Parent’s Information

 

At the Children’s House/CAC, we know the important role parents and caregivers play in protecting their children from abuse. This information is designed to help you. If you have questions that are not answered here, please call us at (570) 265-4132. We want to help.

What can I do to protect my children from abuse?

How should I ask my child about being sexually abused?

Why wouldn’t my child tell me if he/she were sexually abused?

How do children tell about sexual abuse?

What do I do if I am concerned that my child has been abused?

What do I tell my child if he/she discloses abuse?

What will happen if my child comes to the Children’s House/CAC?

What is the most important action that I can take as a parent to help my child if they disclose abuse?

Isn’t it better for my child not to talk about the abuse so he/she can forget about what happened?

 

 

What can I do to protect my children from abuse?

Sexual abuse is a major health hazard that affects at least twenty percent of our children. While there is no action that is guaranteed to protect children from sexual abuse, there are steps adults can take to decrease the likelihood of abuse. As an adult, it is important for you to understand that children are not prepared or able to protect themselves from this risk. Children must rely on the adults in their lives to keep them safe. In order to protect children, adults must become educated about child abuse.

 

How should I ask my child about being sexually abused?

CAREFULLY. If you do not have any indication that your child has been sexually abused it may be appropriate to give your child information rather than question them. For example, saying to your child that as their parent it is your job to keep them safe and you want them to tell you if someone or something scares or worries them. Giving them examples such as, some children get scared of bigger kids because they bully them, or hit them. Some children get scared because someone tries to get them to do something wrong like take something that does not belong to them; or someone tries to touch them or make them touch another on their privates. Ask your child if there might be other examples or things that scare or worry children. Tell your child that you want to know about any of those things so that you can help them stay safe. You may then suggest that if anything like getting hit, having someone bully them or try to hurt or touch them on their privates has happened, that you want to know so that you can help stop what is happening.

Why wouldn’t my child tell me if he or she were sexually abused?

Abusers often threaten their child victims or the children’s loved ones with harm if they tell about the abuse. Even if not threatened, children may not tell because they are afraid bad things may happen in their family (e.g., someone may be harmed, get in trouble or go to jail). They may feel afraid that they will not be believed or will be blamed for not stopping the abuse.

Young children may not tell because they do not know what sexual abuse is or that it is wrong. Older children may feel guilty due to accepting special attention and gifts, or may not want to lose that attention.

How do children tell about sexual abuse?

We need to understand why children seldom tell about child sexual abuse and how they tend to disclose when they do tell. This information is critical because a child’s report is often the only way we know there has been sexual abuse. Some research suggests that when children tell, they do not disclose the full story at once, but in stages. When asked directly, the majority of children who have been sexually abused initially deny their abuse. When children feel safe enough to tell, they may tell only a part of what happened. The child may interpret an adult’s initial reaction of shock as disbelief. If adults support the child and do not make the child feel guilty or bad, the child may then give a detailed disclosure.

Children who do not yet have the verbal skills may act out behaviors that they have experienced with the abuser. Young children usually tell by accident, as they talk to their caregivers in the normal course of their day. Older children may tell purposefully to someone outside of their family in hopes that someone will take action to stop their abuse. Adolescents who are being abused may tell when they are angry about an unrelated matter and may want the offender to be punished.

What do I tell my child if he or she discloses abuse?

Assure your child that he/she is not in trouble and that he/she will be safe. Encourage your child to tell the truth. Do not question your child. If he/she mentions the abuse, listen to what your child says. Pay attention to his/her feelings and provide comfort.

What will happen if my child comes to the Children’s House/CAC?

Referrals to the Children’s House come from Law Enforcement Agencies and Children and Youth Services (CYS). Upon arrival to the center the child and family is greeted by center staff to help begin the process. A trained professional will meet with you to discuss the process and interview your child. The length of the interview with the child can vary and may last from 15 minutes to over an hour. Most families spend about two to three hours for their initial appointment.

A medical examination may be needed. If so, nurses from Guthrie Medical Center, provide these services on-site at the Children’s House. These trained medical professionals specialize in providing examinations for children. The exam is non-invasive and every effort will be made to make your child feel comfortable.

What is the most important action that I can take as a parent to help my child if they disclose abuse?

When a sexually abused child discloses abuse, it is crucial for the important adults in his/her life to believe, support, and protect that child. Everyone, including child victims, needs to have his/her reality confirmed. When a child has been sexually abused, being believed is critical. Abused children need for protective adults to acknowledge that the abuse occurred, it is a problem and it is wrong. Children want adults to acknowledge that they were not protected from the abuse in the past and know how they will be protected in the future.

Isn’t it better for my child not to talk about the abuse so he or she can forget about what happened?

While avoiding issues of sexual abuse may be more comfortable for the adults, children may be left feeling responsible, ashamed and confused. Abuse happens under conditions of secrecy. Openly talking about the abuse lets the child know that it is okay to tell and that the adults in the child’s life can handle this disclosure. Communication is a critical tool in resolving the problem: it helps the child understand the abuse, clarify who is responsible and to feel okay about him or herself.