Thursday, July 3, 2014

Key Challenges for Parents of Sexual Abuse Victims

Parents and other family members play important roles for victims of abuse striving to heal from the devastating impacts of their ordeals. Though healing is a personal journey, it's shared by friends, family and loved ones concerned for the well-being of victims. And while the victim is at the center of each effort to rebuild and restore trust, confidence and other casualties of abuse, secondary survivors share a unique set of challenges overcoming the impacts of sexual abuse. 

In addition to feeling the victim's pain, survivors are overwhelmed by their desire to help. But the implications surrounding sexual abuse and assault are complicated, so even the most committed survivors sometimes struggle to reconcile the unfamiliar territory.

Parents especially are overcome by a flood of emotions when their children suffer at the hands of abuse, prompting personal doubt and turmoil as they help their kids heal.

Common challenges faced by parents of sexual assault victims include the following trials.

What to Say and Do

When children face obstacles in life, parents naturally want to help them find their way beyond the conflict. Sexual abuse and assault spur similar responses from mothers and fathers who want to heal the pain and ease the struggles their kids face recovering from maltreatment.

But the ramifications of sexual abuse and assault affect victims and families in ways that are hard to reconcile, especially for parents unfamiliar with the wide-ranging impacts of these traumatic events. Having never faced sexual issues head-on, parents struggle to find the right words and actions to ease their children's' suffering.

In order to help victims heal, parents must understand that it is okay not to have all the answers.

Healing is a process, which victims and their supporters grow-through together, learning effective strategies as they go. Simply lending a compassionate ear and being there as sounding boards for victims are tremendous contributions to the healing process, even if parents might not be able to offer the best 'clinical' counseling.

Most parents are blank slates of sexual abuse understanding, so helping their kids heal after incidents starts with gaining some level of knowledge about the impacts of sexual assault. Independent research, support groups and conversations with other secondary survivors each provide valuable insight into the issues faced by sexual abuse survivors and members of their support structures.

In addition to specific responses, parents furnish effective support by simply validating their children's feelings and expressions. Compassion and non-judgmental sentiments are critical features of the healing process, which parents are particularly well-qualified to provide.

Heal Thyself 

Mending the negative effects of sexual abuse and assault go beyond the victim, including caregivers and supporters assisting in recovery. To be most helpful to victims of assault, parents need to understand they are experiencing normal responses to these traumatic incidents, and allow themselves to heal alongside their child victims. 

Feeling overwhelmed and struggling with helplessness, for example, are consistent responses from parents of victims, who overcome their feelings of anger and devastation by acknowledging they have their own healing to do. 

Taking time for yourself enables you to help your child recover, so it is important to devote personal resources to helping yourself come to terms with the events as well.

Take breaks as a caregiver, enabling you to keep up with your own responsibilities, and giving your child an opportunity to reflect independently.

Support your well-being with healthy activities and get plenty of rest, even if self-care does not feel like a priority during your child's crisis.

Parents face unique challenges supporting children who have fallen victim to sexual abuse and assault. Together, families furnish mutual support that helps them grow beyond the negative impacts of sexual trauma. And while the victim's plight takes the front seat during recovery efforts, parents and other caregivers must also account for their own shock and personal wreckage.


Daphne Holmes contributed this guest post. She is a writer from and you can reach her at


  1. I wish this had happened for me, instead my mother didn't feel distress about the sexual abuse I suffered. She didn't believe me. If she felt distress it was because I told, I was the liar and demon. My stepfather was the golden one and she chose him over me. I still don't understand how this could happen.

  2. You wrote "Parents and other family members play important roles for victims of abuse striving to heal from the devastating impacts of their ordeals." For those of us who didn't have family members who believed us it was like being abused all over again. I'll never know how much I could have healed because I wasn't one of the lucky ones who were believed.

  3. Just like the other two comments I wasnt lucky enough to have parents who were upset that I was abused. They didnt believe it because they didnt believe it was possble for a boy to be abused. I suffered alone and it cost me everything.

  4. i was one who got supprt from family but i always felt so guilty and shame for putting my family thru it. sometimes i wish i would have not told cuz it broke me to see my mum so upset.

  5. Mother told me it was harder on her than on me because she felt helpless. As though I could help the situation at 5 years old. SMH

  6. Not feelin it wasnt my experience wish it happend that way


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