Help for parents whose children have been sexually abused
Help for parents whose children have been sexually abused.
Discovering that your child has been sexually abused is a deeply traumatic experience that will undoubtedly bring up many different feelings for you, especially if the abuser is someone you know. Providing a caring, understanding and sympathetic environment will be key at this stage.
The response your child will need from you is one of belief, understanding, love and support.
If your child decides to tell you that they have been or are being sexually abused it will not have been an easy decision to make. As soon as you can, reassure them that it was not their fault. Some of the biggest fears a child has when considering telling someone is that they won’t be believed, or that they will be blamed for the abuse and told it was their fault.
It is important to try to remain calm (which we know will be difficult), give your child reassurance that they have done the right thing by telling you, and that from now on you will do your best to keep them safe.
If you find out someone you know, who is living with you, has sexually abused your child.
If your child is telling you that they have been sexually abused by someone that is in your home e.g. your husband/wife/partner/sibling/grandparent it is important to protect the child. The best way to do this is to contact social services or the police to discuss your options. Make sure that you do not approach the abuser. They are likely to deny any allegation and may sound extremely plausible. Please believe your child.
The abuser could turn out to be someone you love and this will bring up very confusing feelings, but if your child is at risk the priority has to be to make them safe. This will mean involving professional people who will help you. If there are other children in the house it is possible that they are being abused and will also need protection.
You may feel that you want to discuss your feelings anonymously first before you talk to Social Services. You can ring the NSPCC helpline on 0808 800 5000.
What to do when you find out:
- DON’T blame your child for what has happened
- DON’T blame yourself or take responsibility for the abuse, the only person to blame is the abuser
- DON’T tell your child to forget about it
- DO reassure your child that it is not their fault
- DO let your child know that you love them
- DO let them know it was brave of them to tell you
- DO encourage your child to talk about it
- DO encourage your child to speak to someone independently who has experience in these issues
- DO try to be sensitive to your child’s emotional needs
- DO look after yourself; it is an extremely difficult time for you too
- DO get yourself some support, talk to a counsellor and close friends
- DON’T feel that you have to try to sort this all by yourself. There are people who will help you.
What to do when you find out:
If you find out your child has been sexually abused by someone you don’t know, but is known to the child
Try and get your child to tell you who it is, but don’t promise them that you will not tell anyone. It is your responsibility to tell the authorities so that they can do all they can to help protect your child.
Talk to Social Services and the Police immediately, do not speak to the abuser yourself. It may not be only your child that is being harmed. If you speak to the abuser before the police they may disappear or threaten and frighten other children and families into not talking.
It is important to remember that it will have taken a great deal of courage for your child to tell you, they may feel scared, confused and be extremely distressed. They may be just as worried about your feelings as their own. They just want the abuse to stop; they don’t necessarily want to split up the family. The consequences of telling you will mean that there has to be change and they probably will fear this and try to take responsibility for it.
Help for parents/carers whose child has been raped
(This information is age dependant – for this purpose it will focus on the 13-17 year olds – see the sexual abuse part of the site for other information)
Your child might not use the word “rape” or understand what this means but if they have been penetrated in any way this is what has happened. Your response to their disclosure will be instrumental to their recovery, If your child tells you that they have been raped they will need you to:
- Believe them
- Support them
- Remain non judgemental
NO ONE DESERVES TO BE RAPED THE FAULT IS ALWAYS WITH THE RAPIST.
- Try not to ask too many questions, you do not need to know the exact details, they will tell you if they want to
- Encourage them to seek medical help quickly and if possible let them tell the Police
When someone has been raped, they can often feel out of control. It is important to not make decisions for them and let them try and decide what they want to do next in their own time. This can be extremely difficult because the sooner they get the professional help, the better it would be for them, but you cannot force someone. Seek some support for yourself too, it is an extremely difficult time for you.
Help for friends
If your friend has told you that they have been sexually abused or raped, it is really important that your friend gets some help and tells an adult about what is happening.
If your friend has come to you having just been raped, it is important to take him/her straight to the Police Station or Doctors/Hospital. This is because there will be evidence on his/her body that will help the Police to catch the rapist. Therefore, ask your friend not to change their clothes or wash their body until after they have seen the Police.
You can help your friend by listening to them and believing them. Try not to ask too many questions and understand that it is not their fault. You could also help them to find out where they can get help. Seek some support for yourself too, it is an extremely difficult time for you.
YoungMinds is the national charity committed to improving the mental health of all children and young people. You can visit their website for more information.
They also have a parents helpline 0808 802 5544
If you are under 18, and tell us that you or someone you know, are being or have been sexually abused or raped, we may have to share this information with Social Services, who will then help you get the support you need.
How are you feeling?
Finding out if someone you know and love has been abused can be very distressing . You may have a range of emotions from anger, guilt, disbelief, denial, sadness. It is really important you get some help and talk to someone . CRASAC can offer limited sessions to talk this through or go to your GP and ask them for some counselling.
If you have anything you would like to know or discuss, please e-mail us and we will get back to you as soon as we can.