Research has taught us a very important fact that all parents should know: The single most important factor in a child’s doing well after being abused is the emotional support of the parent(s). If your child is sexually abused, the most important thing that you can do for your child’s mental health is believe him and support her emotionally.

Many children don’t tell their parents about their childhood sexual abuse until they are older, as teenagers or even as adults. The following is a guide to supporting your child:

REMAIN CALM. Most parents feel awful when they learn that their child has been abused. It is most important that you do not overreact. An overreaction will only scare and make your child feel more ashamed. Your child may say it didn’t really happen in order to protect you!

BELIEVE YOUR CHILD. Children do not make up sexual abuse.

LISTEN to your child. Be careful not to make comments and judgments about the abuser. Usually, the child knows or loves the person who abused them. Making comments and judgments adds to the child’s pain and discomfort.

REASSURE your child he/she did nothing wrong. Abuse is never a child’s fault.

MAKE SURE YOUR CHILD IS SAFE from further abuse.

GET HELP for both your child and yourself as soon as possible. There are many counselors who understand about child sexual abuse and can help. Make sure that the counselor you choose feels comfortable with the topic of sexual abuse. Many do not understand the issue and careful selection is important. Don’t forget yourself and your own feelings. You will be best able to support your child if you are also being supported!