Re-Establishing Safety in Your Family

Many members of the household may feel that trust has been betrayed

  • Family members discovering that sexual abuse has occurred at home may have a sense that their home is not what they thought it was – a safe place for everyone. Or perhaps a general feeling of loss that their whole world is not what they thought it was. This can be an extremely difficult time for every family member, and things may feel like they are going to get worse before they get better. Sometimes, with the help of trained professionals, some of the pieces start to come together in ways that were not visible before, and things begin to feel better.

New rules don’t have to be punishment

  • There are ways of establishing safety within your home, and with the guidance from specialized professionals you can learn ways of supervising family members and making agreements and rules to keep everyone safe. New rules or arrangements should not be presented as punishment to any member of the family (including the person who abused), but rather as family agreements that will help everyone feel better about being together.
  • If the person who has been abusive is to be reunited with, or is living in the same household as the victimized child, careful consultation with a trained professional is critical to successful reunification of a family. They will help establish rules so that all children can feel protected and  the person with the sexual behavior issue is not put in a position where they will feel vulnerable or “tempted” to re-offend,

If Child Protective Services becomes involved

  • They will consider many factors when making a safety plan with a family. To determine whether everyone can remain in the home they may take into account the age of the person abusing (adult, child or adolescent), the likelihood that abuse will happen again, the ability of safe adults to provide adequate supervision, and the capacity of the person who has been abusive to follow any new rules and agreements.

If reports have not been filed, or if Child Protective Services does not investigate a report

  • You can still seek the advice of sex-specific therapists who can advise you on the best way to manage your household safely. Keep in mind that these professionals are mandated reporters and may be required to file reports in an attempt to establish safety.
  • Remember, just having an adult present in the home does not count as adequate supervision unless that adult understands exactly what it is they are responsible for. They must have specific information about the sexual behavior issues and what each person needs in order to stay safe.