December 20, 2016

What to Do if a Child You Love is Sexually Abused

I follow three rules:

do the right thing,

do the best you can,

and always show people you care.

-Lou Holtz-

With 1 in 5 children being sexually abused by the time they are 18, the chances are that someday you may learn that a child you love has been abused. So what do you do? How do you handle something like that?

At Defend Innocence, we want to educate every parent and caregiver about how to prevent sexual abuse from happening, but we also want to let you know what to do if it happens to a child in your life.

DO:

  • Do listen and believe them. If they are telling you themselves, then it means that they trust you. BELIEVE THEM. Don’t interrogate them, don’t ask for details, just listen to what they need to tell you.
  • Do make sure they are safe. Care for their immediate physical safety first. Make sure that they are somewhere safe with someone safe and are not at risk of being further abused.
  • Do contact the proper authorities. This may be different depending on the country and state that you live in. If you are a teacher or caregiver, then there may be a protocol in place at your school or organization. Learn who you need to contact and be an advocate for the child through the process.

DON’T:

  • Don’t confront the perpetrator. If you know the child has been sexually abused, then it is NOT your place to confront the perpetrator – in person, over the phone, or via social media. Leave that to the proper authorities. This may be difficult because you will likely be very emotional about the situation and want to do something.
  • Don’t take matters into your own hands. Protecting the children we love can bring out the Mama or Papa Bear in each of us, but this is not the time to take matters into your own hands.
  • Don’t pretend it didn’t happen. It’s difficult to talk about, it’s hard to deal with, but don’t sweep it under the rug and don’t act like it never happened. That is in no way helpful to the child. They need your support. They need you to be there for them both physically and emotionally. That includes allowing them to talk about it if that’s what they need.

No one wants to entertain the thought of this happening to a child they love, but it might. Be prepared. Be there for them and, above all, BELIEVE THEM.