How to Handle a Child Who Has Been Sexually Abused
One of the hardest things for any parent to handle is the sexual abuse of the apple of their eye. Every parent suffers to see his/her child hurting from deep within. It might take a few days and weeks for the physical scars and bruises to heal. But the emotional healing takes longer time. Your child would need all the strength to return to normalcy. Read this article to know how to deal with the unfortunate incident in your life.
Child sexual abuse evokes nightmares in everyone. Every time you see your innocent child reliving the horrors of that moment, your optimism takes a nosedive. You feel as helpless as your child. Even as you shed silent tears, you want your child to heal. You ache to see her embrace the world once again with her head held high, and her faith in humanity restored.
The comforting fact is that not all victims of sexual abuse lead dark, depressing lives. Most of them get over the incident and go on to lead happy, fulfilling lives. As a parent, you need to understand that the path to emotional and physical recovery of your child is a long drawn one that would require all your patience, strength, and resilience.
As a parent, you need to be aware of certain behaviors of your child who had been an unfortunate victim of child sexual abuse:
Self Isolation/Emotional Withdrawal
Of course, it hurts to see your child shutting doors on you and tuning you out of her life. In such a case, reassure her that you understand her need for privacy at this moment and tell her that you are always there for her when she wants to talk. At this stage, it is imperative that you do not feel resentful or confused about her need to be left alone.
Healing from emotional scars is very tough. One moment your child might be feeling confident, and the very next she might sink into depths of desperation. Remember, these are her ways of trying to adjust herself to the reality of the situation. At this stage, it is very important that you do not start blaming yourself. Guilt delays or sometimes even destroys the healing process.
You are the person your child always felt the safest with. Hence, all unreasonable anger and frustration would be directed towards you. Your child feels safe when she is able to vent out all these negative emotions on you. That said, at no point of time should you expose yourself to violence. Assure your child that you would always be there for her and encourage her to open up to you.
For some time, your child might imitate the behavior of her sexual perpetrator to re-connect with the feelings of intimacy, love and whatever it was that the abuser promised. It is very essential at this point to emphasize to your child that these needs can be met in a positive manner without resorting to such abusive behavior.
Throughout the healing process, you should consciously try to steer your child away from these negative thoughts:
- I am worthless
- I am emotionally damaged
- I am responsible for the abuse because:
- it went so long
- it felt good
- I might have imagined the whole thing
Your Demeanour When your Child Confides in You About Sexual Abuse
As has been said earlier in this article, your reaction to the whole episode(s) would determine the course of emotional healing of your child. Hence remember to:
- Stay calm
- Believe in your child
- Get him/her away from the alleged person immediately
- Report the crime in the nearest police station or a child abuse hotline( Child line and Jagori are two NGOs in India which help victims of child sexual abuse)
- Reassure the child
- Get help from a medical professional to assess the extent of physical and emotional trauma caused
Finally remember, child sexual abuse is not a gender-based social issue. Both, boys and girls are at risk of being sexually abused. Again the abusers might belong to either sex. Equally scary is the fact that most of these abusers are not strangers. They might be the people who you have trusted over years- your friends, relatives and colleagues.
Hence, give your child the freedom to choose whom to trust. If she feels uncomfortable in the company of an adult, gently probe and ask for the reasons. Every child deserves the right to lead a happy, dignified life. Hold your child’s hand and help her steer herself from being a victim to a survivor and finally a winner.