How to handle when a child discloses sexual abuse


How to handle when a child discloses sexual abuse

A child’s disclosure of sexual abuse is daunting. It’s not something any parent is prepared for. But in today’s times when we have realized that more than 50% of kids are exposed to Child Sexual Abuse in some form or the other, it’s time we prepare ourselves and our kids.

First realize that if your child has disclosed the sexual abuse to you, your child is among the courageous. Many children don’t talk even when adults have educated the children and reassured them the children can talk to them about child sexual abuse. If the child is disclosing the sexual abuse to you it means that he has faith in you to be able to help him/her in the situation. It also means that the child feels confident of knowing that what’s happening to him/her is wrong.

In such situations, when your child expects guidance and help from you, it’s your duty as an adult to make sure you help them through it. Your child should be praised, loved and supported for the risk he has taken. You are the trusted adult the child has chosen to tell. You response will make a deep impact on the child. Therefore, your response is of utmost importance. You will need help from experts in supporting your child further on. Your response either will affect him deeper or could be a relief for him.

Few important things to keep in mind when the child is disclosing the sexual abuse are:

  • Keep Calm: It could be shocking or unbelievable for you to first hear about it from your child. No parent is prepared for this. Do not show any kind of shock or anger. Remaining calm is the utmost important thing to do. Stay calm and take it slow. Your response is going to determine what and how much your child is going to share with you next. Children who see their adults taking charge calmly will share every detail. These children can and will heal from the abuse. 
  • Believe the child: Sex is not often discussed or seen by kids of younger age. They don’t even know what a sexual touch is. When a child discloses an abuse, believe the child for he wouldn’t have known about it from anywhere else. Use words like “I believe you” and praise him to come and tell you about it.
  • Listen to the child: Don’t jump with questions as soon as you hear about it. Hear the child out. Let the child speak as much as he can by himself without any questioning from you. 
  • Answer the child’s questions honestly: The child may be confused about certain things, he may ask you questions that you may be hesitant in answering. Answer them honestly anyways. Your honesty will retain the faith he has put in you when he asked you that question. 
  • Respect the child’s privacy by not telling other people: Adults tend to share with people they trust. But is it not necessary that your child is ok with you sharing something that happened with him. If he is not ok, do not share the incident with anyone who is not involved in it. Certain times, you may have to convince the child that it needs to be discussed with other people like the principal or the police.
  • Don’t blame the child: Parents often blame the child for the wrong things happening to them. It’s never the child’s fault. 
  • Don’t pressure the child to talk: Let the child take his own time to talk about it. Keep patience and let him talk. Don’t keep asking questions or don’t force him to talk. Just keep calm and make sure the child feels confident about approaching you. Use words like, “you can tell me, I am there for you” or “Take your time, I am right here with you”.
  • Report the abuse
  • Arrange a medical examination
  • Get professional help: Sexual abuse could be very traumatic and cannot be taken lightly or for granted. The child may need some extra help to heal. Do not hesitate to go to a counsellor who are skilled to take care of such delicate situations.

Disclosure can be a scary and difficult process for children. Some children who have been sexually abused may take weeks, months, or even years to tell what had happened to them. Some children never tell. By being prepared, and knowing what help is available, you can make a real difference to a child’s safety and well-being.

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