Support for the family of survivors of csa
It seems to be a very under researched subject. How do we offer support to the parents, spouses, siblings and children of the victims of childhood sexual abuse ?
We recognised very early on in this process that this was a major issue because in many cases of C.S.A. the parents are the totally innocent and ignorant main reasons for non-disclosure.
‘How can I tell my mum her brother abused me ? It will tear the family apart’.
‘I said nothing because I thought my dad would kill him. My dad’s no good to me in prison’.
‘After all these years I can’t tell my mum now. The guilt will finish her’.
The abuser knows all this. It is the reason they feel they are invincible. The closer the child/parent relationship, the more chance the abuser has of non-disclosure, very often forever.
If and when the parent does find out (often at an advanced age) that their child was abused as a child it is inevitable that they will feel guilty and they will feel helpless so it is further inevitable that they may need therapy to cope with this new knowledge.
The same may go for spouses and partners (particularly in long term relationships). It may be that they feel that they have been unsupportive or lacked understanding. They may feel guilty that had they had the knowledge they would have understood their partner better. The feeling of sadness that their partner has suffered in silence may be very difficult for them to deal with.
Older children will have similar feelings in terms of sadness and younger children may be confused, know that something has changed but not what.
And right there is the direct support network that the survivor needs and they now have to find the additional strength to support…. How do they do that with all this new knowledge and negative, energy sapping emotions ?
Just as important is that a failure of the parent/guardian to cope well with their new knowledge is that the survivor really could do without all their fears coming to fruition. The last thing they need on their own road to recovery is to have to worry about their family, their support network and what their disclosure has done to them.
So therapy for family members is an offering that simply has to be there if only to asist and supplement survivor therapy…….