One challenge your family will face when your child has been abused will be what to say to others. It is helpful to remember that most people have very little knowledge about the dynamics of child sexual abuse, so their questions may be naïve, ignorant and sometimes hurtful. Prepare yourself for people to possibly say the following things*:
“What exactly did she/he do to your child?”
“Are you sure your child is telling the truth?”
“Why did you not know it was happening?”
“If it were my child, I’d just move away.”
“Your poor child must be feeling very guilty.”
“You just need to move on and pretend like it never happened.”
If you are the parent of a child who has been sexually abused, please know this: You and your child don’t owe anyone an explanation of what happened. “I’d rather not talk about it” is an acceptable response to any of the above comments.
If you are in a caregiving role for someone who knows a child who has been abused, remember that this situation is similar to any in which an individual is suffering. Here are some helpful phrases:
“I can’t even imagine how much you must be hurting. I care.”
“I am so sorry that you and (name of child) are going through this. Your pain breaks my heart.”
“I know you are hurting, and I really care about that. If you want to talk about it, I’ll listen (and will keep our conversation confidential.)”
*These phrases were provided to Wisdom of the Wounded by The Children’s Advocacy Center of Ottawa County, which is part of a nationwide network of more than 800 Children’s Advocacy Centers (“CACs”) in the United States. For more information, please see the National Children’s Alliance. Click here to find a CAC in your area.