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Parents and guardians of a child who has been sexually abused will experience a range of emotions, and they are often left not knowing how to properly help their child. However, there are steps that need to be taken in order to ensure that child sexual abuse survivors recover from what happened to them. According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), approximately one out of every 10 children will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday.
The first step a parent or guardian must take after discovering their child has been sexually abused is reporting the incident law enforcement. After that, parents should focus on the well-being of their child.
One of the main reasons that children do not report that they have been sexually abused is that they fear it will not be believed. Parents and guardians should always believe what their child tells them. If your child says they have been sexually abused, they are almost always telling the truth.
Parents and guardians should never blame the child for what happened. Whether the abuse happened once or several times, this is an extreme trauma for them. Adults should be there to support your child in every way they can to help minimize the long-term effects of the abuse. Parents must stress to the child the abuse was not their fault.
It is important for parents and guardians of a child who has been sexually abused to get that child into therapy as soon as possible. Find a therapist that has specialized training in dealing with child sexual abuse victims. If parents or guardians do not have health insurance that will cover therapy, most states have a crime victims fund that will help pay for these services. You can talk to your local victim’s advocate (usually part of the police department or prosecutor’s office) about what services are available.
Getting a child sexual abuse survivor into counseling is vital. In these cases, a child may not be comfortable telling their parent or guardian everything that happened to them, but they may be willing to open up to a counselor.
A trigger is something that reminds a victim of the trauma they have experienced. This can be just about anything, including a place, person, time of day, sound, smell, or more. If a child sexual abuse victim experience is a trigger, they may feel like they are back in the same moment the trauma initially occurred. It can be like they are reliving the experience. A therapist can help a child develop techniques to help them get through a situation that triggers them.
How a parent or guardian reacts to discovering that their child has been sexually abused will be vital in determining how their child recovers. Parents often blame themselves or even the child for what happened. However, the fault for child sexual abuse lies squarely on the shoulders of the perpetrator. Let the justice system handle the abuser while you, as a parent or guardian, focus on the well-being of your child. Be there for your child and let them know you believe and support them. Stay calm and know that you are their lifeline.
If your child has been sexually abused in a youth sports program, daycare, school, or at an organization such as the Boys and Girls Club or the YMCA, please contact a sexual abuse lawyer from our firm for help.