Hearing that a child has been sexually abused can be scary and overwhelming.
It is common to feel intense emotions like anger, guilt, and frustration. However, as hard as it can be to remain calm in the midst of all of those feelings, a child will be better helped if you can remain calm, and focus on supporting the child.
What Should I Do first?
If a child discloses that they have been sexually abused, or if you suspect a child has been sexually abused (even if the child has not told you), you should:
- Immediately call the Department of Child Services (DCS) at 1-800-800-5556. This hotline is open 24 hours.
- You should also report the sexual abuse to your local law enforcement agency.
How Can I Best Support a Child?
1. Try to remain calm. When you display anger or disbelief, a child may shut down emotionally, change their story, and feel guilty for the abuse.
2. Believe what the child tells you. This child took a very brave step to tell you what happened.
Even if you are confused about the situation, the best thing you can do for the child is to give them a safe and trusting space to tell their story.
3. Focus on listening to the child, instead of asking a lot of questions. Describing the abuse can be a very traumatic effort for a child. If a child wants to talk about the abuse with you, be patient as they describe what happened. Depending on their age, and the nature of the abuse, a child may have a hard time finding the right words to talk about what happened.
4. Thank a child for telling you. Let them know you are there to protect them, and will do everything you can to make sure this never happens again.