Dealing with the aftermath of a sexual abuse disclosure by a child is extremely difficult. Caregivers feel a wide range of emotions and are under a lot of pressure. They have to try to figure out how to support their child while trying to determine how to navigate all of the systems they suddenly have to work with, such as the Department of Child Services and the criminal justice system. Caregivers have to work with all of these new people, while still struggling to decipher their own emotions and how they are going to cope.

Many caregivers do not understand the dynamics of sexual abuse or how common it is. They often blame themselves for not knowing what was happening. They don’t understand what to do to best help their children. Caregivers often have misguided perceptions of therapy and do not understand how therapy can help themselves and their children.

Caregivers often feel lost, confused, and alone after their child discloses sexual abuse. They often feel overwhelmed with all of the responsibilities that are thrust upon them. A support group for caregivers of children who have been sexually abused is a necessity to help them see they are not alone. They will see there are other people who are experiencing similar emotions and can give input and encouragement to each other.

JACY House has developed a support group for caregivers of children who have been sexually abused, which is adapted from the Washington Coalition of Sexual Assault Program’s Circle of Hope Parent Support Group. The group meets weekly for eight consecutive weeks. It is open to a maximum of ten participants at a time.

The eight sessions are broken down as follows:

Session 1: Beginning, Introductions

Session 2: Overview of child sexual abuse

Session 3: Caregiver coping and communication

Session 4: Effects of sexual abuse on children and teenagers

Session 5: Effects of sexual abuse on other family members

Session 6: Difficult child behaviors

Session 7: Navigating the systems and dealing with the outside world

Session 8: Closing, maintaining hope for the future

There is a goal to be accomplished at each group session. Every session will begin with a Check In activity, to orient and focus everyone to the session. Each session has at least one Activity relating to that session’s subject to involve the participants and spark discussion. This is followed by a Learning and Discussion section in which participants are educated about the subject and prompted to discuss what they have learned and what questions they have. This is followed by a Self-Care Activity, which promotes caregivers taking time to ensure they are taking care of themselves physically and emotionally. Each session ends with Check Out, which wraps up the session and helps prepare participants for the next week.

Contact one of the Child and Family Advocates at JACY House if you or someone you know is interested in participating in the support group.

Caregiver Support Group