Whether your child tells you he or she has experienced sexual abuse or you recognize the signs of abuse, you are facing one of the most difficult challenges you will ever encounter as a parent. Taking the right steps at this emotional time can help your child heal and preserve the right to take legal action.
Follow this guide to your priority actions if you think or know your child has become a victim of a sexual predator.
Talk to your child
If your child did not disclose abuse but you have suspicions, talk to him or her in a calm, open way. Use direct language and ask your child if someone else has forced them to do something or touched them in a way they did not like. Reassure your child that it is safe to tell you even if another adult told them not to tell.
Believe your child
When you report the abuse right away and make sure your child gets care, he or she knows that you believe and will protect them. It can be difficult to believe that your child has experienced abuse, especially if the abuser is a trusted person. However, you should know that children rarely make false abuse accusations. In fact, many more children never report the abuse they suffer because of pressures from the abuser to keep silent.
Report the abuse
Call your local authorities to detail the abuse. The police department may refer you to resources that can help your child. They will also investigate the allegations of abuse and take the appropriate legal action, which can protect both your child and other children the predator may encounter.
Mental health care can help decrease the risk of long-term trauma after sexual abuse. Look for a Children’s Advocacy Center in your area. This agency can refer you to a pediatric mental health professional who specializes in sexual abuse.
If you have concerns about bringing up this topic with your child, or if your child is very young, you can seek assistance from your family pediatrician. A physical examination can also indicate possible signs of sexual abuse and provide the medical treatment your child needs.