What do I do if my child has been sexually abused?
The most important thing is to believe him or her! Children rarely lie about abuse. There is little evidence that children make false allegations of abuse; what is more common is a child denying that abuse happened when it did. Children have different ways of talking about their lives and remember details differently than adults do. If a child reports sexual abuse that has not actually occurred, it is still a very serious cry for help and it will be important to seek professional support.
- Support the child by listening and staying calm. Your calmness will reassure the child that they can also be OK and that they have not done anything wrong.
- Reassure the child that what has happened is not his or her fault. One of the worst tricks abusers play on children is the way they trick the child into believing that they were an equal partner in the abuse.
- Report the abuse immediately.
Missouri Hotline: 1-800-392-3738
Kansas Hotline: 1-800-922-5330
- Call MOCSA. We have a 24-hour Crisis Line where an advocate can provide support and direction as you begin to navigate this difficult terrain.
MOCSA in Missouri: 816-531-0233
MOCSA in Kansas: 913-642-0233
- Know that children can recover from sexual abuse, particularly if they have the support of a caring, available adult.
- Get help for yourself. It is often very painful to acknowledge that your child has been sexually exploited — parents can harm children further if they inappropriately minimize the abuse or if they have irrational fears related to the abuse. MOCSA can help caretakers deal with their own feelings about the abuse so that they are able to provide support to their children.
All children respond differently to sexual abuse. Some seem to rebound more quickly than others. What was different for that survivor? Most likely, it was the way their parents or the system responded to them. The absolutely most crucial thing a child needs is to be believed.
Do allow your child to lead the discussion.
Do answer questions to the best of your ability.
Do help your child maintain their normal routine. Routine helps children feel safe and settle anxiety.
Do control your own emotions around the child. Your reactions could make the child feel guilty for upsetting you.
Do allow the criminal justice system to work.
Do encourage your child to tell her/his own story in her/his own words.
Don’t ask probing questions
Don’t respond negatively to the abuse with comments like “How could you be so stupid?” or “Why didn’t you try to stop it?”
Don’t try to sweep the incident under the rug; deal with the disclosure. Support the child, report the incident, and get them the help they need.
Don’t threaten to harm the abuser. If the abuser is his/her parent, they still love that parent.
“I am glad you told me, thank you.”
“You are very brave and did the right thing.”
“I am sorry this happened to you and I wasn’t there to stop it.”
“It wasn’t your fault.”
“I am proud of you for telling me.”
“I need to make a report to people who know how to stop the abuse. There are people who can help us.”
You can help prevent child sexual abuse. Visit the Children's Trust Fund website for more information.