Q&A: How do we help a child victim of sexual assault?Written by Focus on the Family
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Question: Our entire family was devastated to learn that one of our children was recently the victim of a sexual assault. What can we do to come alongside her in this crisis and minimize the negative fallout of her traumatic experience?
If you haven’t already done so, contact the police. In the emotional aftermath of an assault, the urge to deny what has happened may cause a victim to wait days or weeks to report it. As a matter of fact, because of embarrassment, fear of reprisal or apprehension over dealing with police, doctors and attorneys, the majority of sexual assaults go unreported. It’s in the best interests of all concerned that the truth should be known and justice done.
Report honestly to the police
The officers who take the report will need to ask about specific details of the assault that may be painful to answer but are necessary for proper documentation of the crime. It’s important that your child be completely honest, candid and consistent in describing what happened. This will make for the strongest case against the attacker.
A medical evaluation should also be carried out, even if your daughter does not believe she was injured (since sexual attacks are most commonly directed against females, we’re assuming that your child is a girl). A thorough examination is necessary to assess her physical condition, to collect important evidence and to provide counselling regarding the possibility of pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections. As with the police report, parts of the examination will be difficult and uncomfortable, especially if your daughter has not had a pelvic exam before. But the long-term benefits of proper medical care are worth the temporary discomfort.
Most important of all, your daughter needs your love and understanding during this period of severe personal crisis. This event cannot be ignored and will not be forgotten. She will require generous amounts of both time and support to recover from the physical, emotional and spiritual after-effects of sexual assault. Many powerful feelings must be sorted out, including a mistaken sense of guilt or shame. Indeed, we can imagine that both of you are experiencing a wide range of conflicting emotions at this time. Whatever your personal emotional state, it’s critical to put your feelings aside and let her know that you care about her. Tell her that you’re ready, willing and available to walk through this agonizing experience with her. Help her rebuild her sense of dignity and worth. Without this important repair work, she will be vulnerable to sexual pressure and abuse in the future.
It’s more than likely that you will need professional help with this daunting task. That’s why we’d strongly recommend that your child receive counselling from an individual who is qualified to deal with the impact of a rape experience. If you need assistance finding a qualified Christian therapist practicing in your area, Focus on the Family Canada’s counselling department can provide you with a list of referrals. Our staff counsellors are also available to discuss your situation with you over the phone. You can reach them Monday through Friday, between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Pacific time, at 1.800.661.9800. They’ll be more than happy to come alongside you in any way they can.
Excerpted from The Complete Book of Baby and Child Care published by Tyndale House Publishers. © 1997, 2007 Focus on the Family.
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