It is not uncommon to feel shock, disbelief, denial, self-blame, anger, confusion and/or doubt, if a child tells you she/he was abused. The following guidelines will help you in addressing the situation:
Believe the child: Children rarely make up stories about sexual abuse. Believing the child is a major step in healing the hurt caused by abuse. Tell the child that it is not her/his fault.
Remain calm: Children are sensitive to and worry about your feelings. If you respond with anger, the child may feel you are angry with her/him. Children need to feel that they are no different from others because of the abuse. Remaining calm will help children to feel normal.
Affirm the child's feelings: Children must be allowed to voice their feelings and have them affirmed and taken seriously in order to continue the telling and healing process.
Tell the child what will happen next: Children who have been abused lack control or options. They need to know that other people need to be involved to overcome sexual abuse. However, children need to feel participants in this process.
Support the child: Sexually abused children often feel that they are alone, this has happened to no one else, or no one will believe them, and so they need as much positive adult support as possible.
Keeping our children safe from sex offenders
We need to teach children about Personal Safety. We, as adults, also need to educate ourselves about sexual abuse and the risk factors or warning signs of sexually abusing behaviors. Here are some things that you can do to prevent the sexual abuse of a child you know.
Adults need to:
Teach children to trust their feelings and that it is OK to say "no" when someone they know and care about does something they do not like.
Set and respect family boundaries.
Speak up when "warning sign" behaviors are seen or reported.
Get comfortable talking about difficult topics such as sexual abuse and saying the proper names of body parts before teaching them to children.
Instruct children the differences between Safe touch and Unsafe touch and that secrets about touching are not OK. Children also need to understand that people they know could be capable of doing hurtful things.
Encourage affirm and acknowledge a child's opinions and feelings - giving them a sense of self esteem and confidence.
Involve your child in setting up a safety plan that is easy to remember.
List for yourself and your child whom to call for advice, information, and help.