I understand that this is probably, by far, the scariest thing that has ever happened to you. You may not be sure if you will be arrested or charged with a sexual crime. You are probably consumed with thoughts of “what might happen” and “who will find out”. You may have already noticed a split in your family system, with some relatives being very supportive of you, and others who have distanced themselves from you (especially if the alleged victim is in the family system).
You are at a very significant stage in the overall process. The decisions you make in the next few weeks or months can either help to heal yourself, your family, the victim, and the victim’s family; or they can create further tension and much more pain for everyone. Many times, if the abuse is in a family system (abuser is a stepfather, and victim is the stepson or cousin), families will attempt to resolve the problem within the family itself. Sometimes, the victim’s mother or father would like to substantiate and validate whether something has happened to their son or daughter. They may also want the abuser to obtain counseling so that this does not occur again in the future.
The problem arises when the parents confront the alleged abuser, and the abuser denies any involvement, gets angry at the child and the parents, and decides to become defensive and isolative towards the victim's family. This is usually the time when the parent's feel they have no other recourse than to contact the police.
You probably know all too well what you have and have not done, but your mind has created various defense mechanisms to help preserve you when stress arises. One of these offenses, denial, can be very powerful, and it is usually the first defense that arises. The denial certainly serves a purpose for you (self preservation), however, you must understand how the denial can also destroy you. Your first reaction will be to deny any involvement, deny a sexual motive, deny how many times it happened, deny the progression, and so forth. Following the first time you are asked whether you have done something, take time to think by yourself for a while. Try and talk to people who you do not feel threatened by, and your denial will not be so profound (this can be a friend, therapist, attorney, mother, father, etc.). Many times the men and women I treat will first reach out to the Internet, where they may feel safest. Obtain all the information you can on treatment, laws, consequences, attorneys, and limits of confidentiality. Reach out to someone who you feel you can tell at least some of the truth to!
Trust will be a very difficult issue for you. Who can you trust, who you cannot not trust, how much, how little (also, keep in mind that the victim will have the VERY SAME PROBLEMS WITH TRUST). You have absolutely no reason to trust the words that I have written, because you probably have never met me or spoken to me. But, after reviewing my website, my words, my compassion and willingness to help, reach out to others who you can trust. Let me tell you this, by far the most stressful period for an abuser is the court process, and then depending on if jail time is given, the first two weeks in jail. This, of course, would only apply for those who have taken responsibility for their actions and for the abuse. For those who choose not to disclose and not take responsibility, and to maintain the secrecy that has brought them to their knees, your life will most likely continue to be full of significant stressors, deceptions, and pain. Until the secrecy is broken, and until you take responsibility for your behaviors, your life will most likely continue to haunt you. In any case, the decision you make will affect the lives of many people. During this time, I know you are more consumed with yourself, your future, and your safety; however, attempt to see everything through the victim’s eyes for a moment. You probably did not physically harm the child through force. You were probably very nice to the child, gave attention, gave presents, nurtured the child. The child then, may have some very conflicted feelings toward you, and what happened between the two of you. He or she may not want to see you in jail, but they probably do want you to get treatment. They may not want the relationship with you to end, but they do want the sexual behavior to stop, and never happen again.
Whatever transpires, or has transpired in the past, please do not be angry at the child. Your first impulse may to be furious with the child, the child’s immediate family, law enforcement, and the judicial system. In my experience working exclusively with abusers and victims, most abusers are not “crazy”, “sick”, or “sociopathic”. They tend to be men, women, and adolescents who have also had a very difficult life, full of rejection, isolation, and non-acceptance. Contrary to public belief, many sexual abusers do have a heart, and the abusive behaviors they choose to engage in do bother them (sometimes, right after the abuse, so much so to make them feel suicidal). They do not consciously make the choice to abuse to actively hurt, humiliate, or destroy the child’s life. With this in mind, try as hard as you can to be the person who cares about life, cares about children, cares about causing pain to others. Put yourself and your fears second, for just a moment, to think about how this is going to effect the child’s life. Understand that the choices you are going to be making in the next few weeks can make a significant difference in the child’s life, your life, and both families.
More importantly for you, you probably have been living a very stressful life for many years. The action of the abuse finally being told may have felt like a thousand tons of bricks being pulled off your back, because the stress is “finally over” (however, new stressors, as you know, have taken its place). This is the time when you have to be the most courageous that you can be. If you have found a therapist who specializes in helping abusers, and you feel that you can trust the therapist, take chances with him or her.
Approximately 90% of all clients referred to me for sexual abusive behaviors deny their abuse. Within four weeks of seeing me in therapy, discussing their lives, learning to trust one another, that percentage goes down to about 10 percent. If I (or any therapist) can make you feel comfortable and safe, and if I can give you solid reasons to trust me (and I must prove this to each client), you will most likely begin to disclose those secrets, and take responsibility. From that point on, you will notice how much better you feel week to week. You will open yourself to new ideas, new skills, and new behaviors. The trust that has been broken between you and others (family, friends, wives, husbands, children) can now begin to heal itself, with hard work, of course. I tell my clients to use me!! Use me for my education, my experience, my clinical abilities, my ability to make others understand certain things, my ability to heal people. If my clients decide to take full advantage of me and my services, they will gain a great deal and be on their way to leading productive, healthy lives once again.
No one will ever take away your ability to make decisions (though, under certain conditions people can make this much more difficult). During your court involvement, you will have to make a number of decisions that will affect many people; and those decisions can lead the way to recovery (for your victim and yourself). Or, the decisions you make can continue the secrecy and shame, increase the stress, and create anger (again, for both your victim and yourself).
If you spent the time visiting my website, and reading this material, then you have taken the first step, and you are showing signs of motivation for changing. DO NOT STOP THERE! Keep asking questions, reading, and talking. Remember, you will always find people who will believe lies, and who may even feed into those lies; but just as importantly, you will always find people who care about you regardless of your past mistakes; who will try their best to help you; who will support you!
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