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For Parents of a Sexual Assault Survivor

If your daughter or son confides in you that she or he has been sexually assaulted, you may experience a number of conflicting emotions, such as anger, guilt, self-blame, betrayal, and helplessness. As a parent, it is normal to feel any or all of these emotions at once. Your daughter or son has put a lot of trust in you to share such a sensitive experience, and perhaps without realizing it, she or he has placed a lot of responsibility on you as well. Some common feelings you may have include:

  • Concern for the survivor: How to help the survivor deal with the trauma.
  • Helplessness: Parents may wish they could have protected their child and want to fix the situation so that life can get back to normal.
  • Feeling out of control: Just as the survivor is feeling the effects of the loss of control in her or his life, so do parents.
  • Wanting to harm the offender: This is a natural reaction, but not a realistic one. This creates further crisis and your child might feel the need to protect the offender, especially if the offender is known to the survivor.
  • Loss of trust: Because the survivor needs time to work on trust issues, the loss of trust affects any relationship in which he or she is involved.
  • Guilt: Parents often feel guilty about their own feelings of anger at how the crisis is disrupting their family.
  • Difficulty expressing feelings: Parents may feel that, because they aren't the ones who experienced the assault, they should be able to deal with their feelings and "just get over it."

It is important for parents to realize that their feelings are valid. Everyone who is directly involved with the survivor will be affected by his or her sexual assault. As you care for your child, it is also important that you take care of yourself and seek a form of emotional support.

General Guidelines for Helping Your Child

  • Believe your child.
  • Don't blame your son or daughter.
  • Let your child ask you for what he or she needs, and try not to assume that you will automatically know.
  • Seek outside resources and support for yourself.