Caregivers of victims also have a variety of emotions following a disclosure of abuse. Common emotions experienced by caregivers are guilt, sadness, shock, anger, and even depression. If the abuser is also a caregiver, there may be worries about housing and economic issues that must be considered. Although the caregiver’s emotions may be strong, it is important that the child believes that the caregiver can handle the disclosure or the results. The child, if he/she feels that the emotions created by the disclosure are too intense, may withdraw thinking that this will lessen the strain on the caregiver. It is vital that the caregiver speak to another competent adult, NOT the child, about their complex and strong feelings. It may be helpful for the parent to seek treatment with a counselor who is experienced in working with the families of victims.
Caregivers also must separate their own emotions from those of the victim. Caregivers can help the victim express his/her own feelings about the abuse. This can be especially difficult for caregivers who experienced abuse themselves as a child. Watching a loved one go through abuse may bring up old emotions. It is important that the caregiver resolves these feelings with a competent adult or counselor and NOT the child.
Support groups with other caregivers of victims can also be very helpful during this time. Information on groups is available at your local children’s advocacy center.