When You Believe a Child Has Been Sexually Abused
1. Respond carefully to a child’s disclosure of sexual abuse.
When a child discloses to you that they have been sexually abused, how you respond can have an important impact on them. The child needs to know that you believe them and that they will be okay. By responding calmly and thoughtfully, you can help a child to feel safer and to begin their process of recovery.
Learn more about helping a child who has been abused.
2. Get help
Handling a situation of child sexual abuse privately or within the family can be a mistake and cause further risk and isolation. Professional intervention is key. Finding specialized helpi for the child and adult involved supplies the guidance and learning needed to make everyone safer now. You may also find assistance and support by speaking with trusted friends or family members.
Read our Let's Talk guidebook to learn about speaking with helpful adults.
3. Report the abuse
Child sexual abuse is against the law and must be reported to protective authorities, either to child protective services or to the police. Reporting the abuse is an upsetting prospect for many families. Yet, filing a report can be a first step to accessing support services. Children who are abused and their families need help to recover from their trauma. Anyone who is harming a child sexually also needs help and support to stop the behavior.
4. Find help for the adult who has abused
When adults who have abused children are motivated to stop, to take responsibility and get specialized treatment, it is possible for them to stop abusing and lead productive lives. For someone with a sexual behavior problem with children, it can feel impossible to ask for the help that is needed to stop. Having the support and "tough love" of friends and family can help someone through the process of learning to change behavior.
Learn where you can find professional help for someone who has offended.
5. Make a safety plani to prevent further abuse
Setting clear rules and establishing agreements among safe adults about informed supervision of children can prevent further abuse. Keeping a child safe from an adult who has abused them is complicated. It’s important not to get professional help and guidance rather than to try to manage a child’s safety on your own. To protect a child against immediate harm, filing a report with protective authorities can be key to your safety plani. Authorities can also make determinations regarding additional services needed to keep a child
Learn more about assuring a child’s safety.