If your child tells you that someone has sexually abused them, please believe them.
In almost two decades of women’s ministry I have sat with many wounded women. Without a doubt, the women who are hurting the most are those who were victims of sexual assault and also the victims of disbelief. The scenario is common: They were abused as children or teenagers and when they told their parents, their parents did not believe them.
Disbelieving the victims is common. Because abuse often happens at the hands of a family member, neighbor or trusted friend, parents cannot—or are unable to bring themselves to—believe their children because they would then have to reorder their perception of the perpetrator and also acknowledge that they may have unknowingly played a role in allowing the abuse to happen.
When the victims of abuse are not believed, untold injury is heaped upon them. Not only are they traumatized by the initial abuse, but the structure upon which they rely for safety and support is knocked out from underneath them. The second crime may be worse than the first. I think it may actually cause greater long-term harm.
So moms and dads, please believe your kids if they whisper any hint to you that something has happened. The chance that your child is telling the truth and that you know who harmed them is very high.
- 98 percent of childhood victims were found to be telling the truth following investigations.
- 3/4 of children who are abused don’t tell anyone.
- 8 out of 10 abuse victims know their perpetrator.
If your child tells you that he or she has been sexually assaulted by another child or an adult here’s how to respond:
- Remain calm. Though you may feel tremendous emotion, staying calm will allow your child to feel secure and willing to tell you more of the story. If they sense anger they may believe you’re angry at them or shut down because they don’t want to upset you.
- Believe your child and give them time to put their victimization into their own words. Invite them to keep talking and show that you trust them and believe their story.
- If your child is in immediate danger (for example if the perpetrator is still nearby) remove yourselves from any potential harm.
- Call law enforcement. As difficult and scary as it may be, you must involve the police and report the incident.
- Get your child professional counseling as soon as possible. Informed trauma intervention is imperative.
- Get yourself and other family members counseling as soon as possible.
- Surround your family with the love of a caring community—preferably a local church where you can find mature believers who will be constantly available to process this trauma with you for years to come.
- Do remember that Jesus brings life from death and he will be an ever present help through this time of trouble. He is able to heal.
The presence or absence of belief from a parent has the power to unlock or lock the healing of an abuse victim. It’s our duty to believe our children and to respond with the utmost of care. God will help us and he will surely help them. By believing our little ones and walking through the valley with them, we pave the way for a lifetime of health, wholeness and resiliency.
This article originally appeared here.