Caution: This article delves into various experiences of trauma, encompassing sensitive topics such as sexual assault.

Whether your child has shared an experience of sexual violence, you’re supporting a friend, or you’re proactively seeking information, this resource is here for you. As a parent, guardian, or caring individual, the insights provided can empower you to protect the children in your community. While addressing the sensitive topic of sexual assault, understanding support strategies can alleviate feelings of powerlessness for both you and the affected child. Drawing from my own experience as a survivor, approach this information with an open heart—it’s a meaningful step in aiding those in need.

Essential Insights on Sexual Assault for Parents

It’s natural to hope that your child won’t face sexual abuse, but the reality is more common than we often realize. Facing this uncomfortable truth is challenging, yet taking the time to understand what children may go through can make a substantial difference in someone’s life.

Child Abuse Statistics at a Glance

  • Evidence of [child sex abuse] is confirmed or corroborated every 9 minutes.
  • Sexual violence affects children of all gender identities.
  • Those with physical or mental disabilities, as well as those in unstable home environments, face an increased risk of [sexual assault].
  • Children in low-income households are more susceptible to experiencing [sexual abuse].

Recognizing whether your child has experienced sexual abuse can be challenging, but being vigilant for [potential warning signs] can be helpful. If your child has regressed to bedwetting, shows reluctance to undress, experiences frequent nightmares, or demonstrates an unusual understanding of sexual topics for their age, it may be advisable to [initiate a conversation](.

Supporting Your Child After Sexual Assault

If your child discloses an experience of sexual violence, whether through explicit online messages or in-person interactions, your reaction can significantly impact their perception of the ordeal. Choosing your words carefully in the midst of such a challenging conversation can be daunting. To provide you with a starting point, here are ways to validate, support, and guide them through their experience, allowing you to assist your child promptly when they need you.

Affirmation of Love and Support

  1. Express Love: Let your child know you love them unequivocally. They may fear your anger or worry about being seen differently after sharing their experience. Reassure them that your love remains steadfast.

  2. Clarify Non-Culpability: Emphasize that it is not their fault. Regardless of age, individuals may grapple with misplaced guilt after [experiencing sexual assault]. Assure them early on that no one is to blame for being a victim of sexual violence.

Empathetic Listening and Validation

  1. Understanding their Feelings: Responding to [sexual assault experiences] varies, so let your child express their emotions in their own words. Pay attention not just to what they say but also to non-verbal cues. If they’re not ready to talk, they might signal discomfort through a headache; if seeking emotional support, they might show more physical affection. Being mindful of these subtle signs helps you respond empathetically to their needs.

  2. Affirmation of Belief: Survivors, especially children, may fear [doubt or disbelief] when sharing their experiences. Opening up requires great courage, and dismissing their account can intensify feelings of isolation. Reassure your child that you wholeheartedly believe them, offering unwavering support without questioning the validity of their narrative.

Assure them that you’re here to keep them safe.

It’s unfortunate, but some people who commit acts of harm may try to keep children silent by making threats. These threats could involve harming the child’s family, sharing compromising photos or videos, or even repeating the harmful actions if the child speaks out. Reassure your child that, regardless of any threats they may have faced, your commitment to their safety—both physically and emotionally—is unwavering.

Encourage them to share when they’re ready.

While it’s natural to have questions about [your child’s experience], it’s important not to pressure them into sharing every detail until they’re comfortable doing so. Allow your child to dictate the pace of the conversation and share their feelings when they feel ready.

Guidance and Resources for You and Your Child

Discovering that your child has faced sexual violence is undoubtedly an overwhelming experience, and knowing where to turn for support is crucial. Here are avenues for reporting the incident and seeking assistance:

  • In cases of immediate danger or if you want to report the incident to your local police, dial 911 at any time.

Beyond ensuring your child’s physical safety, prioritize their emotional well-being. Consult your child’s pediatrician for a referral to a mental health professional specializing in guiding individuals through the healing process. Acknowledge that your child’s experience of sexual abuse can also be traumatic for you as a parent or guardian, so seeking professional support for yourself is crucial.

Addressing child sexual abuse is an emotionally charged process, especially when it involves your own child. By raising awareness about sexual assault, I hope you feel better equipped to support the young individuals in your life. Remember to take moments for self-care, lean on the people and organizations around you for assistance, and extend kindness to both yourself and your child.