If you are thinking of speaking up about a possible situation of child sexual abuse, you may face practical concerns of how this will impact your family. Here are answers to some common questions people face when deciding how to take action on concerning behaviors.
Most of us are know that speaking up about abuse may throw a family into turmoil, and that some important relationships can be changed or lost. It can be devastating to think that by speaking up we can lose people whom we care about, love or depend on. But if we don’t speak up we are making the decision that our adult relationships are more important to us than the safety of a vulnerable child. Many adults recognize that they must be willing to risk a relationship with a spouse, family member or friend in order to intervene on a child’s behalf. Although it’s hard to realize during a crisis, families can recover over time, and many relationships, although changed, can and do heal.
Because of the current political and legal climate, and attitudes that exist towards people who are suspected, accused or convicted of child sexual abuse, some people who may want to reach out for help, will not. The prospect of “losing their whole life” and everything they know as a result of seeking help is terrifying. Realizing the risk they face of being charged, convicted or listed on the Sex Offender Registry is enough to keep people who have abused or are at risk of abusing, as well as their family members, underground. Sadly, the threat that the person abusing will go to jail is often presented to the child or other family members as a way to keep them silent.
Although the prospect of legal consequences are frightening, being able to take responsibility for the abuse is the first step towards recovery for the abuser. When a victim can see that the person who has abused them is holding him/herself accountable, this can have a positive impact on the victim’s recovery. It is sometimes easy to lose sight of the fact that when someone who abuses a child comes forward, the abuse stops, specialized treatment can start and healing can begin.
When abuse occurs within a family a practical consideration for many adults is how the family will be impacted financially. Will the cost of therapy be covered by insurance? If parents need to separate, how will they pay for the additional cost of housing? Would financial supports be cut off from the protective parent? If the family’s breadwinner is charged and convicted and removed, how can the family hold together without that person’s income? These are hard questions with no simple answers.
Concern about possible financial troubles can sometimes delay a parent’s protective response. Privately, some adults may feel selfish for considering potential financial hardships when sexual abuse occurs within the family – yet it is a practical matter that must also be managed. The priority is the emotional and physical safety of children who can only be protected by the adults who love them. Many families endure financial hardships out of a commitment to protect their children.