If you are the parent or guardian of a child who is a victim of sexual abuse/assault, you may find the following suggested responses to common reactions helpful.
Child reaction to sexual abuse/assault: A child may not want to separate from you and may need constant reassurance.
Parent/guardian response: Reassure the child that he or she is safe now.
Child reaction to sexual abuse/assault: A child may be embarrassed to talk about what happened. Older children and boys often feel a sense of guilt.
Parent/guardian response: Tell the child that he or she is not at fault and is not responsible for what happened.
Anxiety/Loss of Control
Child reaction to sexual abuse/assault: A child may feel out of control or vulnerable. He or she may develop a low self-image.
Parent/guardian response: Create situations in which the child feels in control and empowered. For example, encourage your child to make decisions about family activities or help with family meals or other activities he or she can complete successfully.
Child reaction to sexual abuse/assault: A child may refuse to talk, may be emotionally incapable of remembering or talking about the abuse, may develop immature behaviors (i.e. bedwetting, thumb sucking, loss of toilet training).
Parent/guardian response: Help the child feel secure and in control. Explain the purpose of the legal investigation, the medical exam and treatment.
Child reaction to sexual abuse/assault: A child may not want to sleep alone, experience nightmares, disrupted eating habits (hoarding food or reluctant to eat), reluctance to go to school, stomach ache or headache.
Parent/guardian response: Allow the child to talk about his or her fears. Show understanding about his or her physical complaints and reassure the child that he or she is safe.
Visit our SAFE Place Treatment and Support Program page for information about what to do and not do if your child discloses to you that she/ he has experienced sexual abuse, and for a summary of common symptoms/problems after experiencing a traumatic event.