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Children who have been sexually abused do not all respond the same way, but it is important to understand that they will be affected by what happened. Children are resilient, and they can recover from being sexually abused. But you must help them. As an adult in the life of a child who has been sexually abused, you can take steps to strengthen your child’s trust and ensure they receive the care they deserve.
Children may not fully understand what has happened to them. They may not even realize they have been sexually abused until they become adults. Some children may be ready to talk about the abuse right away, while others may need to move much more slowly. With help from supportive caregivers and from counselors who specialize in caring for sexually abused children, a child can begin the recovery process.
Children who have been sexually abused are at a much greater risk of post-traumatic stress another anxiety symptoms, as well as depression and suicide attempts later in life. As a parent or caregiver, you have the power to make the difference. There are specific steps you can take to help your child recover so they can have a successful life in the aftermath of sexual abuse.
Children are never to blame for what happened. However, children often feel that they are to blame for the sexual abuse that occurred. They may feel responsible for the abuse as well as for causing the pain their loved ones feel when the sexual abuse has been uncovered. If families are split apart because of the abuse, the child may feel even more guilt. We know that approximately 34% of perpetrators of child sexual abuse were family members of the child. Continually reiterate to your child that this was not their fault.
Sexual abuse can destroy a child’s trust in adults. Your child needs to know that you believe in their story. They need to know they can trust and count on you to be there for them. When you acknowledge that they have been harmed, and when you get your child help, you are taking the necessary steps to protect them and help your child re-establish a sense of trust.
Your child needs to know that you are committed to taking steps to protect them at all times. This can be an incredibly difficult time for an adult as well, and you cannot be with your child every moment. However, if your child sees that you are taking steps to protect them and that you will intervene on their behalf, they are learning that they have someone who cares in their life.
You should seek treatment from counselors who are trained to help children who have been victims of sexual abuse. If your child is showing signs of emotional distress, they need to be seen by a specialist who will offer a safe space for them to tell their story. These counselors can also offer guidance and support to you as you move forward in your journey protecting a child who has been the victim of abuse.