It’s a parent’s worst nightmare come to life: your child has disclosed to you that they have been sexually abused.
There’s nothing in the world that can come close to the panic, rage, pain, sadness, and guilt that you feel when you hear this news. But you can’t allow yourself to break down. Now it’s time to be strong and do what is best for your child.
What exactly is best when a child has told you that they’ve been sexually abused? Read on to find out.
The most important thing that you can do as an adult in a child’s life is to believe what they say.
Sexual assault is a traumatic event that fills a child with shame and guilt. Your child has worked through that pain and guilt to tell you something important because they trust that you can keep them safe.
Never, ever doubt a child who has told you about a sexual assault. When children think that an adult doesn’t believe them, they’ll often take back their statement. It’s a common reaction and is not an indication that the abuse didn’t happen.
Be a Safe Space
Thank your child for disclosing the information to you. Tell them that you love them. Show them that you are an adult that can be trusted to be safe.
Every child reacts to trauma differently and you must pay attention to the way your child reacts to the environment around them. These reactions will show you what they need to feel safe.
What if your child asks for something to feel safe or comfortable that may seem irrational to you, such as wearing two pairs of pajama bottoms to bed? Allowing them to control their environment can give them back control that has been robbed from them.
Assure Them It’s Not Their Fault
Any child that has disclosed sexual abuse needs to be reminded more than once that the event was not their fault. It’s common for abusers to make a child feel as though they’re doing things for the child, or because the child asked them to.
Even if your child did give permission or act willingly towards their abuser, they did not give consent. It is always the adult’s responsibility to say no.
Stress to your child that they did nothing wrong and that the abuser needs help from other adults to get better.
Get Help for Your Child
It would be wise for you to get your child in to see a doctor and a therapist as soon as possible. This will eliminate the possibility of any diseases and also help them process the trauma they suffered.
Additionally, you may benefit from a therapist or a talk group to work through your own feelings of rage and sadness. A therapist or a counselor may be able to help you decide when to hire a lawyer as well.
Next Steps for Helping a Child Who has Been Sexually Abused
If your child has been sexually abused, it’s your job to ensure that they get the proper help and care that they need to heal.
Always protect their privacy. Don’t make them feel as though they have something to be ashamed of. Do everything in your power to be a safe harbor for them in this turbulent time.
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