As a parent, you try to prepare for all the big moments in your child’s life by reading the parenting books and researching their development. However, you are never fully prepared for the moment your child discloses sexual abuse. Parents often feel scared, overwhelmed, angry, helpless, and guilty; they often do not know how to react as they are flooded with emotions and thoughts. The way you react to your child’s disclosure of sexual abuse has the potential to impact their recovery.
1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be affected by sexual abuse before their 18th birthday. 92% of victims know their abuser. 73% of abused children will not tell anyone.
As hard and upsetting as this moment is for the parent, it is even more difficult for the child. A child does not disclose without thinking and worrying a lot about it first. It can take children weeks, months, and sometimes even years before disclosing the abuse and even then, they can be reluctant to share all the information. Many children never tell anyone about the abuse. Reasons for this reluctance includes fear the abuser may hurt them or their family, fear they will upset their parent, fear of not being believed, and fear of disrupting the family dynamics if the abuser is a family member.
In this segment I want to share a few Do’s and Do Not’s with you for when a child discloses sexual abuse.
- Believe them and support them
- Stay calm
- Praise them for being so brave
- Protect them by reporting the abuse to the appropriate authorities right away
- Get help by talking with a mental health professional
- Talk with your child when they have questions or concerns
- Ask “why” questions as they are considered blaming questions
- Blame them
- Ignore the disclosure of abuse
- Confront the abuser
- Become upset, angry, or out of control
You should not have to face this difficult situation alone. It is strongly encouraged for parents to reach out for support and talk with a mental health professional or reach out to their support system. Disclosure of sexual abuse can leave a parent feeling angry and helpless. Getting help for yourself is just as important as getting help for your child.
If you think that a clinician at Agape could be helpful and you would like to make an appointment, visit us online or call (910) 251-7899. *If you are experiencing an emergency or feel unsafe, call 9-1-1 immediately.