If you find out your child has been sexually abused, it will undoubtedly take a toll on you as a parent. It’s important to find a way to manage your feelings while creating an environment for your child that is free of harm, judgment, and blame.
What can I expect from my child?
The effects of sexual abuse vary from person to person. The process of healing can take a long time, and frustration is inevitable.
Survivors of child sexual abuse can react in a wide variety of ways, some of which may surprise you. Your child may:
- Be angry at you for not protecting them
- Be angry at you for removing the perpetrator from the home
- Confide in someone other than you
- Not talk about it at all
- Talk about the abuse all the time
No matter the child’s reaction, repeat the following messages through your words and your actions:
- I love you.
- What happened is not your fault.
- I will do everything I can to keep you safe.
If you need to talk to someone now, find your local sexual assault service provider. They are trained to help children as well as adults.
Keep in mind that there is no “right” reaction. Both you and your child may want to talk to a professional about your thoughts and feelings. Professional support can result in healthier long- and short-term results for you and your child.
You need to take care of yourself in order to support your child.
- Consider talking to a counselor one-on-one so you can focus entirely on your concerns without worrying about how your child will react.
- Develop a support system of friends and family.
- Join an organized support group.
- Set aside time for activities that don’t revolve around the abuse. Everyone needs a break now and then.
- Practice self-care to keep your mind and body healthy.
Self-care enables you to better care for others.
- Maintain your lifestyle. If you focus solely on the assault, it puts undue stress on you and your child. If you usually exercise, cook or read, keep up those activities. It may be challenging, but it will help you in the long run.
- Make plans. There comes a point when talking may make you feel more stuck, so take a break to do something you love or try something new. Find a way for you and your child to do something other than talk and think about the assault.
- Continue to talk about it. It’s normal to have a difficult time processing the sexual assault of someone you love. It can continue to be difficult as time goes on and the survivor begins to heal. Make sure you have personal and professional contacts to talk to.
- Consider meditation, yoga or deep breathing. Build time into your day for moments of relaxation.
Information adapted from the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network.