If Your Child has been Sexually Abused
Taking Care of Your Child
After Sexual Assault

A Child's Sexual Behavior-
When Should You be Concerned?

Who Are Sexual Offenders?
Information for Parents
Date Rape/ Acquaintance Rape

Information for Parents

Your Reactions

Parents usually are emotionally upset upon learning of the sexual abuse of their child. Parents often feel angry with the offender or guilty for having failed to protect their child. If their child did not tell right away, parents may wonder why. Sometimes they may look back and realize that there were signs that something was wrong and feel sad that they did not recognize them sooner. These are normal reactions.

Since most offenders are known and trusted by the family, or even a family member, it may be difficult to believe the abuse happened or to resolve mixed feelings. Parents often feel betrayed.

When the offender is a family member, such as grandparent, uncle, even another child, many difficulties arise for the family in terms of making decisions and taking action. There may be feelings of loyalty and love towards the offending person as well as towards the victim.

Counseling for the Child

Counseling is not necessary in all cases of sexual abuse, but it can be very helpful for many children. Although sometimes parents feel they would like their child to just forget about what happened and move on, this may actually increase problems. If the situation is handled in a direct and sensitive way the negative effects on the child can be reduced.

Counseling typically involves giving information about sexual assault and its effects, offering a safe place to talk about what happened, teaching coping skills to manage stress reactions, and helping make sure that children do not blame themselves, feel ashamed or develop unhelpful ideas such as that no one can be trusted or the world is a very dangerous place. The goal is for children and families to learn healthy ways to handle distress and to put the abuse in perspective, as a bad experience that does not need to have life long effects. Fortunately, most children will recover from abuse.

Counseling for Parents

The sexual abuse of a child can be traumatic for a parent as well as for the child. In addition to attending to the needs of the victim, parents must deal with their own feelings and reactions to the situation. Parents may be faced with making decisions about whether to continue the relationship with the offender, how to deal with contact or visitation between the offender and the child, and reestablishing trust and communication in the family.

Parents of children who have been sexually abused, and people whose partners or relatives are sex offenders, often find it helpful to talk to a counselor to sort out feelings and deal with the effects of the abuse on the child and the family. Some parents or partners of offenders find it helpful to join groups so they can discuss their feelings and experiences with others who are or have been in similar situations and can understand what they are going through.

Protecting Your Child form Further Harm

  • Here are some ways to help protect your child from further abuse and minimize the emotional trauma your child may experience: Prevent contact between your child and the offender until an investigation has taken place.
  • Explain to your child that he/she should tell you immediately if the offender attempts to touch or bother him/her again in any way.
  • Continue to believe your child and do not blame him/her for what happened. Give your child support and reassurance that he/she is okay and safe.
  • Respond to concerns or feelings your child expresses about sexual abuse calmly. Listen to your child but do not ask a lot of questions.
  • Respect your child’s privacy by not telling a lot of people, and make sure that other people who know, don’t bring the subject up to your child.
  • Listen to your child, but don’t ask for information or details about the abuse. Let the professionals do the interviewing to find out the details. A legal case can be negatively affected if non-professionals have questioned the child.
  • Try to follow the regular routine around the home; maintain the usual bedtime, chores and rules.
  • Let the child’s brothers and sisters know that something has happened to the child and that he or she is safe now and will be protected. Make sure that all children in the family are given enough information to be able to protect them from the offender without discussing the details of the assault.
  • Talk about your feelings with someone you trust – a friend, relative, clergy or counselor. It is best not to discuss your worries in front of, or with, your children.

Tali’s Childhood Trauma Booklet

Helping Child Survivors of Sexual Trauma: A Guidebook for Families and Loved Ones

Emotional Self-Help Toolkit

Bring Your Life into Balance: A Free Self-Guided Program for Becoming a Healthier, Happier You

Outside Involvement

Because sexual abuse is a crime, the social service and legal agencies always need to be involved. This is not a problem that can be solved by the family alone. The agencies that may become involved include:

Child Protective Services

Professionals are required by law to notify Child Protective Services (CPS) of suspected child abuse. CPS is a state agency that investigates reports of child abuse and neglect in the family. CPS has the legal responsibility for making sure children are safe in their homes and that abused children get support, medical care, and counseling.

Criminal Justice System

This is the legal system responsible for the investigation and prosecution of people accused of crimes such as sexual assault. It is a crime for any adult or teenager to have sexual contact with a child. Crimes are reported to the law enforcement agency in the jurisdiction where the crime occurred. Police officers and inspectors are responsible for investigating reported crimes, including interviewing victims and witnesses, gathering evidence and arresting suspects.

Victim’s Advocacy Services

An advocate is someone who helps victims through the systems by providing information and support.

We can provide the help and support you need at this time. Please let us know how we can assist you, your child and your family in recovering from the sexual abuse.