ensure the safety of the child. Mothers' believing their children's statements of abuse, empathizing with them, and offering support and protection to them reduces the children's stress. The supportive mother-child relationship is the key to the victim's recovery.

Child sexual abuse victims have said the events following disclosure were not as important as whether or not they received support from their mothers (Schonberg, 1992). Self-reports of abused children indicate that depression, anxiety, and self-esteem are significantly related to the mother-child relationship. The nature of the initial response to the disclosure can be a predictor of the quality of that relationship (Hogue, 1992).

One of the strongest predictors of a child's recovery from sexual abuse is a high level of maternal functioning. In order for the mother to support and protect her child and continue healthy emotional, mental, and psychological functioning, she needs to take care of herself, counteracting negative stress effects, and use healthy coping skills.
Many factors affect short term effects and long-term consequences of sexual abuse. These include:
  • The child's interpretation of the abuse.
  • Whether the child discloses the abuse.
  • How long the abuse occurred prior to disclosure.

Children will experience less trauma and reduced consequences of abuse if:

  • They confide in a trusted adult and are believed.
  • They disclose soon after the abuse.

Critical factors involved in recovery from child sexual abuse are:

  • Family support
  • External community and agency support
  • High self-esteem
  • Spirituality
  • Education about abuse
  • Counseling and other supportive services
  • Time

The importance of mothers cannot be overemphasized. The most salient factor in whether the child recovers from the experience of sexual abuse is maternal support: the mother's initial response, belief, continued support, and protection.



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