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Ask a Therapist: Husband Sexually Abused Our Daughter

Three days ago I found out that a year ago my husband sexually abused my daughter. I don’t know what to do I love my daughter very much and I love him I will protect her at all costs, I have put locks on her door locks on the bathroom and she is not left alone with him. I confronted him but he denies it stating he loves our baby very much and would never hurt her. I want to believe him but I could never not believe her. I want to know if our family unit is savable would therapy help what should I do. I don’t want to be a bad mother and I don’t want to lose my family.

A: I can’t even imagine how painful and confusing it is for you to hear that your husband sexually abused your daughter. In spite of your overwhelming feelings and confusion about who to believe, you are required by law to report the suspected abuse. Here is a link to the Florida Abuse Hotline so you can report it immediately and they can begin investigating. As your daughter’s mother, you must protect her first, over your husband and over your marriage. How you handle this situation, and whether or not you believe her, support her, and protect her will largely determine how well she recovers from the trauma throughout the rest of her life.

I strongly suggest that you immediately ask your husband to find a temporary place to live until the abuse investigation has been completed in order to protect your daughter, and that you get your daughter into treatment with a therapist specializing in sexual abuse as soon as possible. Click the Find Help link at the top of this page or ask for some recommended therapists from the department of children and family services when you call to report.

I have so many questions for you. How did you find out? How old is your daughter? Is your husband your daughter’s father or stepfather? Does your husband have any history of sexual offenses? But all of these questions are secondary to protecting your daughter and to reporting the alleged abuse. Reporting and protecting will likely require you to put your own fear of losing your marriage and family on hold temporarily so you can take the necessary steps to protect your daughter.

I don’t know whether your family is salvageable because at this point there are too many unknowns. If your husband did in fact abuse your daughter, he will need to participate in intensive treatment, face the legal consequences for his abusive behavior, and take responsibility for his abhorrent behavior. Even then, a large determining factor will be whether your daughter wants to have any kind of a relationship with him.

The most important and immediate factor here is protecting your daughter and doing what is in her best interest. So again, here is my recommendation for your course of action:

  1. Report the alleged abuse to Child Protective Services
  2. Ask your husband to live elsewhere while the facts get sorted out by the authorities
  3. Get your daughter into treatment

I wish you well in this extremely difficult situation. Take good care.

Julie Hanks, LCSW

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