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Helping Children Recover

Sexual abuse of children is an especially tragic aspect of sexual assault. However, just as adults can recover and heal, so can children. Here are some ways you can help them.

If a child discloses to you that she or he has been sexually abused, listen calmly. It may be very difficult for the child to disclose abuse. Your calm demeanor will help the child feel safe.

Let the child know that you believe her or him. As with adult survivors of sexual assault, children who have experienced sexual abuse often have feelings of mistrust. If a child tells you that he or she was sexually abused, assure the child that he/she is believed.

Assure the child that by telling, s/he has done the right thing. Again, validating the child's disclosure will help the child's feelings of safety.

If you're a parent or caregiver, maintain a regular routine. In general, children do best in a stable environment. For children who have been abused, stability and routine are that much more important. Don't forget to also make time for play and fun!

Understand that children who have been abused may have a broad range of reactions. There is no "one way" that children react to abuse. Even for the same child, extremes in emotion or behavior are not uncommon. Be patient and supportive.

Seek specialized counseling for the child. In addition to your caring support, the child may benefit from treatment with a mental health professional whose specialty is helping children recover from abuse.

Seek support for, and take care of yourself. Caring for and supporting child survivors of abuse will sometimes require that you put your own needs "on hold." Yet it is vitally important that you find time to reach out for support for yourself, and continue to do the things that bring joy to your own life. Taking care of your own needs will allow you to better support the child who depends on you.

We can help! For support and information, call our 24-hour helpline at 1-800-871-7741.