The first step in getting help for yourself and your child is reporting the abuse to the police or your local child protection agency. This resource can help you find the number. As scary as it might seem to call the agency, remember that caseworkers are specifically trained to deal with abuse situations and to make sure that your child is safe and gets appropriate help. You can also call a free reporting hotline.
Sexual abuse is a crime in all 50 states, and all states have an additional law that requires reporting. Report the abuse even if the offender is a child or an adolescent.
Think of it this way: if you don’t report the abuse, the offender is left free to abuse other children. It’s not just your own child you’re protecting.
Once a report is made, you have the right to a legal advocate and a victim advocate. To that end, a team of people will work with you and your child. The team usually includes:
After the initial report, there are often two parallel processes that begin: the legal process to investigate the case and the healing process your child and family will go through.
After disclosure, your child will need as much protection and support as you can give. These guidelines can help:
You will have little control over the legal process. It may feel frustrating and will often move more slowly than you want it to. Just remember that your most important role during the investigation is to support your child. Keep in mind that even if the police and district attorney decide not to pursue legal prosecution, it doesn’t mean the abuse didn’t happen or that your child doesn’t need help.
Here are some of the ways you might find out about abuse from a child and how to respond when they tell.
It’s hard to know what to do next when your child discloses sexual abuse. Here are some guidelines on what to say and do.