What You Must Do If Your Child Has Been Sexually Assaulted
As a parent, you are in the prevention business. But no parent can prevent every bad thing that happens. What do you do if find our your child has been sexually assaulted? Now is not the time to blame yourself. Now is the time to take action to help your child.
1. Get Immediate Medical Treatment
The first next you need to do is get immediate medical treatment for your child. Take your child to an emergency care facility and tell the staff what has happened. Before going, make sure the facility has the ability to perform a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) exam on a child. You may want to focus on a children’s hospital in order to find trained staff that can perform such an examination on a child.
2. Be Careful About Asking Questions – It Was Not Your Child’s Fault
Sometimes the way we ask questions when something has happened sounds like we are blaming the victim. Questions like “why were you there alone,” or “why were you wearing that,” or “why were you texting with him” are fear responses from you. They are not helpful for your child. There will be time to collect information in a nonjudgmental way. Your first goal should be to understand what happened not why it happened. Focusing on the what will help keep the judgment out of your voice — because it is not your child’s fault.
3. Call the Police and Child Abuse Hotline
Call the police and call your state’s child abuse hotline. It is important for law enforcement to begin an investigation as soon as possible when your child has been sexually assaulted. If you take your child to a medical facility for a SANE exam, the staff at the facility will make those calls (or at least the call to the child abuse hotline).
4. Get Information from the School or Institution
It is important to act immediately to get information from the school, church, daycare, sports team, or other institution. Many places now have cameras with recorded video. But sometimes the videotape is not kept for more than 30 days. You should immediately call and email and ask the institution to collect and preserve all information — including videotape. This is essential information for you to understand what happened and how it could have happened.
5. Mental Health Counseling for Your Child
The first help your child needs is physical medical treatment. But do not delay in getting mental health counseling for your child. The psychological damage from sexual assault is a bomb with a slow fuse. Even if you do not see immediate effects, your child will need to talk to someone who specializes in treating victims of sexual assault. Most of the time, the medical facility that performed the SANE exam can provide names of mental health professionals.
6. Mental Health Counseling for You
You are going to be the strong presence, the emotional stability for your child. Do not underestimate the psychologically damage to you if your child has been sexually assaulted. After the immediate danger is past, you will start to question how this could have occurred. You should expect that this examination is going to involve self-blame. How could I have not seen this coming? What warning signs did I miss? You have now become a victim as well because you will start to blame yourself. You must get mental health counseling for yourself to stop the emotional descent. Your family is going to need to come together. But without professional health, your anger can be directed in the wrong direction.