Childhood trauma expert advises parents on how to cope when another adult abuses their kids

Posted at 11:15 PM, Jan 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-28 23:15:53-05

WFTX - For many parents, the very thought of it induces fear and rage: A "trusted" adult is accused of violating your child.

Fox 4 recently broke the story of a now-former Lee county teacher accused of an intimate relationship with a student.

This is not the first - and unfortunately probably not the last - story we've seen of an adult in authority accused of abusing the trust of children, parents and the rest of the community.

We asked a childhood trauma expert at FGCU, Dr. Yaro Garcia, for her take on the rage parents can often feel in cases like these.

For example, when a parent might say they want to harm - or even kill - the perpetrator.

"I have often heard many people say this," said Dr. Gracia.

"And I often have to explain that the issue with utilizing violence or going after their rage to do something about it is that, that parent is now going to end up in some sort of legal problem."

"And that's going to take away from them being (able) to attend, in a quality way, to that child who's already traumatized and under a lot of stress."

"There's a chance that now you are going to be facing some legal issue or problem because of it," she said.

"What that is going to take away from you from spending quality time attending to your child - who really needs you right now because of what happened."

She told us it's important to keep the child's state of mind and emotional well-being at the center of whatever you do and say.

"Parents have to put aside their rage and their anger to be able to really attend to what has happened to that child," she said.

"If you do something that causes you to be in trouble with the law, you're not going to be able to provide them with that quality care that they're needing."

We asked what parents should do with the feelings of betrayal and anger when they say things like "I want to hurt who hurt my child."

"I would tell a parent who says that to understand that they themselves have been tremendously affected by what has happened to the child," said Dr. Garcia.

"So that rage and that anger is the first sign that 'I have been affected. I also need help.'"

We also asked about the sense of betrayal that comes with seeing many accused of abuses get nothing more than" a slap on the wrist" from their employers and the criminal justice system.

"This piece is so difficult to respond to because what needs to happen is (that) we all have to do a better job of advocating in the system to improve the way in which we legally deal with these cases," said Dr. Garcia.

She told us families can find a way to channel their anger into constructive action - by advocating for protections for children.

"I can also tell you some of the biggest laws that have been passed, when it comes to these topics, have been advocated and dealt with victims - families of the victims."

"They were the ones who made a difference, they were the ones who made it better."

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