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“How did I not know she’d been abused?”

My daughter is a successful, professional woman in her thirties and I’m very proud of her. However, last weekend when she visited I mentioned that an old family friend had died and she went quiet before telling me that when she was six or seven he interfered with her. I was so shocked and asked why she hadn’t said anything at the time. She said she knew I would make a fuss and she just wanted it to go away but all the talk about the Saville affair has made her realise many children had such an experience and she feels more able to talk about it now. But I am absolutely devastated. How could I have let her down so badly? When I think back, she did avoid that particular man and I didn’t question it because he seemed a perfect gentleman. I feel I’ve failed her as a mum, although she says I haven’t. I don’t know what to do for her or how to deal with the anger and grief I feel for myself for not being able to do this fundamental thing of protecting my daughter. Please help.

Denise says:

I have heard from hundreds of mothers over the years who felt exactly as you do. The sad fact is that abusers come in many guises, some of them very nice. The only weapons parents have are to keep the lines of communication open and be eternally vigilant. Some children feel such disgust at what has happened that they don’t want it discussed and therefore don’t tell. Your daughter dealt with what happened very well because you raised her to be a sensible, confident child. She avoided the man and hasn’t let what happened stop her having a full and successful life but if she wanted to talk to someone who would understand, NAPAC (napac.org.uk 0800 085 3330) is there for any adult who was abused in childhood. If the man concerned had still been alive you would have had to think about whether or not he was in a position to abuse others and should be reported. As it is, be proud of your daughter and believe her when she says you never let her down.

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