My child disclosed…now what?
There is no doubt that hearing your child tell you that abuse has taken place is one of the most difficult things a parent/caregiver can hear. It will undoubtedly send your mind spinning. It is important to remember, though, that your response to what your child is sharing with you will have an impact on their healing process. Your verbal responses, as well as your non-verbal responses, are extremely important.
If you are not sure where to begin or what to say, a great starting point is to tell your child that you believe them, you are very proud of them for telling you, and you are going to help them. Let them know that they did the right thing by coming to you, and that they can always come to you no matter what.
As your child begins to disclose information, ask open ended questions such as, “Then what happened?” instead of questions such as, “Why didn’t you tell me sooner?”. The last thing we want is to place guilt on the child. Do not assume that you know what your child is going to say next by filling in words for them. Allow them to share what they are comfortable with and share it at their own pace.
Let your child know that in order to help them in the very best way, you are going to need to talk to some other grown-ups and work as a team to figure this out. These grown-ups have helped other children who have been in the same situation to get the help that they need.
Although you may be experiencing many different feelings, make sure you are really listening to what your child is telling you. In most cases (over 90% of the time) the abuser is someone the child knows, loves, and trusts, and more than likely, you do, too. It is important to remember to remove your personal feelings for this person and focus on the incident(s) your child is sharing with you.
Your child is very brave for telling you, and now it is your turn to be brave and make sure the abuse stops. Your first step is to contact Children’s Protective Services at 855.444.3911. They can assist you in finding all the appropriate resources in the community.
Surrounding your child with as much support as possible will only help them heal more quickly.