When a Child Tells About Sexual Abuse
- How Should I Respond to the Child?
- What Should I Do after a Child Tells?
- How Can I Better Understand What My Child is Going Through?
- Possible Reactions of Non-Offending Parents and Caring Adults
- Is the Child Telling Me the Truth?
- What Might the Person Who Has Offended Be Thinking or Feeling after a Disclosure?
It is very hard to predict how the person who has abused will respond. Once the adult or youth who has been harmful is aware that this behavior has been exposed, they may experience a number of different reactions. These reactions can range from fear and remorse to outright denial. It usually important to consider the response of this individual as he/she is likely to be someone whom the victimized child (and his/her parents) knows and trusts.
How someone who has sexually abused a child might respond to a disclosure
Shame & Remorse
- Shame or fear about the disapproval others might have for them.
- Feelings of self-hatred or wanting to harm oneself, runaway, or “walk out”.
- Recognition of the harm they have done -- remorse.
- The desire to promise that the behavior will never happen again, with varying abilities to keep this promise.
- If this has happened before, intense frustration that they were unable to control their behaviors once again.
- Inability to take full responsibility for the abuse, and instead blames circumstances or other people.
- Attempts to justify or minimize the harm they have caused.
- Anger or resentment towards the victimized child for betraying their trust.
- If they are a child, fear of being taken from their home or losing the relationship with the child who has been harmed.
- If they are an adult, the fear of loss of relationship with the child and his/her family.
- Fear of legal consequences for their behaviors.
- Relief that the burden of harboring these secret thoughts and feelings has been lifted.
- Desire to get help for a problem they have hidden and struggled with for awhile.
- Relief that the abusing will finally stop.