Rights of the Innocent Parent

20 Jan

Mistakenly, I assumed parents had to be told when anyone reported sexual abuse of your child. Wrong. When possible sexual abuse is reported either to the police or Child Protection Services, they begin the processing of investigating the allegation. EVEN if you have not been implicated, agencies are not required to inform you of the report. The innocent parent may be called and asked to bring their child into an agency office such as Child Protection Services or a detective’s office at the police station or a Child Advocacy Center but they are NOT required to tell you why. The police and a social worker may choose to go to a school or other place where your child is at, even a friend’s house, and interview your child without contacting the innocent parent. Both parents are suspect even though the innocent parent has not been implicated until the investigation is complete.
When my daughter’s foster mother received information that Casey may have been incested by her older brother, the foster mom contacted the social worker, Liz Lemy, who called the police. They interviewed my daughter without my consent even though I was not a suspect and retained physical and legal custody of my daughter. Liz Lemy contacted my daughter’s psychologist. No one involved contacted me.
The innocent parent deserves to be told when sexual abuse of their child is reported. Frequently, intervening professionals act out of a belief or bias that the innocent parent either participated in covering up the sexual abuse or knew the abuse was happening and turned the other way. Assumptions about an innocent parent are NEVER justification to withhold information about an accusation from the innocent parent.
My anger at the system turned to rage in the following months after disclosure. I felt violated and vulnerable. Prejudice and bias toward the innocent parent frequently translates into callous, cruel and cold treatment of the innocent parent. The callous manner in which I was treated added to the grief. I felt like a criminal, an abuser. It was inconceivable to me how a professional could automatically assume I allowed abuse to happen to my daughter or I knew and did nothing to stop it. In fact, Liz Lemy told me “Your anger at the system is misdirected anger that you feel toward yourself for allowing incest to happen.” As a result, I began questioning myself, doubting myself, constantly obsessing about what I missed. I berated myself. My self-doubts took a devastating toll on my self-esteem and belief about myself as a mother at a time when I needed confidence and courage to face the days ahead.
If your child is murdered or raped or abducted or severely injured, you receive compassion, support, empathy and information. You’re supported by the professional people around you as well as friends and family. There are support groups, books on the topic to help guide you through the grief. Often an advocate is there to support you. Not so with incest.
Innocent parents, at the very least, deserve the same compassion, information, empathy, support and support groups as any parent suffering from grief. There should be an advocate for every innocent parent. No parent who is told such a devastating traumatic act has been committed to their child should be turned out into the world—left to go home alone. In my opinion, that is criminal.