Protecting Your Child From Sex Abuse
Experts explain how to recognize signs that your child may have been a victim of sex abuse.
If You Suspect Your Child Is Abused: What to Do
There is perhaps no greater pull on our parental heartstrings than that
which occurs when our child is in harm's way. Discovering -- or even suspecting
-- our child may have been sexually abused can, say experts, throw any parent
into an emotional tailspin.
However, it's at this precise moment that child-abuse experts say parents
need to remain calm.
"It's important to stay calm and not transmit your own emotional upset
to your child. Don't grill a child for every detail, or alarm the child by
panicking," says Eblinger.
Instead, take immediate steps to protect your child from any imminent danger
by removing all contact with the suspected abuser. And while your first
instinct may be to confront the accused yourself, experts say that's not the
"If you discover your child is being abused, especially if they tell you
about it, the first contact you want to make is with the police," says
Amaranth. This, she says, is even more important if your child is under the age
of 5. Why?
"Children under the age of 5 are not considered credible in the justice
system, so even if a child is 4 years old and clearly says someone touched me
-- even if they can describe it -- they are not considered legally credible
witnesses, so a court case cannot go forward," says Amaranth.
If you contact the police, however, a little bit of detective work on their
part can often go a long way in discovering additional evidence that could make
apprehending the abuser far more likely.
"The police will also advise you on how to proceed in terms of dealing
with the abuser, particularly if they reside in your home, or are a close
family member," says Fiedler.
Contacting a child-advocacy center can help; most major medical centers have
one. Here you will find experts trained in not only counseling children who
have been exposed to abuse, they can also be a treasure trove of information on
what parents can expect from their children, as well as the justice system.
"A child-advocacy center is also a good place to turn if you suspect
your child is being sexually abused but they have not yet corroborated your
suspicions," says Amaranth. When this is the case, trained counselors can
talk to your child and help discover if, in fact, abuse is occurring.
Calming Parent's Fears
While there is no question that sexual abuse is a crime and reporting it is
necessary, experts believe the vast majority of sex crimes against children go
unreported. One reason, they say, is that parents are sometimes afraid the
police will remove the child from the home -- particularly if the abuser shares