Monday, February 26, 2007

Parent Pointers If Child Has Been Sexually Abused (Universal)

The news of a child’s sexual abuse can be shocking and parents may not know how to respond to the situation.

The "Teaching Touching Safety" program offers this summary of key guidelines to parents or other caring adults when a child reports having been improperly touched or sexually abused.

1. Let children talk. Let them tell what happened and just listen.

2. Avoid displays of shock or disgust. An adult abuser may have told the child that nobody will believe him or her. An emotional or otherwise uncontrolled response by the person the child trusts with the story may shut down the child's willingness to communicate.

3. Respect the child's privacy. Find a private place to listen to the report and write down what happened – names, dates, times and locations. This will spare children from extensive questioning later on, which can make a child feel as if trusted adults do not believe the child's report.

4. Address the child's feelings and let him or her know that you trust the child and that the story will be investigated. When a child overcomes that fear and is willing to talk, it is critical to trust the child and to treat the child's story as if it is completely true.

5. Be honest with the child about what will happen next. Tell the child that the incident will be reported to the proper authorities and only with those people who need to know to help keep the child safe.

6. Do not scold the child. This is not the time to express anger and punish a child for having gone somewhere with a stranger or for having kept a secret. Such a reaction may confirm the child's fears about reporting and may stop the child from trusting his or her parents or other safe adults in the future.

7. Get immediate medical attention if necessary. Contact local medical professionals to determine who is best qualified to examine the child for the physical effects of sexual abuse and to test for sexually transmitted diseases, if necessary.

8. Get counseling or therapy for the child. Get the best professional help available to provide the child and the parents or guardians with the support to deal with the effects of sexual abuse.

9. Don't be surprised or upset if the child reports the incident to someone outside the family.

Children become concerned about a parent's reaction and often seek the advice and support of someone else to get through the initial period of telling an adult about the abuse.



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