Lesson 3 - Helping Children and Families When Abuse is Disclosed

The discovery/disclosure of child abuse is a major crisis that affects all family members. Reporting of the abuse to authorities sets in motion a number of legal and protective interventions that are anxiety-provoking to the child as well as to the parents. Becoming involved with these systems is often a confusing and perplexing experience for parents or caregivers, and exacerbates their worry and distress. During this initial “disclosure/panic” period, family members are often in need of intensive support.

In addition to reassuring the victim that he or she did the right thing by telling about the abuse, clergy members should advise parents/caregivers that they play a critical role in their child’s recovery. Emphasize that children are strongly influenced by their parents’ attitudes and reactions to the victimization. Also caution them that catastrophic displays of emotion will likely heighten the child’s distress. Although parents may have many strong and understandable feelings about their child’s experiences, they need to be given opportunities to express these feeling appropriately, in ways that support the child’s recovery.

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