What Should I do If My Child Has Been Molested?
Start by immediately notifying law enforcement if your child is molested.
A sexually molested child is a parent's worst nightmare. What do you do if your precious child has been sexually molested? It's a situation that no parent wishes to be a part of, but sometimes life doesn't give us a choice. Worse yet, child molesters are often intimates of the child and his or her family: babysitters, coaches, teachers, guidance counselors, even friends and family members. This makes the revelation of sex abuse even more heartbreaking and traumatizing if the warning signs of child molestation were missed.
If the worst should happen and you suspect that your or someone else's child has been molested, there are several things you should do:
We get calls every day from parents of victims or from victims themselves saying, I've been sexually abused or my son or my daughter has been sexually abused or molested. What do I do? What am I supposed to do? My answer, the short answer is call the police. Make sure that the authorities are involved. Get therapy for yourself or for your child. Make sure they're getting the help that they need. Take steps to preserve you or your child's right to hold any other person or institution or organization responsible that may have failed to protect you or your son or daughter from harm. If you have questions, if you if you're one of these people that has these questions, call me. Come and see me. We can talk. I'd be happy to answer your questions. There's no charge for that. Just call me.
Know what resources you have at your disposal
Each child in your family should have a designated adult to speak to in the case he or she is sexually molested. Don't isolate your family from competent adults and authorities. Studies have demonstrated that school-aged children are more likely to tell a caregiver than their parents if they were sexually abused. If a child has access to someone in which they can confide, it goes a long way toward reducing the stress and trauma of a horrific event like sex abuse.
Also, make sure you are familiar with all applicable child safety and law enforcement agencies in your area. You should have a list of people you can call if you suspect that your child or someone else's has been sexually molested. Write down a comprehensive list of agencies and individuals to contact for sound advice and up-to-date information.
Take the child's allegations seriously
It's a bad idea to wait for conclusive "proof" that your loved one is a sexually molested child. Trust your child if he or she comes to you and confesses to being touched in an inappropriate manner. Children rarely lie about being abused, and the odds are good that he or she is telling you the truth. Children are often afraid to speak out. They may be scared that the abuser may harm them or their families; that their parents won't believe them and they'll get in trouble for fibbing; that they'll upset their parents or make them sad; or that they'll be taken away and separated from their family forever. If your child does choose to disclose to you that they have been abused, remember the following three tips:
- Stay calm. Getting angry or upset will only make it more difficult for your sexually molested child. Watch your tone of voice and be gentle and understanding.
- Trust the child. Don't belittle your child's concerns or tell them that they are imagining things: take them seriously.
- Protect the child from further harm. Take immediate steps to shield your sexually molested child from further abuse or reprisal. Immediately remove them from the abuser's vicinity and report the abuse.
Prepare to report the abuse
Tell your sexually molested child that you're going to speak with someone who can help, even if the child expresses reluctance. Your child may be afraid that reporting the abuse to the authorities will cause trouble . Their abuser may even have threatened to kill the child or their family if the abuse was reported. Reassure the child and make it plain that you must report the abuse to the authorities. Take threats seriously, but remember that the authorities can keep you and your child safe from harm if you report the crime. Make sure that both you and your child are in a secure location, and mention to the authorities if you have any concern about your safety.
Finally, take notes and make sure your mind is clear and ready. The police will ask questions about you, your relationship to the child, the child itself, and the precise nature of the abuse. Make sure you have all the details ready and available to make the reporting process more efficient. Anonymous tips help guarantee your safety, but the investigations are made more efficacious with a maximum of detail.
Report the abuse
The local police, Child Protective Services, and the Childhelp National Abuse Hotline (800-422-4453) are all good places to report if your child is sexually molested. The Childhelp National Abuse Hotline cannot make a child sex abuse report on your behalf, but they can give you good advice on how to go about the process and where to make your report. Once the reporting process is complete, you may not receive any initial notification that an investigation has begun. If you wish, you can follow-up with the agency after several days have passed and get further information on the progress of the case.
In the meantime, continue to support your sexually molested child and treat them with gentleness and care. Reassure them that what happened isn't their fault. If the child disclosed the abuse to you or another adult, tell them that they were very brave. And don't forget to take care of yourself, either: child abuse can be traumatic for everyone involved, especially the parents. Practice self-care during this difficult time.
Get the best legal representation if your child is sexually molested
The law firm of Corsiglia McMahon & Allard specializes in cases of child sex abuse. We successfully represent child sex abuse victims in civil lawsuits against their predator and/or the institution that enabled their behavior. We refuse to back down unless our clients are fairly compensated. Call our office at (408) 289-1417 for a confidential and totally free legal consultation.