How do I get my daughter to disclose if she was abused?
My oldest daughter was sexually abused by her paternal grandmother. We have addressed the issue and she is currently in play therapy. We are in the process of the trial now. However, my youngest daughter is now developing issues (for about a year or so) with severe anger and hostility. This anger is directed mainly at me and my oldest daughter.
She does not know my oldest daughter was sexually abused, but she does know the grandmother hurt her sister (both children are now 7 and 8 years old). I am afraid she was also abused, but I do not know how to find out without telling her that her sister was abused or without "implanting" false memories. How can I find out or gain disclosure in a manner which would not implicate the abuse her sister endured?
Over the past two years she has wet the bed on several occasions (something her sister also did), is extremely angry and violent (hitting me and her sister, yelling, screaming, banging her head against the wall, lashing out at others) and has shown signs of low self-esteem. These issues trigger the notion and signs of sexual abuse. Now, neither girl has seen their paternal grandmother in three years—except for two occasions, which resulted in modifications of visitation orders (for their biological father) after I found out they had been around her.
Her behavior worries me. I wonder if she is not attempting to tell me something has indeed happened, but is afraid to actually disclose.
Initial reply from Darlene: I first want to say how very sorry I am to learn that your daughter was sexually abused and that your family is now in the throes of a court case. A trial is a very trying experience for adults; it can be even more traumatizing for children. With such emotional turmoil in the home, children see how pained the adults are in their lives, the adults they depend on for all their physical and emotional needs. Then they blame themselves for all that is wrong around them, because that is the nature of children. Whether or not your youngest daughter was also sexually abused, I cannot say. Her behaviour and physical signs may indeed be reflective of abuse, but they may also be how she is dealing with the situation at hand.
Children are extremely intuitive. They don't have the language or understanding capabilities, but their other senses are highly acute. They can read body language and emotional upheaval in someone they love in the blink of an eye. Children have radar for any kind of tension in the home...then they tell themselves, "It's all my fault."
But because children can't articulate what they are feeling, they often lash out at the very people they love the most.
Your eldest daughter is in play therapy. This type of therapy has been shown to be beneficial under such circumstances. Play therapy may also be a good idea for your youngest daughter. If not play therapy, some other form of counselling. The remainder of my answer to this Ask Darlene question "How do I get my daughter to disclose if she was abused?" can be found below.Email addresses, phone numbers, home addresses AND website/blog URLs in visitor comments are STRICTLY prohibited, and could result in being banned from making further comments on this site.