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SO YOU HAVE BEEN TOLD - WHAT NOW?
If your child discloses sexual exploitation, how you react is an important part of child protection.
- You do not want to further alarm the child. Stay calm. Your reaction and attitude will play a key role in your child's healing. Don’t under react to or minimize the information
- Call the police or sheriff's office immediately. The one who molested your child has probably molested before and will molest again.
- Overreact to the information or panic
- Never confront the sexual abuser, molester or rapist yourself.
- Don’t criticize or blame your child
- Respect the child's privacy. Find a private place and listen to their story. Encourage your child to talk about what happened. Record name, dates, times, and locations so you don't have to rely on your memory when passing on information to the authorities. This will spare excessive questioning which can make a child feel that the adult does not believe him or her.
- Support your child and the decision to tell. It was a very brave thing to do, they are feeling so exposed now. The last thing that you should do is compound that feeling. It will have long term consequences on the child.
- Share the information only with those who need to hear about it. Sexually exploited children are extremely vulnerable to comments from relatives and friends.
- If some time has lapsed since the abuse, don't ask "why didn't you tell me before?" Molesters are experts at manipulation. Children are often threatened not to tell anyone and need assurance. Affirm that you are going to protect them.
- This is not the time to scold, no matter how often the child has been warned about strangers or told not to go anywhere without permission. Never express anger or punish a child - even if they have disobeyed your orders by being at a location they have been warned about.
- Continue to affirm the child and explain that they have done nothing wrong. Children easily assume the guilt and responsibility for what happened. They can be easily enticed or tricked and later blame themselves because they feel they should have been stronger or smarter.
- Help your child understand it was the offender's responsibility, not your child's
- Show physical affection, and express love and support with words and gestures.
- Remember that children seldom lie about acts of sexual exploitation so get …
- Get immediate medical attention. Sexual abuse must be documented if charges are to be pressed. Sexually exploited children often have physical injuries, and more children are getting sexually transmitted diseases today than were affected by the polio epidemic of the late 40's and early 50's.
- Get counselling/therapy for the child. Children are not emotionally equipped to deal with the trauma of sexual abuse. Get the best professional help available. Look for a professional who is experienced in cases of molestation. Don't try to handle your feelings alone. All family members need attention when one member is victimized. Keep the lines of communication open. Sexual Abuse has enormous effects on the child which are usually carried over into adult hood. These effects can be resolved and overcome for the survivor. Read these pages for further information.
- Do not vent your anger or other feelings in front of your child who may feel at fault for upsetting you and regret reporting the abuse.
- Children seldom lie about acts of sexual exploitation because of the shame and guilt associated with it. Take what they say seriously.
- Don't be surprised - or upset - if your child reports to someone outside the family. Children become very concerned about a parent's reaction.
- Keep the lines of communication open. Never forget that the child is a victim - the molester is a criminal. Often it is switched that way by the parents in their emotional re-action.
Often children do not disclose about incidents of sexual exploitation. It is up to attentive adults to recognize the signs of sexual exploitation.
What You Can Do to Prevent the Sexual Exploitation of Children
As a society our efforts to prevent crimes against children have not kept pace with the increasing vulnerability of our children. People are often surprised to learn that many crimes that are committed against children can be prevented. The most effective key to child safety is effective communication with your child.
Sexual Abuse has enormous effects on the child which are usually carried over into adult hood. These effects can be resolved and overcome for the survivor. Read these pages for further information.
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