What Do I Do?
Remain calm. Yes, it is easier said than done, but it's very important to try to remain calm because it helps your child remain calm.
Find a safe place to talk. Children are usually confused, scared, and anxious. Provide a comfortable environment.
Listen to your child. Your child may have difficulty putting their experience into words. That's okay, just listen.
Seek medical attention. Seek medical attention if appropriate. Sometimes there can be internal injuries that aren't visible. Ask if their body hurts and where.
Stay connected. Your child needs you the day they talk and the days and weeks following. Observe your child and look for signs that they are having difficulty coping. Children who have been abused often isolate themselves, are vigilant, use inappropriate sexual language, are easily upset, and can experience separation anxiety.
Praise your child. Praise them for their bravery to speak up. Praise them for their honesty.
Seek outside support. If you feel it is necessary, seek outside support to help your child cope.
What Not To Do
Do not confront the alleged perpetrator with the victim. Almost everyone experiences the thought of confronting the perpetrator. Do not do that with the victim.
Do not ignore what happened. Don't sweep it under the rug. Don't "protect the family" or the "reputation" of the alleged perpetrator.
When you ignore what happened (even if you have doubts), then you are condoning the actions of the perpetrator and disbelieving the victim. I've had many people share that they feel this way, and that can cause irreparable psychological damage.
Do not blame your child, directly or indirectly. Many kids feel like they made a mistake, or did something bad. Make sure your child knows that they aren't to blame and that the other person needs help.
Child abuse (any type) is a challenging and heartbreaking situation. However, research shows the most important thing you can do for a child is provide a loving and supportive environment. If your child knows you are on their side and you believe and love them, that can be all the child needs to recover and even thrive.
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