According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately one in four girls and one in 13 boys will experience some form of sexual abuse before the age of 18.
As a parent, learning that your child has experienced abuse can be overwhelming and distressing. Responding with empathy, support and action can help your child heal and navigate this difficult situation.
Create a safe environment
Upon hearing the disclosure, it is important to ensure your child feels safe and supported. Find a quiet, private space where you can talk without interruptions. Assure them that you believe and trust them, emphasizing that they are not alone in this.
Listening is key. Let your child speak at their own pace, without interruption or judgment. Encourage them to share as much or as little as they are comfortable with. Offer validating statements like, “I am so glad you told me,” or “You are brave for sharing this with me.”
Avoid blame or questions
Refrain from asking probing or accusatory questions. Instead, focus on expressing your concern and validating their feelings. Avoid statements like “Why did you not tell me sooner?” which may inadvertently place blame on the child.
Reassure and validate
Reiterate your love and support for your child. Affirm that the abuse is not their fault and that you are there to help them through this difficult time. Remind them that seeking help is a sign of strength.
Seek professional guidance
Connect with a trusted professional, such as a therapist, counselor or a medical practitioner. They can provide expert advice, emotional support, and resources to help your child heal. Remember to involve your child in the decision-making process, respecting their comfort level.
Report to authorities
If appropriate, report the abuse to the proper authorities. This may be a difficult step, but it is necessary for your child’s safety and well-being. Ensure you follow legal protocols to protect your child.
Implement safety measures
Work with your child to establish safety measures, such as setting boundaries and identifying trusted individuals they can turn to for support. Encourage open communication about their feelings and experiences.
Responding to a child’s disclosure of abuse requires sensitivity, compassion and prompt action. Remember, you are not alone in this journey, and there are resources available to support both you and your child through this challenging time.