Personal SafetyChild Abuse
Helping children who have been sexually abused
Children will either disclose abuse directly by describing what has occurred or indirectly through behavioural signs and indicators. Discovering or suspecting that a child has been sexually abused can be a distressing experience. Most people feel a range of emotions including anger, sadness, shock, disbelief, disgust and helplessness. It is important to stay calm and not convey these feelings to the child as this may prevent the child from making further disclosures.
The child’s feelings about them- selves may be influenced by your initial reaction to the abuse. If the child senses a horrified response, this may reinforce and perpetuate a child’s feelings of guilt and shame.
If the child discloses sexual abuse to you
Tell the child that you believe them.
Make it clear that whatever has happened is not the child’s fault.
Reassure the child that they did the right thing in telling you. Many abusers threaten the child to prevent disclosure.
Tell the child that some adults do wrong things and that the abuser is responsible for the abuse.
Do everything possible to comfort and reassure the child. Explain what action you will take next. Do not make promises that you will not be able to keep, nor promise the child con dentiality. The child has enough secrets and needs someone to act on their behalf to stop the abuse.
Consult with your local Department of Human Services Child Protection Intake Team, Centre Against Sexual Assault or a local sexual offences and child abuse investigating team.
Some professionals are now mandated to report child sexual abuse. If you are unsure of what to do whether you are mandated or not, do stop and consult.
Be clear about your role — if you have a reasonable suspicion of sexual abuse, report your con- cerns to the appropriate authori- ties. It is not your responsibility to prove the case.
Remember: Child sexual abuse will not stop unless adults take effective action on behalf of the child and report their concerns to the appropriate authorities.