I have recently come to the conclusion that my 23 year old daughter was molested by a close family member when she was a child. She has not verified my fears, so I can’t help her do anything about it. How do I get her to open up about it so she can begin to get help?
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- Always consult with your psychotherapist, physician, or psychiatrist first before changing any aspect of your treatment regimen. Do not stop your medication or change the dose of your medication without first consulting with your physician.
This is a tricky issue, discussing past molestations that may or may not have occurred. You’ve concluded that your daughter was molested, but you don’t say whether your evidence is so conclusive that there is no doubt that the alleged molestation occurred in the manner you believes it did occur. This is a key point. If there is any doubt about the facts surrounding the alleged molestation then bringing up the issue with your daughter might confuse or embarrass your daughter, or might be construed by your daughter as pressure from you to act as though the molestation occurred in the manner you think it did when it actually did not occur that way. Through a phenomena called ‘false memory syndrome’ it’s even possible that your daughter might come to believe that a molestation did occur as you decribes it when in fact it did not occur that way. It’s therefore important to be careful with your statements and accusations as new unintended damage can be done inadvertantly if you happen to be wrong in assumptions. Even if your conclusion is accurate, it may be very uncomfortable for your daughter to be confronted with the knowledge that you know about it. All in all, it is perhaps better if your daughter gets to choose whether or not to confide in you or anyone else regarding such a sensitive topic.
p> In any event, it is certainly a good idea that you communicate love and acceptance to your daughter so that she understands that you will not look at her as ‘damaged goods’ or otherwise feel ashamed of her if she does decide to confide. You might also make it known that alternative trust-worthy adults (such as licensed therapists) can be available if she needs to confide something that she is uncomfortable sharing with you. Particularly when it has occurred repeatedly over a long period of time, molestation can play havoc with self-esteem and interfere with optimal psychological development. If your daughter does come to confide in you that molestation did occur, it is a good idea to offer her the possibility of psychotherapy as a forum in which to address any issues she is struggling with, in addition to talking about it with you. If she only wants to talk with a therapist or doesn’t want to talk at all, that is okay. It can be helpful to discuss the impact of past traumas on present day life, but sometimes it can be harmful to do so as well. Your daughter’s wishes in the manner should guide your decision making process.