If a child you know has been sexually abused, here’s how to help:
- Help the child to express their feelings.
- Be honest with the child. Share what you know. They need to trust you more than ever.
- Restore the child’s sense of control. Allow them to help decide what to do. Assure that you will be with them and help.
- Suggest to the child’s non-abusive guardian to maintain routines and return to usual activities as soon as possible. Be careful not to become too protective of the child. You want to calm any sense of urgency or emergency and not escalate the fear or anxiety.
- Pay attention to the needs of other children in your household. Give them the information and support they need to deal with their concerns.
- Be patient. It may be difficult for the child to put into words exactly what happened to them. Some child victims may experience regressive behaviors. This is normal and can be worked through with a therapist.
- Do not blame the child for what has happened. Tell the child that you are not angry with them and that they did nothing wrong. Tell the child that you are concerned about them and want to help.
- Do not cause them to be more fearful of people than they already are. Help them to identify safe people to go to when they are scared or sad.
- Do not push the child to talk about the experience. If the subject comes up, discuss it honestly and openly.
Remember, you, too, should discuss your feelings with someone you trust, such as a friend, relative, or counselor. This is not a time for you to be “tough.” It is a good time to seek support for yourself.
All victim services are free and confidential.