Parents and Caregivers

Special Information for Parents and Caregivers…

As a parent or caregiver there are a lot of concerns knowing your child has disclosed sexual abuse.  Here are a few common concerns that we can help address:
How do I REACT to my child who has disclosed sexual abuse?
First, try to keep your natural reactions under control.  You may want to react with a verbal or physical outburst.  It is best to share these reactions only with another adult at a later time.  DO YOUR BEST NOT TO CONFRONT THE ALLEGED OFFENDER ABOUT THE DISCLOSURE.  Your child needs to know that you believe them unconditionally.  The best support that you can provide is believing them.  It is your responsibility to report the abuse, not to prove the abuse occurred.REMEMBER: Children will rarely lie about being sexually abused.  They are more likely to deny that it happened after a disclosure is made in fear of repercussions.

What can I SAY to my child who has disclosed sexual abuse? 

A few supportive statements to help your child feel supported include:

Thank you for telling me. I believe you and I am glad that you told me.
I don’t know what will happen next, but it is my job to help keep you safe.
This is not your fault. You did the right thing by telling an adult.
You are very important to me, and I will do my best to keep you safe.

As a parent or caregiver, it may be very upsetting if your child disclosed to another adult before you.  You may feel upset and hurt, but try to understand that your child is trying to protect you from being hurt.  Be thankful that they told an adult and reinforce your communication with your child at a later date.

What NOT to say to your child following a discloser of abuse. 

Do not ask detailed questions about the abuse, as that will be covered by the appropriate authorities.
Do not ask why the child didn’t come to you sooner, as they may feel that they are in trouble.
Do not ask your child to “forget what happened”.  Sexual abuse is a traumatic event that can have lasting effects. Help your child to deal with their feelings in the appropriate manner through the proper counseling.

How could this happen to my child?

How did an offender gain access to my child?  An offender cannot be pinpointed by their appearance.  They are from all economic, ethnic, social, and educational backgrounds.  Many abusers are married with families, they may be community figures, or have criminal backgrounds.  Some children are abused by other children, who were once perpetrated on themselves.
Offenders use a variety of ways to gain access to your child that may have gone unnoticed.  Here are several red flags to look for:

An adult seeks out and establishes a strong relationship with a child.  They may buy them gifts, become their friend, and offer to watch your child when needed.
They may play frequent touching games, wrestling, tickling, etc. with your child.  When sexual touches begin the touches may become confusing for your child.
The offender may stress to your child to keep the touching secret and make them feel responsible for their actions.  They may tell your child they/their relationship is “special” and there may be repercussions if your child tells.