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Somerset Phoenix Project

Working alongside professionals and supporting children, young people and families affected by sexual abuse.

A specialist service supporting the development of professionals in Somerset. We are here to reduce the negative impact of child sexual abuse (CSA) on the lives of children and families living in Somerset

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The effects of sexual abuse on the rest of the family


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Sexual abuse doesn’t only affect the survivor of the abuse but also the rest of the people in their immediate or wider family. The ripples also can extend past the family to your place of work, the child’s nursery/school or college and possible further into the community, such as groups they attend. Others in the family might have feelings of;

  • anger/ shame
  • fear: ‘I don’t want to hear about this.’  ‘What if X talks about it to?’ ‘How will people react’
  • grief / loss / pain
  • shock / denial
  • blaming
  • confusion/ frustration
  • bewilderment / embarrassment
  • minimisation of the abuse
  • wanting to forget it
  • not wanting to talk about it so that it ‘goes away’
  • making accusations / blaming
  • making negative comments: ‘poor child.’ ‘how could you not have known about the abuse?’ ‘he/she probably just made it up.’ ‘he/she will get over it, kids are resilient.’

Their response may lead to changes in communication and relationships; and potentially cause family ruptures and/or breakdowns in relationship.  Some examples could include:

  • Family celebrations and holidays change as certain parts of the family no longer get together.
  • Family dynamics may change due to mistrust or the child’s reaction to certain members of the family. 
  • Extra care is taken that children are not left alone with other family members. 
  • Bathrooms and bedrooms are watched.
  • If the perpetrator lives close by a move may be necessary.
  • Loss of friendships

Who has perpetrated the abuse also is a factor in the effects on everyone.

Intra-familial sexual abuse is abuse perpetrated by a family member. The family member may not be a blood or step / half relative, but could be someone who is considered ‘part of the family’, such as a godparent, mum, dad, aunty, uncle, babysitter or very close friend.

This form of sexual abuse can put a tremendous strain on family relationships.  Some members may find it hard to believe the person could perpetrate abuse; others may take sides while others may struggle to manage their divided loyalties towards the abuser and the survivor.  It could also result in family separations leading to feelings of self-blame and guilt by yourself and your child.

You and your partner

It is important that you spend time together discussing each other’s feelings without other people in the family being around. It is ok to get external support for each of you and important that you get to talk to people who you trust and will listen to you. You child and the rest of the family need you both more than ever.

Siblings

It is important that you allow them time to share their thoughts and feelings, as you are doing with your child who has survived being sexually abused. They will have worries and possibly questions that need listening to and help in resolving or coming to terms with. They will need help with understanding that their brother or sister maybe be behaving differently. Possibly create moments in the day or at the weekend that they can do something nice together that isn’t too demanding or has high expectations of them both.

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