My daughter told me her half brother did sexual things to her, what is the best thing to do for both children?

Dear Stop It Now!
My 5 year old daughter told me that her half-brother did sexual things to her. I immediately had her tell my soon-to-be ex and he responded by saying he would talk with him.  I am conflicted whether I should go right to DCFS or try to get him into therapy. I don't want to tear my daughter away from her father but I hate that I am not there to make sure she is safe. Now that she sat down and talked with them about it her story seems to be changing a bit. Who can I turn to for help with this?
 

Dear Concerned Mom,
I’m so sorry to hear about your daughter’s disclosure and I’d like to start by suggesting that you read our Online Help Center information, When a child tells about abuse. It's great that your daughter told you what is going on but now the adults need to step in to help all the children involved.

Reporting
These are indeed complicated situations and there is not easy answer regarding your next steps. Your daughter’s disclosure would be appropriate to report to your local child protective services (CPS)i

The “ideal” way this would work is that your daughter’s father would seek out therapy for his son immediately, and that you could both contact DCFS together to let them know that it has been discovered that there has been inappropriate sexual activity between the two children but that therapy is being sought and a safety plan has been put into place so that neither child is at risk of any future sexual harm. Our resource guide, Reporting Child Sexual Abuse, can help locate the reporting resources for your state, as well as offer information regarding the reporting process.

I’m not sure what your daughter’s half-brother’s age is, and the difference between their ages may dictate the type of response you get from DCFS. But overall, the best practice is to notify DCFS, with a plan already in place to help all the children involved stay safe and to be open and honest with DCFS.

Professional support
This may be especially important for you to think about if you are wondering if your daughter could use the support of a counselor.  If she is demonstrating any concerning behaviors, I would suggest consulting with a specialist who works with children. 

If you do pursue professional support for your daughter, any counselor or doctor would most likely be mandated to report the sexual behaviors to DCFS themselves.  So, if you and your soon to be ex have already pursued these resources, DCFS can see that the parents are involved and actively working to help both children.  For guidance in locating a therapist, please see our Treatment and Support Resources for Children and Parents.

Additionally, your daughter’s half-brother needs help in learning about safe behaviors and to also possible reasons behind his sexual harmful behaviors. Children’s sexual behaviors happen for very different reasons than adults but it is crucial to get professional support.To help his father with resources for his son, I hope you’ll share the following with him:

Safety Planning
Safety planning is crucial right now.  Hopefully you and your daughters’ father can talk about safety planning. This isn’t about isolating or punishing the boy, but around making sure that he is getting help, and that there are no unsupervised time for the children at this time.  Other household rules can help strengthen the general planning around safe boundaries, touch and communication.  Please read our tip sheet, Create Your Family Safety Plan to help you get started.

I hope this information is helpful, and please do not hesitate to contact us back with further concerns or questions. 

Take care,
Stop It Now!

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Last edited on: April 22nd, 2014