my cousin was molested by a family member

dear heather,
I have a cousin, and her step-dad molested her while she was asleep. She told her mother and her mom kicked him out, but a week later she took him back in.

My cousin is very scared that he still looks at her and she doesn’t know what to do. Neither do I. We have been together since we were little and she’s like my sister, I love her so much. What should I do? Should I call the police? I really need your help.

You are right to be concerned about your cousin. Many children and teens are too afraid of their relatives’ reaction to come forth with such disclosures, so she took a really brave step in telling her mother about the abuse. It’s too bad that her mother ultimately chose to ignore the situation.

Perhaps in telling you, your cousin is asking for your help. She is still living in a physically and psychologically dangerous situation that is likely to have a lasting effect on her life. The abuse might even resume after a time, so the sooner the situation is dealt with the better.

There are several options. The first is to lend a supportive ear and to encourage your cousin to report the abuse. A school psychologist or counselor is a good place to start–counselors and social work professionals are usually required to report such abuse. Volunteer to go with your cousin if she thinks it will help.

If she is concerned that a good deal of time has passed since the molestation, remind her that most children and teens who have been victims of abuse do not come forward right away. This is typical in situations in which there is a lot of shame on the part of the victim and also a fear that the adult abuser or other relatives may punish them.

Refer her to community organizations such as the United Way, rape crisis centers, or hotlines such as the Childhelp USA National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-CHILD–they may provide the information and support she needs to make a decision about what to do.

If you choose to report the abuse yourself, you can also call these hotlines or local organizations to find out about the appropriate reporting agencies in your community or visit the school counselor for advice. It would probably be best to let your cousin know that you are doing it. It would be ideal to report the incident with her acknowledgement and consent, but if she does not consent you must decide whether to act anyway. Your relationship may be tested, but the priority is your cousin’s mental and physical well-being.

Take care.

take care,

Posted in: Help Me Heather, Sucky Emotions, Sucky Emotions
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