Getting Through Child Abuse
There’s no manual that tells you what getting through child abuse is supposed to look or feel like. No one tells you that you’ll be angry and sad at the same time, or that those emotions will fluctuate on a daily basis. You feel like it’s your fault and that makes you even angrier. “What if’s” pile up on a daily basis.
Approximately four months ago, a situation came to light in our home that I thought I’d never have to deal with. I never thought I’d be calling the Department of Children’s Services and explaining a child abuse story, much less one about my family. One of my children was abused by another family member while they were in our home. We have gone through all the proper channels to report the incident and my child is in therapy. The abuser’s situation is complicated and messy, and I cannot speak for what will happen to them.
This was never supposed to happen in our home!
My home is supposed to be a loving, safe haven from the rest of the world.
We filter in information about the outside world and news as we feel our kids are old enough to process the emotions associated with that news. We’ve always taught our kids that sometimes, terrible things happen to good people and we’ve let them see bits and pieces of what others in the world go through on a daily basis. But THIS, this was NEVER supposed to happen in our home.
But it did…
If your family is getting through child abuse, here are some things you can do to help you get through your situation.
Pray and pray and pray, and then pray some more.
Somedays, when I pray, I don’t even say “Amen” because I know I’ll be praying again in just a minute or two, and I won’t be done until my head hits the pillow. I pray all the time, and I’m even praying while I’m typing this blog post.
Because I can’t carry myself through this. I NEED help from an almighty God that has my family’s future in His hand. He loves us and knows what’s best for us, and no matter what happens, I know that he’s got our back. God knows my name, my husband’s name, and the names of all my children. He alone knows the path he has laid out for us in this life.
I don’t know why this has happened in our family. I know that I don’t blame God for it. There are lots of other things I blame, but not God. He is good! He will help my family get through this, and He will get the glory for it when we come out on the other side.
I hold tight to this verse.
“Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.” ~Psalm 139:16
He has a plan and I trust His plan is for my family to prosper. He did the work to form our days before we ever took our first breath. Why would He not want to see us through?
I pray for the other person involved in our situation. I pray they haven’t hurt anyone else and they get the help they need.
Be truthful with your children.
Talk to your children about what has happened. Be tactful in how you speak to them depending on the severity of what’s happened and their ages but be truthful. Let them ask questions and give enough information to inform and satisfy their curiosity.
Nothing can be done about what’s happened, but kids should be given an appropriate education on the subject.
We’ve used this technique on everything – curse words they heard someone say, inappropriate gestures they saw in public, and why we saw someone getting arrested on the side of the road. We tell them the truth on a level they can understand.
We explained to our children that the family member had acted inappropriately toward their sibling and they wouldn’t be allowed back in our home.
Life as normal?
Carry on with life as normal. This is the hard part. I won’t lie to you.
Life is no longer normal because someone disrupted your “normal.” They’ve brought in outside influences on your child and you’re afraid it just might happen again.
Take measures that put you at ease that this won’t happen again, come up with a plan, and carry on.
Children thrive on routine, so stick to your normal routine. Do things you would ordinarily do. This helps with normalcy for you too.
I break down on occasion, I’m human. Crying is acceptable. Grief is normal. Then, I pick myself back up and move forward. I can’t go back and change anything, only moving forward will help heal our wounds.
Keep the lines of communication open.
If you’ve had a similar situation happen in your home, you’re wondering what else your child now knows that they aren’t telling you.
Kids will sometimes pull away as they get older. That is a normal part of the aging process, and part of trying to establish independence, but even when they act like they don’t, they still need their parents. We still need to give guidance, even when they act like they don’t want it.
There are stages in a child’s life where they just don’t want to talk as much. That’s the time when we need to get them talking. This is another area where you’ll need tact. Start by taking an active interest in one of their hobbies to get their attention.
As homeschool parents, I thought we had a pretty good handle on this anyway, but my child never mentioned anything to me about the abuse until I asked. I was afraid something else had happened that wasn’t being talked about. So, we’ve done a lot of talking as a family.
Don’t tell yourself lies.
You’re surviving a tough situation. You don’t have a bad family. Your family isn’t ruined any more than my child is ruined.
My child had a terrible experience that took something from them, that doesn’t make them ruined. Your family had a terrible experience that took something from you, that doesn’t make your family ruined.
You do a lot of talking and you get through it. YOU WILL GET THROUGH IT!
That’s what families do. They stick together, and they go through things TOGETHER.
We aren’t alone.
In 2016, the number of child abuse cases in the United States was 780,292. Of those, 62,842 were in Tennessee. Those cover a spectrum of abuse – neglect, medical neglect, psychological abuse, physical abuse, and sexual abuse. There are also other, and unknown categories listed in the Child Maltreatment 2016 report from the U.S. Department of Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Administration on Children, Youth and Families, Children’s Bureau. You can find this report and more at the Child Welfare Information Gateway.
We aren’t alone. As parents of abuse victims, there are places we can go to help make sense of all that we are going through. To learn more about abuse and exhibited behaviors, you’ll find some good information at ChildHelp.org. If you suspect child sexual abuse, RAINN (Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network) provides access to help on their website. MOSAC (Mothers of Sexually Abused Children) is a great source of information and was founded by a licensed therapist and mother of a sexual abuse victim.
A while back, I wrote a post about homeschooling when life is hard. It’s titled Homeschooling is Hard…Sometimes. If you are going through something hard right now, I encourage you to read it and give yourself some grace. Another post that may help you is 10 Things to Remember When Life Happens.
Praying for you and yours!