In the event of a disclosure, please remember that the caregiver’s reaction will play a large part in how the child will cope with and heal from the abuse.
Remain calm. Remember that you are not angry with the child, but at what happened. Children can mistakenly interpret anger or disgust as directed towards them.
Believe the child. In most circumstances, children do not lie about sexual abuse. The most harmful reaction would be for the parent to express doubt or disbelief of a child’s disclosure.
Tell your child that you are sorry this has happened to him or her, but how proud you are for the courage shown by “telling.” Tell your child that he or she is not to blame for what happened. Sexual abuse is NEVER the child’s fault!
Reassure your child that he or she is safe.
Respect the child’s privacy. Be careful not to discuss the abuse in front of people who do not need to know what happened.
Accept your child’s feelings, whatever they are. Understand that the child does not automatically hate the “perpetrator.” They just wanted the abuse to stop, so they told.
Resist the urge to treat the child differently.
DON’T panic or overreact when the child talks about the experience. Children need help and support to make it through this difficult time.
DON’T pressure the child to talk or avoid talking about the abuse. Allow the child to talk at his or her own pace. Forcing information can be harmful. Silencing the child will not help him or her to forget. In addition, avoid having conversations, or phone calls, about what happened in front of your child.
DON’T confront the offender in the child’s presence. The stress may be harmful. This is a job for the authorities.
DON’T blame the child. Avoid questions such as, “Why didn’t you tell the first time this happened?”; “Why didn’t you say no, fight back or run away?”; and, “Why did you go back over there after it happened?”
If you suspect a child has been the victim of abuse, or witnessed a violent crime, contact your local Police Department, Sheriff’s Office, Department of Children & Family Services (DCFS) or, in the event of an emergency, call 911.
Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office Personal Violence Unit: (504) 364-5362
Louisiana DCFS (if the offender lives with or cares for the child): (855) 4LA-KIDS