Sexual abuse is an extremely traumatic experience for a child. When something of this magnitude has taken place, there are usually some telltale signs in the little one’s behavior, and there may even be some physical signs.
If your child has been a victim of sexual abuse, then your rage may cloud your judgment, and you may not know how to proceed moving forward. As a parent, you want to protect your little one and make sure he or she doesn’t have to suffer. If the abuse already took place, you want to seek justice. But what steps should you take after this terrible event? Here’s what you should do.
1. Make Sure You Recognize the Signs
While there are cases when you can tell that a child was the victim of sexual abuse, it is not always obvious. Therefore, it is important to understand the warning signs so you can notice any small changes that could tell you that your child was sexually abused. Some of the most common signs include:
- Verbal Hints – Sometimes, a child who has been sexually abused may become less talkative, or there may be unexplained silence. Some children even begin using certain phrases and words that are too mature for their age.
- Physical Signs – Common physical signs of sexual abuse include broken bones, swelling or bruising near the genital area, as well as blood on undergarments or sheets.
- Behavioral Signs – Children who are victims of sexual abuse will also show some behavioral changes. They may change bathing routines, either bathing more than usual or refusing to bathe at all. On top of that, there may be sleep issues, nightmares, or age-inappropriate sexual behaviors. Other things, such as thumb sucking or being threatened by any physical contact can also point to abuse.
2. Listen to the Child
One thing you need to do very carefully is listen to what the child has to say. Perhaps they are trying to tell you about it or give you hints, as they don’t know how to describe the events or may be too embarrassed to do it.
You need to know every single detail about the incident. At the same time, don’t interview the child directly – do your best to listen. Listen to what they want, what order they want it done in, and how they want it.
3. Talk About the Situation
Don’t hesitate to talk to the child if you suspect any abuse. Ideally, this should be done in an environment where the child feels safe and where they can open up easily.
Find a good place where the little one feels safe and comfortable, and choose the right time. You could also ask the child directly where they want to talk.
Make sure you do not talk in front of anyone else, especially someone you have reasons to suspect may be the one harming your child.
Keep a casual, friendly tone while talking to your little one. Don’t start the conversation in a very serious tone – otherwise, the child will get scared and may be less likely to tell you about what happened. Be empathetic and understand that the child will have very complicated feelings regarding the abuse.
Also, don’t show anger – even if the anger is directed at the abuser, the child may interpret it as anger at them. Control your emotions and try to stay as calm as possible.
Let the child talk without interruptions. Wait for them to pause before adding any comments to the conversation. And don’t forget to validate the little one’s feelings. Let the child know that their feelings are completely normal and don’t brush aside anything they may be feeling.
4. Let the Child Know They Are Safe
Always let the child know they are safe with you. Around 90% of the culprits in sexual abuse cases are individuals that the child already knows. It may even be someone from the family.
It’s your job to make sure the child feels safe with you so that they’re not scared to open up to you.
5. Report the Incident
Now it is time to report the sexual abuse. It may be difficult, but this has to be done to protect your little one. If you do not know how to do it, reach out to sex abuse attorneys in your area for help.
Sexual abuse can be disastrous for a child and their life, and you must ensure you seek justice and help your little one recover. Be a good listener, make them feel safe, and report the crime as soon as possible.