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How Do I Handle What My Child is Telling Me?

No parent wants to believe that their child has been sexually abused. It is painful to believe that someone close to you and your family could hurt your child and break your trust. If your child discloses sexual abuse you may feel shock, outrage, perhaps disbelief and anger.

You are not an abuser. Do not feel guilty. You are not the one who hurt your child! Your child and you need support and help with this trauma!

It is, however, very important for you to control your feelings so that you can be supportive of your child. It is best that your child not see you express your anger and pain.

Most children don't tell because they are afraid they will be blamed, disbelieved or rejected.

Here are some suggestions on how to handle disclosures:

  • Avoid shock or disgust; you don't want to give the impression that they have done anything wrong.
  • Address their feelings of guilt by assuring them that you believe them.
  • Use your child's vocabulary.
  • Reassure them that they have done the right thing by telling you.
  • Reassure your child that they are not to blame and have done nothing wrong.
  • Emphasize that no matter what your child said, did, didn't do, or felt it was not their fault. Any sexual behavior between an adult and a child is always the adult's responsibility.
  • Let your child know that you will do your best to help and support them.
  • Consult with professionals who are trained, sensitive, and experienced with child sexual abuse.
  • Stay close to your child immediately following disclosure and provide an extra security.
  • Give your child opportunities and permission to express their feelings about the abuse.
  • Permit your child to have positive as well as negative feelings. We can like a person and hate their actions.
  • Try to make every effort to help your child and the family return to the normal routines.
  • Maintain your normal expressions of affection and positive physical interactions. Try to interact with your child as you have always done and take your cues from your child.
  • The other children in your family will need attention and reassurances during this time too. Use the opportunity to educate all children in the family about sexual abuse and what they can do to protect themselves.
  • Be sure to take care of yourself and your feelings.