a child discloses sexual abuse
It is very rare for a child to make a statement about abuse
which has not happened. It is much more common for a child
to remain silent, afraid to tell anyone. This silence prevents
the child from being able to heal from the abuse. Make sure
that your child knows that he or she can talk to you about
For a child who has been sexually abused,
the reaction of parents and other adults is crucial. In order
to respond sensitively and appropriately to a child who is
disclosing an assault, the focus should remain on the child’s
When a child discloses abuse:
- Believe him or her.
- Remain calm.
- Determine the child’s immediate safety needs and
- Let the child tell his/her story and listen; do not assume
anything or lead the child.
- Do not avoid embarrassing subjects.
- Use whatever language the child uses to describe the assault.
- Reassure the child that you believe him/her and are glad
s/he told you about what happened.
- Validate the child’s feelings.
- Let the child know that he or she has the right to be
- Let the child know that s/he is not to blame for the abuse
and that you will do your best to protect and give support.
- Make a plan of action and let the child know what you
plan to do.
- Do not make promises you cannot keep.
Call the Virginia Family Violence & Sexual Assault Hotline
at 1-800-838-8238 to get connected to a sexual assault crisis
center near you. A counselor at the crisis center can work
with you and the child so the child can talk about her/his
feelings, is supported, and understands what will happen next.