Hesperian Health Guides

If your child has been sexually abused

In this chapter:

If your child has been sexually abused, you can help if you:

  • believe what she shows or communicates with you. It may be difficult to believe that someone you know and trust has done this to your child, but children rarely make up stories about sexual abuse. Some abusers are very friendly to parents. That way they gain better access to the children and it keeps the parents from reporting the abuse.
  • praise her for telling you. Children need to know that they have done the right thing by communicating about the abuse.
A woman comforting her little girl.
  • reassure her that the abuse is not her fault and that you are not angry with her. Use as many different ways of communicating this as possible.
  • protect your child's safety. Try to prevent future contact between the child and the abuser. If this is not possible, make sure you or someone who knows what happened is always with your child when the abuser is present.
  • treat physical health problems from the abuse. Try to get your child tested for sexually transmitted infections, even if she does not have any signs. Some sexually transmitted infections do not have any signs, or the signs do not show until a child is older.

As a parent, you also need help. Parents feel many emotions including disbelief, anger, and sadness when they learn their child has been abused. Parents may blame themselves or each other for what happened to their child. It can help to talk about these feelings with someone you trust. Be patient with yourself. It may take a long time for these feelings to change.

There is no shame to the family if a child has been abused. Abuse is a crime — like theft — and was not caused by the family.