I just found out that my former brother-in-law molested my youngest daughter.
Dear Stop It Now!,
My former brother-in-law molested my youngest daughter when she was 6 and 8 (she is 15 now). I just found out 10 minutes ago. My former wife knew about it a month and a half ago and NEVER told me. What do I do now? Did my former wife break the law?
Dear Concerned Parent,
First - I am so sorry that this is happening, and that your daughter was abused. And I'm also sorry that this is even more complicated because her mom had this information and didn't share it with you immediately.
Your first priority is of course your daughter's safety and well-being now. It sounds like this is something that happened in the past, but if there is any risk of ongoing contact with the man who abused her, let's make sure that discontinues and that there is no possibility of this happening. It's important that she know that not only is she not to be held accountable for anything that was done to her, that it is the job of the adults in her life to keep her safe.
Healing for Your Daughter
Sexual abuse impacts people in so many different ways, and for many people who have been abused, counseling has been very helpful to support them through dealing with some of their difficult and painful feelings and thoughts. Sexual abuse can affect people's behaviors, relationships and other aspects of their life. So, how is your daughter doing? Are you seeing signs of depression or are you concerned about risk taking behaviors, or maybe there are other concerns with her behaviors? Take a look at our Warning Signs in Children of Possible Sexual Abuse. If you do observe some of these signs, talk with your daughter about seeing a counselor. Here are some tools to help find a counselor that might be a good match with your daughter:
Please know that many children and youth who were sexually abused do heal and have lovely, fulfilling and happy lives. But it is so important that we respond to them with love, support and safety. For more information on what children need, take a look at this information from our website:
- Can a Child Recover from the Effects of Sexual Abuse?
- Why Therapy is So Important for a Child Who Has Been Abused
- What Kind of Therapist Should My Child See?
Whenever an adult learns about a child being sexually abused, we do want them to make a report to their local authorities, either the police or Child Protection Services (CPS). Many professionals and adults who work with youth are mandated to make a report of disclosed sexual abuse. And in fact, anyone can make a report of suspected abuse. I can’t say that your ex-wife committed a crime when she didn’t make this report. State’s laws are different, and she may indeed work in a field that mandates her to make a report and there may be other considerations that I’m not aware of. She may also have felt that as your daughter was no longer being abused, and hadn’t been abused in the recent past, that she was not required to report. It’s hard to say and I would encourage you to talk with her more, if possible – and to talk together with the focus of your daughter’s safety as the priority. You can ask about her rationale, and perhaps – she will be able to explain her logic, and then the two of you can talk together about what next steps you can take together.
So, I do recommend that you, and anyone with first-hand knowledge of what happened, make this report. To make this report where you live, find your state's reporting number or call Childhelp (800.422.4453) for assistance, and I wanted to share this additional information on Reporting as well. I don’t know whether this man is currently in other relationships or situations where children are being abused, and this is another good reason to notify authorities about what you know.
Support for Yourself
It is so very painful to learn about our child’s abuse. It’s important that you know you can also ask for support. I can well imagine the many difficult feelings you’re going through. I wanted to share this resource guide: Parents of Children Who Have Been Sexually Abused and also encourage you to seek your own personal and professional support.
I realize that you may have some more questions, there may be some specifics that I don’t know that might impact your next steps. Please do feel free to contact us back. I do hope this was helpful and wish for the very best for your family.
Stop It Now!
Last edited on: July 13th, 2020