When a Child is abused
When a child or young person is sexually assaulted or abused it can have a devastating impact on the family unit. Some find that the distress and anguish experienced by parents, siblings and loved-ones continues long after the child is safe and receiving support. Though you may feel helpless and despondent now, a happy and healthy lifestyle is achievable after abuse. it may not be the same again, but life can, and will get better with some specialist help and support.
If you are a parent, you may find the Support for Parents page very useful.
If you or your child is seeking justice through the courts and have concerns about how this will impact on the family, please contact our Independent Sexual Violence Advocacy (ISVA) Service. An ISVA can support you and your child through every step of the journey; explaining the criminal justice process whilst helping you to seek some ‘closure’ on this upsetting and unforgettable experience.
What to do if you think a child has been sexually abused…
It is your legal obligation to report any suspected or known child abuse to the police or social services.
If your child, or a child you know, discloses any form of sexual abuse, call the police immediately and ask for the Child Protection Unit. They will send out a specialist officer (normally not in police uniform).
Make sure the child is safe and healthy. If you suspect an injury, take them to the hospital or your local GP. Child Protection Procedures will be applied upon your visit.
Give the child a safe environment in which to talk to you or another trusted adult. Encourage the child to talk about what he or she has experienced, but be careful to not suggest events to him or her that may not have happened. Guard against displaying emotions that would influence the child’s telling of the information.
Believe your child. Commend their bravery for telling you. Reassure them that they did nothing wrong.
Keep Calm. Many children have been convinced that they are to blame or that some harm will come to a loved one now that they have told someone. Reassure them that everyone is safe and supportive. They did the right thing to tell.
Do not get angry or let anyone around the child display signs of anger. The child could mistake this anger as disapproval directed at them. Do not make promises that you cannot keep i.e. that you will not tell anyone or that nothing will happen to the abuser. Reassure them that they are safe and that you will do everything in your power to keep them out of harms way.
Do not be dissuaded by the child’s attempt to ‘take back’ the disclosure. This does not mean that the child was lying. It is a very common behaviour for a child who has been abused. They may be testing the water to see how you react. They may have mixed feelings about the abuser, especially if the abuse is a member of the immediate family. Many children have been sworn to secrecy. Taking the disclosure back is their way of keeping the secret safe.
Finally, look after yourself. Hearing the details of abuse on a child can be very distressing. Make sure you talk to someone, perhaps a friend or professional so that you can be strong and supportive for the child.