What should be done if you suspect a child is sexually abused

Child Sexual Abuse is a very sensitive issue. So, when one suspects child sexual abuse, it is important to proceed with caution. One should neither act in haste, nor procrastinate about the issue. Care has to be taken to deal with it in the right manner.

 

The first sensible thing could be to watch the abuser and the victim closely as much as possible to make sure the suspicion isn’t really baseless. If you do not know who the abuser is, then the observation about the child’s behavioural changes could give an indication of the issue. One can also speak to the child gently and see if the child is ready to open up and talk about it. However it is important to make sure that this talking does not lead to unnecessary fear in the child. Ease into the conversation talking about topics such as the environment in which the child is growing, what the child likes or dislikes, the family and the relationship with each member, fun times, sad times, about school, neighbours and friends and most importantly what and how they feel about themselves.

If the above conversation leads to anything that strengthens your suspicion then, you may talk more specifically, as to what the child feels about his/her body and looks; what the child feels others feel about the same and if anyone has ever tried to touch the child in a way that wasn’t pleasing for the child. While doing so, you should also tell the child that although the abuser may have told the child not to share these details and has asked the child not to tell anyone, or threatened or bribed the child, you are glad that the child is informing you of what makes him or her uncomfortable. This gives the child the confidence to share his troubles with you.

Using pictures and videos while talking also might help you read the child’s emotions better. Careful observation will bring to your notice any sort of problems that the child might be going through. Assuring the child that you are listening to the child and being approachable to the child will make them seek your help in times of need.  So give the child some time to get back to you.

Once the child has revealed the truth, first and foremost assure the child that you completely believe the child. Secondly, appreciate the child for his/her courage to expose the culprit and helping the other children from falling prey to that person. Also make sure not to question the child too much about why the child didn’t report it earlier or why the child didn’t shout and ask for help. Questions like these makes the child feel guilty and ashamed.

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After having given the child all the emotional support and gaining the child’s confidence, get help from a counsellor, with the child’s consent. Expose the abuser in the community and provide him also with counseling if he is regretful about his action and willing to change. In case needed, one can take help from organizations that deal with these matters. But overall one should take care of the confidentiality of the matter and the sensitivity of the child’s emotions.

More than sympathy, the child needs to be assured and reassured that it is in no way the child’s mistake. The child should be treated normally and helped to lead a life as normal as possible. Avoid harping on the topic – It will only make the child more uncomfortable. On the other hand, asking the child to remain silent and suppressing the issue can lead to depression and anger in the child and also may boost the abusers courage to continue the abuse.

Fighting against child sexual abuse is extremely essential  however it is also a very sensitive issue. So keep your child’s needs as top priority as you proceed very cautiously in dealing with this matter.

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