Reacting to Reports of Abuse

How to React to a Child's Report of Molestation

Children rarely make up abuse stories. Never deny what a child is telling you. Such a response adds to a child's anxiety when it is vital that he or she feel protected. It is helpful to be supportive and say something like, "It took a lot of courage for you to tell this. This is not your fault. You are not to blame. We care about you, and we're going to see that this person doesn't hurt you again."

What to Do after a Child has Told You

Listen to what the child has to say. Do not try to "turn off" the talking or act as if it makes you uncomfortable. If you do this, you may inhibit the child's disclosure. Do not ask questions or put the child on the spot. The social worker from Child Protective Services is trained to elicit the information needed. It is best to keep the number of people the child must talk to at a minimum. Thank the child for telling and mention that it was the right thing to do. You might say, "This is a problem we need help with. We have special people who can help. They know all about this kind of thing and what needs to be done."

Impact on Family Relationships

Child sexual abuse affects the whole family system - parents, siblings, extended family. All family members experience diverse emotions as a result of the disclosure and intervention. Each family member experiences these emotions at many times and in many ways. It is important for family members to receive therapeutic intervention, which is often a lengthy process. The therapist selected should have experience working with sexual abuse victims, their families, CPS caseworkers, and the court system. The CPS worker can refer to a therapist, treatment center, or support groups - all helpful resources.