As a parent, the last thing you want is to deal with your child enduring some type of abuse. However, whether it’s regular school bullying, cyberstalking, physical abuse or sexual abuse, it does happen. To give you some context:
- One in ten children will be sexually abused before they are 18.
- In 90 percent of these cases, the victims know the perpetrator.
- One in seven of these events occurs on school days and is perpetrated by a juvenile.
- Of the number of children who are sexually abused, 20 percent of them are abused before they turn eight.
- Only a small number of reports of sexual abuse are fabricated; depending on the study and how the questions were asked, that number can be somewhere between 4-8 percent.
These numbers aren’t meant to needlessly scare you. There are many children who grow up without such incidents. But they are important reminders that parents should always be aware of the signs and listening to their children.
What You Can Do
“For many parents, this is their worst nightmare,” notes Karen C. Rogers,
“Let the child know that you’re glad they shared this really important
It’s not the parents’ job to get all the details about what happened; there are trained professionals who can do that. But kids may want to talk about what happened, so parents need to give them that space.
“It’s also really helpful for parents to give children permission to talk to somebody other than [the parent],” she says. You can say to the child, “If somebody was touching your body’s private parts or touching you in a way you didn’t like, I would want you to talk to me or somebody else. [Ask them] ‘Who are some other gown ups you could talk to if you had a problem?’”
Avoid Leading Questions
Adults can sometimes run the risk of leading a child to a conclusion when talking with them about abuse. For example, saying, “I think your teacher touched your private parts, right?” or “I noticed that you’ve been having really bad dreams. Did somebody touch your private parts?
“My general rule of thumb is to avoid giving an answer in a question and think about more open-ended questions,” Dr. Rogers says. Some better options include:
- “You’ve been having lots of bad dreams. Did something happen?”
- “You haven’t been acting like yourself lately. Are you worried about something?”
- “You’re not doing as well in school. Is something bothering you?”
The most common way adults find out that a child has been molested is by the child reporting it. So ask open-ended questions and when the child answers, listen to their words. As Dr. Rogers notes, “The biggest mistake is not believing the child.”
There Is Hope After Sexual Abuse
No parent wants to hear that their child has been sexually abused, but Dr. Rogers notes that most kids who experience this end up healing.
“I think parents fear that this type of experience will have a permanent, damaging effect on their child. But with most children who experience sexual abuse, that’s not the case,” Dr. Rogers says. The caveat being