So your precious beautiful daughter tells you that she has been raped, sexually assaulted, attacked, what do you do? You react, you are only human.
I went into, firstly hug, hold her tight and then calm, gentle questioning mode, allowing her to tell me as much as she wanted when she wanted. Inside I was raging, what I wanted to do with that man’s spheres is unrepeatable. I wanted to rally round the biggest brutes in Oxford and give him a taste of his own medicine.
It may take hours, days, weeks, months or even years before your daughter will feel able to a) admit to themselves what happened, b) admit to someone else what happened. When she does open up, let her make her own decisions. She will make the decision on who she tells, whether she informs the police or not and on what steps she wants to take next; she needs to take back control. Your role is to support, guide, advise and be there for her. Supress that overwhelming urge to step in, to take charge. When you feel it is appropriate gently enquire as to whether she has or should seek medical attention, particularly the STI clinic.
You, nurture and protect your child through childhood but you are not there when she needs you most. You are not there to protect her from the ‘wolf in sheep’s clothing’ the nice guy who appears fun and genuine, the guy who hasn’t got the first clue about consent and the meaning of NO. I felt that I had let my daughter down, I hadn’t protected her, I felt angry, so angry, I should have been able to stop this happening to her, I didn’t want this to happen to her, I didn’t want her life put on hold. What you learn from your daughter stays with you, horrendous imagery invades your thoughts, typically as you try to sleep. These and many more emotions come and go but we all know bubble wrapping our young adults is not an option.
We all react differently, there is no right or wrong way in dealing with trauma to a loved one or the secondary trauma you feel as a parent. You need to look after yourself – the counsellor needs counselling – you need to offload to an impartial sympathetic ear.