Incest victim: Why don’t they believe me?

Dear Rhonda and Dr. Cheri,

I am a woman in her fifties and I was a victim of incest from ages 4 until 11 years old. My grandpa finally admitted he did it before he died.

My grandma knew about it, but said no one would believe us. She told us that we would get over it and have happy lives.

My parents did not believe me.

I did not live a happy life until I went to therapy a few years ago.

My parents believed my grandpa when he finally told the truth, but they acted like his admission was an apology (it wasn’t) and I should get over it.

I spent my whole life feeling badly because people didn’t believe me. Of course, I didn’t believe in myself, either. The shame I felt nearly drove me to suicide.

If I had been raped by a complete stranger, my parents would have believed me.

If a child says they were sexually assaulted, the parents need to believe them or the parents are responsible for ruining their child’s life.

Why didn’t they believe me?

Not a liar

Dear Not,

Yes, parents should believe their children when they claim they have been sexually abused. There is no benefit for children to lie about being abused.

There are rare exceptions, but kids don’t lie about incest for negative attention. There are many harmful consequences children face for telling the truth about abuse by a trusted family member.

Consider the following:

Incest takes place in one out of ten homes;

Research indicates that 46 percent of children who are raped are victims of family members

Sixty percent of victims who reveal episodes of assault are not believed by their families;

Incest does not discriminate by socio-economic status, religious faith, or race; and,

Incest remains an extremely under-reported crime.

Adults don’t always believe children’s claims because:

Adults don’t believe incest happens as frequently as it does;

Children are less likely to accurately recall details about what happened to them;

Children can’t communicate well about things they don’t understand, such as incest; and, It’s hard for parents to believe that a trusted family member could behave in such an immoral manner.

You said parents are responsible for ruining their children’s lives, if the children aren’t believed. While we understand the enormous difficulty involved, we believe that victims have to choose not to stay a victim.

This is the choice you made when you went to therapy. You chose to define yourself in a loving, valued, and worthy way.

Rhonda and Dr. Cheri

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