When Your Child Reports a Molestation
My Story: Advice to Parents
This is a very serious topic. I personally went through this experience and I know that, as hard as it is to revisit, it's important to write about this issue in order to help others facing such a crisis.
One of my four children reported a sexual molestation to me the day after turning four years old. How did a four-year-old report this? It started with a dog. My child was petting a dog inappropriately, asking the dog if it felt good. When I questioned my child, I was told an adult had touched my child in this way. The adult accused was my ex-husband, the child's father.
No parent wants to hear this kind of news. It means shock, sadness, anger, so many emotions, and the alarm of having to do something about it. Some parents might ignore such a report because of the embarrassment, challenge, facing the hostility of the system, the unlikelihood that the case will be proven, and the mere fact the child will now have many emotional problems for years to come. While the emotions are so intense, it is crucial the child doesn't see you over-react. The child is under a great deal of stress even to share about the experience and must be emotionally protected at all costs.
At the time I made the report to police (away from the child), court issues were going on with my ex over past-due child support. While I couldn't imagine these issues would be inter-mingled, I believed my child. I knew her father abused me physically and sexually during our marriage. This is why I left when our child was only a year old. At the time, he agreed to only 20% visitation, but I had my concerns as to whether he would one day abuse our child, too.
Why did I allow him to see our child at all, you ask? The court system does not care whether a husband abused his wife. They will NOT protect the child UNTIL it is PROVEN the child is abused. Great. Let the child suffer a lifetime of emotional consequences from even one traumatic event by a parent before protecting the child AFTER the fact?! Well, it appeared my worst fears came true.
Amazingly, the police that took my report advised against taking my child for a medical exam that day. I was told to schedule a routine physical appointment the following Monday without telling the hospital why. Upon giving my child a bath, I noticed bruises on my child's inner thigh. Fingerprint bruises. On Monday I called the doctor to schedule a "routine exam". My child couldn't be seen for three weeks! Therefore, I had to tell them my child had bruises and had reported a sexual molestation. I wanted the bruises documented. I didn't care what the police advised me.
The hospital then contacted CPS. The CPS supervisor contacted me and took it from there. A forensic physical exam documenting the bruises with photos, and a forensic psychological exam (MDIC) were conducted. Any DNA evidence was destroyed because of bathing my child. The photos didn't turn out. The bruises dissipated. My child didn't share enough at the forensic counseling session to convince anyone. No concrete evidence. The case was closed.
When my child told a neighbor about the abuse, another report was made by the neighbor. Coincidentally, our court hearing was scheduled the next day with my ex. He somehow conjured CPS to get involved and side with him that my "unfounded" reports were merely keeping him from getting full custody of his child. Custody determines child support and since our hearing had to do with support, his next move involved increasing his visitation. Per advice from two family law attorneys, I didn't bring this allegation into the courtroom; he did. I was shocked to hear the voice of the very CPS supervisor that ordered the forensic exams on the speaker phone with the judge in the courtroom state that 'if there were any further allegations made, CPS would consider it as child abuse by the mother, and that our child needed to spend as much time with the father as possible.' He was awarded temporary 50/50 custody!
During the next three months waiting for the follow-up hearing, our child began wetting unnaturally. I didn't know this was a symptom of sexual abuse. I began documenting everything. I took my child to counseling and was told the County would pay for it. Even though my child told the counselor what happened and a report was made to CPS, the file was closed again and the counseling bills were sent to me. I appealed those bills and ended up in a State hearing. At that hearing, it was deemed my child did indeed suffer this criminal act. The biggest credibility I had was the fact I raised three other children and did not have a past history of making false allegations. Though the perpetrator could not be proven in this case, the State caused the County to cover all costs associated with counseling for my child, past and future.
I presented the behavioral log and State evidence to the custody mediator. The nurse that was present at the initial forensic physical exam also made a statement to the Court regarding the bruises she saw. When the follow-up custody hearing was held, the court then reduced the father's custody to 30%. My hands were still tied in fully protecting our child.
Since then, our child made a second report (now alleging someone else while in the care of the father). Another investigation ensued. When I shared this with a family member, not wanting to go through this hostile system alone again, she took control. However, her reaction escalated into full-blown tyrany, exaggerating the facts in order to get government involved. The head of CPS received extreme pressure from State litigators because of this. I then had to contact the head of CPS directly to diffuse the chaos. My log saved the integrity of the situation. My family member, unbeknownst to her, would have driven CPS to take my child away!
Now, six years later, my child remembered the name of one of the molesters. Though there was yet another investigation, the case was closed due to lack of evidence. My child continues to go to counseling, suffers weight gain issues and social anxiety.
Why do molesters choose children? Because children are not mentally and emotionally developed enough to convict their perpetrators. More times than not, the abuser will get away with it. One in four children, if not more, is a victim of sexual molestation in America. I have four children and unfortunately, those stats were true. It is most likely a higher number of children are abused because of the many cases that go unreported.
After analyzing the "timing" of so many child molest cases I am almost to the point of wondering if non-custodial parents purposely abuse the child(ren), knowing the custodial parent will make the report(s), which can then be strategically used against the reporting parent to gain custody! Abusers aren't about the interest of the child; it's all about the almighty child support obligation. Can abusers be so calculated and evil?
My advice to parents is as follows:
1. Report the sexual abuse to police away from your child. Do NOT show reactivity to your child at all costs. It's important that your child doesn't feel shame or blame.
2. If the police do not contact CPS, do it yourself and ask that the child be given a forensic physical exam immediately. If your child has any bruising or physical evidence visible, take photos yourself! One thing you must remember: Do NOT share with CPS or anyone as to whether you were a victim of molestation yourself. They will use this information against you ~ that somehow, your emotional stress has now been transferred to your child's current situation.
3. If you have court issues going on with a suspected ex, don't inter-mingle the issues in the courtroom. If he does, his ulterior motives may become evident to authorities. Based upon expensive legal advice, you must be calm and reasonable at all costs; don't go overboard with emotional distress. Keep in mind the law states a suspect is innocent until proven guilty. You may feel like you're being more victimized by the system than your child, even to the point of losing custody, but this is only temporary. Stay focused and know there will be battles, but the truth will win the war.
4. Do not involve family members or friends that could fuel the situation. The more angry outbursts there are, the weaker your case. Remember, anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. I even had my best friend say something so hurtful that it caused a break in our friendship for over a year. She said, "You're giving your child to a child molester!" (speaking of the fact I had to honor visitation in spite of the allegations). Nothing could have hurt me more as a mother.
5. Keep a LOG of everything, no matter how insignificant it may seem.
6. Make sure your child gets counseling as soon as possible. You might need personal counseling as well. See if the County will cover these expenses for you. If they don't at first, once your child shows emotional evidence of trauma via the counselor, you may receive reimbursement for all expenses by the County.
While there may be no due justice by the end of your fight, your child needs to eventually know you did everything you could (when the child is old enough).
I wrote this hub, though it was hard to write, for the sole purpose of advising parents and encouraging them to listen to the child, report, fight with wisdom, protect the child from emotional distress and provide counseling. Counseling is of utmost importance, because a traumatic event such as this doesn't just go away. Your child will suffer the consequences the rest of his/her life. Get your child into counseling as soon as possible.
It's amazing to me that convicted sexual perpetrators only go to jail for maybe a year. At least Megan's Law provides the names of these criminals, but the problem is far greater than we realize. Perpetrators don't have to pay as high a price as the child does for the damage they cause. If they did, our prisons would have waiting lines hundreds of miles long.
Talk to your children about what is appropriate and inappropriate touching. Keep the lines of communication open. Most predators are people your children KNOW. Don't ignore this issue, as much as you may want to. May Angels watch over our children and I pray my readers never suffer such a nightmare. God bless.