Surviving Rape or Sexual Violence

What Should I do if My Child Has Been Sexually Abused?

Child sexual abuse is not just vaginal or anal penetration. It can include inappropriate touching, child pornography and forced sexual activity.

Sexual abuse of a child happens when the child cannot understand or is too young to give consent to sexual activity. Since most children seek approval from adults, they are vulnerable to abuse. The use of physical force is rarely necessary.

What Should I Do if a Child Tells Me Someone is Abusing Her/Him?

Keep calm and believe the child.
Seek medical attention and call PAAR’s hotline 1-866-END-RAPE (1-866-363-7273).

Things to Consider

  • Staying calm. It is important to remain calm because the child may think your anger is directed towards her/him rather than the abuser. Use comforting expressions as the child is relating her/his story.
  • Believing the child. In most cases, children do not lie about sexual abuse. Let the child know you believe her/him. Tell the child that the abuse was not her/his fault.
  • Listening to the child. Let the child tell you what happened in her/his own words. Expect that the story may be incomplete. Typically, details come out as time goes by. Young children, in particular, may not know how to explain what happened to them. Some children may deny the incident ever occurred. Many children feel overwhelming shame and guilt, especially if the child is trying to keep her/his family intact. Be patient.
  • Seek medical attention. The child may be suffering internal injuries that you cannot see. A medical exam can also provide valuable evidence.
  • Contact ChildLine. If you suspect child abuse, contact ChildLine at 1-800-932-0313.

Confronting the abuser or rapist, especially in front of the child, may be harmful or dangerous. Leave this to the police.