My Child Was Molested. Now What? – Help for Parents
By Cheryll Putt, LMFT
As a parent, you do everything you can to protect your kids. You teach them to wash their hands to avoid germs. You teach them to sit still at the table while eating to avoid choking. You teach them to look both ways before crossing the street to avoid accidents and injury. You teach them not to talk to strangers to avoid kidnapping and molest. However, sometimes despite the best efforts, horrible things can happen to children.
Statistically, 1 in 4 children are molested; and though they are taught about stranger danger to keep them safe from unwanted touches, 90% of them are molested by someone they know. This creates a unique sense of traumatization for both children and those who love them.
When a child is molested, both protecting parents and the child’s reactions include a range of emotions such as: anger, confusion, guilt, and shame. Parents may also experience shock and denial, while child victims often experience fear, low self-esteem, and view themselves as damaged or bad. When molest is done by a family friend or relative, everything is compounded with feelings of betrayal.
With molest, both mental and physical health is compromised. PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), panic and anxiety disorders, and depression are common. Physical ailments can also increase from the stress, causing more visits to the doctor’s office and an increase in lost school or work hours. To cope, parents and children may also engage in self-destructive behaviors such as: substance or alcohol abuse, cutting or other self-harming behaviors, and child victims may also become sexually promiscuous.
Though it seems overwhelming, the long-term effects of molest don’t have to be so severe. Both child victims and protective parents can survive this crisis. Finding support through friends and family, and participating in therapy can greatly diminish the negative emotional, physical, and mental difficulties.
One type of therapy in particular, EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing), is very effective for both children and adults in treating and resolving the effects of molest. EMDR targets the negative emotions, thoughts, and physical sensations that are connected to the molest experience and resolves them to a point where they are no longer a barrier to living a happy life. Once a person has processed the trauma through EMDR, the event can still be recalled but the reactions are no longer overwhelming and overpowering. Adults and children can gain mastery over destructive coping skills and begin to heal with effective, strengthened, supportive strategies.
The goal of EMDR is to take the fear, guilt, shame, the depression, and the damaged sense of self, and transform these manifestations into greater feelings of safety, ability to cope, and a sense of increased self-worth. Through EMDR a person can say, “This horrible thing happened but now I know I can keep myself safe. I’m a good person. I can keep moving forward, creating good possibilities in my life.” If you want to help your child begin the recovery process, please link here to contact me in San Diego — in the Rancho Bernardo area.
If you live in another locale, please seek a Certified EMDR Therapist near you. Check our Directory on ComprehensiveTherapyApproach.com to see if we serve your community. If we do not, please go to www.emdria.org to search for an EMDR-Certified EMDR therapist near your city or zip code.