WHAT SHOULD I DO IF MY CHILD DISCLOSES SEXUAL ABUSE?

Your reaction to the disclosure will have a big effect on how your child deals with the trauma of sexual abuse. Children whose parents/caregivers are supportive heal more quickly from the abuse. To be supportive, it is important to:

  • Stay calm. Hearing that your child has been abused can bring up powerful emotions, but if you become upset, angry, or out of control, this will only make it more difficult for your child to disclose.
  • Believe your child, and let your child know that they are not to blame for what happened. Praise your child for being brave and for telling about the sexual abuse.
  • Protect your child by getting them away from the abuser and immediately reporting the abuse to local authorities. If you are not sure who to contact, call the ChildHelp® National Child Abuse Hotline at 1.800.4.A.CHILD (1.800.422.4453; http://www.childhelp.org/get_help) or, for immediate help, call 911.
  • Get help. In addition to getting medical care to address any physical damage your child may have suffered (including sexually transmitted diseases), it is important that your child have an opportunity to talk with a mental health professional who specializes in child sexual abuse. Therapy has been shown to successfully reduce distress in families and the effects of sexual abuse on children. The Children’s Advocacy Center of Hampshire County offers coordinated support and services to victims of child abuse, including sexual abuse. Contact us if you need assistance.
  • Reassure your child that they are loved, accepted and an important family member. Don’t make promises you can’t keep (such as saying you won’t tell anyone about the abuse), but let your child know that you will do everything in your power to protect them from harm.

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