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The thought of your child being harmed is terrifying. While we hope this never happens to your child, statistics tell us that 10% of all children under the age of 18 will be the victims of child abuse. Understanding what to do if this happens to your child is important.
If your child comes to you and says they have been sexually abused, or that something odd has happened, listen to them. The most important thing you can do for your child is to believe what they are telling you. There has been little evidence to show that children make false allegations in these cases.
Tell your child that you believe what they are saying.
When you do find out about alleged abuse, you need to stay calm. Even though you feel upset and angry, your calmness will reassure your child that they have not done anything wrong and it will encourage them to continue talking about what happened.
Reassure your child that the abuse is not their fault. In many cases, children are hesitant to report sexual abuse because they think what happened to them is their fault. Tell them that in no way is what happened their fault. They may not believe you right away, but that is okay. You can continue to reassure them of this.
When you are talking to your child, do not interrogate them about the event. Let them tell you what happened as much as they feel comfortable doing so, but keep in mind that retelling the story numerous times can be traumatic for them.
Report the abuse to law enforcement and proper authorities. In as many as 93% of child sexual abuse cases, the survivor knows the person who abused them. If it was a teacher, let the school leaders know what happened. If the abuser is a member of the clergy or religious group, report to the supervising institutions.
When you are making your report, you should include as much of the following information that you can:
As the parent, your continued support for your child is important. A qualified child psychologist will likely need to speak to your child about what happened as the police build their case.
You may feel blame, fear, disbelief, guilt, and anger about what has happened to your child. You need to understand that this is not your fault, either.
Survivors of child sexual abuse often have both short- and long-term symptoms. These symptoms can include behavioral and emotional as well as physical. The quicker that a child can receive counseling for what has happened to them, the better. Adult survivors of child sexual abuse can experience significant difficulties in their lives, especially when it comes to their relationships with other adults. If a survivor receives counseling while they are still young, it will help to work through what has happened to them in a controlled and positive way.
As the parent, you should also consider receiving counseling to deal with the emotions you are experiencing.