My Child has been Sexually Abused. What Should I Do Now? From Elgin and Dundee, IL
If you discover that your child has been sexually abused, you may feel furious, panicked, but also uncomfortable. As a matter of fact, you may not know what to say or do. Use the following guidelines when conversing with your child whom you have discovered has been sexually abused:
What Should I Say?
If your child even vaguely hints that sexual abuse has occurred, be sure to encourage him or her to talk freely. Most important: Don't make judgmental comments.
Demonstrate that you are taking your child seriously and understand what he or she is saying. Psychologists have discovered that children who feel listened to and understood demonstrate more resiliency than those who do not. The way you respond to your discovery of sexual
abuse is critical to your kids ability to heal.
Assure your child that he or she is doing the right thing in being honest with you. Also, if he or she feels emotionally close to the perpetrator, she may feel guilty about revealing the secret.
Also, be aware that she may be terrified in talking to you because the perpetrator may have threatened to harm her or others as her punishment for telling the secret.
Make sure your child understands that he or she is not to blame for the abuse. Most children in attempting to understand what happened, will believe that they somehow caused or condoned it.
Be sure to provide protection for your child, and promise that you will promptly take steps to prevent the perpetrator from re-abusing.
What Should I Do?
Report any time you may have a suspicion of child abuse. If the abuse is taking place within the family, report it to your local child protection agency. If it is taking place outside, report it to the appropriate police or district attorneys office.
The agency receiving your report will assess the situation and take the necessary steps to protect the child. If this is occurring in your immediate family, you should consult with a physician who evaluates and treats sexual abuse. He or she will then treat any physical problems related to it.
As an important next step, arrange for your child to be evaluated by a clinical psychologist or other mental health professional. He or she will form a bond with your youngster, do counseling, gather evidence to help protect him or her, provide much needed reassurance and assess how significantly the sexual abuse has affected her.
This is all done, among other reasons, to determine whether or how much ongoing professional help may be necessary for your child. The clinical psychologist can render any necessary treatment and also provide support to you and any other family members who may be upset by the ordeal.
One fundamental premise is that adults, whether perpetrator, caregiver or both, because of their maturity and subsequent responsibility, are the ones to blame when children are abused. The victims themselves should never be blamed.