When child sexual abuse
occurs, trust is violated. Not only the trust of the victim
, but mother
, other family members
, friends, and even community, feel the reverberating effects. The attachment
between mother, father, child, siblings, however, is most deeply affected, and the family
system may be irreparably harmed.
What is trust?
Merriam-Webster dictionary defines trust as:
Assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something.
One in which confidence is place.
A charge or duty imposed in faith or confidence as a condition of some relationship.
Online Dictionary defines trust as:
Firm reliance on the integrity, ability, or character of a person or thing.
To have or place confidence in.
Dictionary.com refers to trust as:
Reliance on the integrity, strength, ability, of a person or thing; confidence.
Child sexual abuse is a violation of trust and boundaries between the victim and the perpetrator
. If the abuse is incest
, and the perpetrator a parent, then the violation of trust is more egregious as the parent has a primary responsibility to maintain safety and protection
for the child. The parent also has the responsibility to model self-protection
, and issues of trust and trustworthiness are part of the ability to protect oneself from danger and from destructive relationships.
Trustworthiness is defined as: worthy of reliance or trust, dependable, honest, faithful, honorable, responsible, and accountable (Free Online Dictionary).
It is easy to see that someone who has sexually abused a child is not trustworthy. However, if the abuser says he is sorry and that it will not happen again, both mother and victim are often willing to maintain the relationship because of its meaning in their lives (See Attachment
, Betrayal Bond
, and Stockholm Syndrome
). If the perpetrator was father
of the child he may promise never to repeat the behavior. He may be a good father in many other ways. The mother's ability to view the perpetrator accurately because of her emotional attachment to him. If another family member
is the perpetrator, such as brother or grandfather, the same dilemma will be presented. If regret or remorse is expressed, can trust be reestablished?
It is this writer's opinion that an abuser will remain an abuser for the rest of his or her life. Similar to other behavioral addictions, behavior patterns and cycles have been established, with a perception of substantial reward in the behavior. Sexual abuse is rarely a one-time behavior. Patterns are present, and breaking those patterns is a difficult and often life-long process. Trusting the perpetrator does not hold him accountable for past behaviors or future risk to re-abuse. The concept of rebuilding trust in a perpetrator is not a reasonable thought process. Perpetrators have been convicted for sex crimes and believed to be in recovery and subsequently (25 plus years later) been re-convicted for an abuse charge.
Safety is key to the discussion of trust. In order to trust someone, they must demonstrate trustworthiness, including honesty, responsibility, integrity, and character. To protect children, mothers must maintain a reality-based view of the abuse, the perpetrator, and short-term
and long-term consequences
to the victim.