Last month my daughter came to me, saying that her father, my husband, raped her. He was at work so I packed up the kids and took them to my sister’s house. I called him to have him meet me at the grocery store parking lot so that we could discuss what she told me. At the time I was hoping it was a misunderstanding for that she was angry with him for grounding her that morning. He was visibly upset when I told him of her claims. I was understanding to his distress and told him that I would stand by him through all of this, but that it was imperative that I take her to the hospital to be examined as she said that he had raped her the previous morning. I told him that it would clear any doubt that I had against him and it would clear him of any wrong doing. He reluctantly agreed. The children and I remained at our sister’s house for a few days when he called me and asked if I could meet with him. I did and he confessed. I asked him to come with me to an appointment I had with the detective assigned to the case to turn himself in, which he did.
I went a month without speaking to him. I packed all our belongings, sold what I couldn’t fit in the car and went back to my home state.
Last week I finally heard from him. I feel horrible, because I don’t want him to disappear entirely from my life. He has no contact with any of the children until it is court approved. I don’t know how to accept that the man I loved was capable of doing something so horrible. We have talked 3 times, each time it was to help me gain access to accounts related to finances. I told him I needed him to get therapy and to focus on fixing whatever it is that allowed for him to do this. I feel bad that I still love him. I feel like I should hate him.
I will be starting therapy soon as will my daughter and her brothers.
You did not ask a specific question so I will provide a general response. This is a very challenging situation. You did the right thing in the beginning. You removed your children, kept them safe and informed the authorities. Those were not easy choices, but they were the right choices and I commend you for having made them.
It would be foolhardy to believe that he could be around the children in a safe manner. He’s a risk to them. He raped your daughter. He could do it again and he could victimize the other children in your home. Right now, he’s a threat and they should never be in his presence without satisfactory supervision.
You mentioned feeling horrible in regards to being apart from your husband. It is important to remember the facts. He sexually assaulted your daughter. He took advantage of a child who could not defend herself. He violated her. He did something terrible that she now has to live with for the rest of her life, which could affect her mentally and physically for years. It’s not that she can’t overcome what happened, she can and likely will, however, he has done something terrible. You shouldn’t feel “horrible” for him. You should feel horrible about your daughter having been a victim of her own father.
You might still be in disbelief. It is shocking to learn that your husband could do this to your daughter. Your complex feelings about the situation are something that should be explored with an in-person therapist. It’s good that you are starting therapy as it could help you tremendously. It could help you to come to terms with what happened. It will take time. That is to be expected.
You advised him to seek therapy and that is good, however, do not to assume that it will “fix” whatever is wrong. It might help him to gain control over his behavior but be prepared for the possibility that whatever motivated him to rape your daughter is not fixable. Hopefully, that’s not the case. The only way to prevent this type of event from occurring in the future, is to not allow him to be alone with children. It’s not uncommon for predators to sexually abuse one child and then move onto others. It happens more than you might realize. In fact, the majority of perpetrators of abuse are most often the child’s own parents.
In studies of families who have experienced sexual abuse, it’s common for some family members to side with the abuser. They might have a difficult time accepting the truth, and, in some cases, pressure family members to forgive the abuser. In some cases, the individual who was abused is seen as the troublemaker in the family. As you might imagine, this would be especially devastating for the victim. Sometimes, victims are pressured to forgive their abuser and to stop focusing on the past.
Hopefully, you are not guilty of this with your daughter or her siblings. If you find yourself moving in that direction, please consider what it may be doing to your daughter and work with a therapist to ensure that you don’t re-traumatize her. By pushing her to forgive her perpetrator before she is ready, re-traumatization is possible. You might also try family therapy (not involving your husband), should this be applicable.
This is a complex situation. What happened was painful and shocking and immensely disruptive to your family. It will take time to process. Hopefully, with counseling, your family can come to a peaceful resolution. Please be mindful of your daughter, the victim in this situation. Don’t pressure her to forgive your husband just because you may be ready to do so. Don’t minimize or deny what happened. Give her and the other family members the space to heal, in whatever form that may take. They deserve at least that much. Good luck and please take care.
Dr. Kristina Randle