How might children and young people tell?
Children and young people tell others about their experience of sexual abuse in a variety of ways:
- Through their play e.g. painting, drawing, dolls house;
- Through their behaviour e.g. nightmares, angry outbursts;
- By telling us directly;
- By telling others who tell us;
- By asking us questions about possible sexual abuse;
- By ‘testing the waters’ by telling a small part of what may be happening and seeing what the response or reaction may be;
- Telling us indirectly through statements such as “I don’t want to see…..”, “I don’t want to sit on …….lap”, “I don’t like ……”
- Or all or some of the above.
What can you do if a child or a young person tells you they have been sexually abused?
Tell them you believe them;
- Demonstrate to them that you are listening to them.
- Tell them that you are glad that they told you;
- Tell them that this happens sometimes and that they are not the only one. Let them talk ‘at their own pace’, don’t interrupt them, don’t ask them direct questions;
- Be open and clear with them;
- Do not promise them things you cannot achieve e.g. I will make the person go to jail, or I will not tell anyone else;
- Explain in language that is developmentally/age appropriate about any DHS/legal/Police intervention that needs to take place;
- Try to be calm when they are talking to you. Do not express anger or get upset as the child may blame themselves;
- Report to Child Protection, DHS, if you believe that the child is not safe from further abuse and their safety and current situation needs to be legally investigated;
- Don’t tell the child to forget the sexual abuse ever happened;
- Don’t blame the child for what has happened;
- Find someone for you to talk to about the impact it has had on you.
This material has been taken from the following source with amendments made: © 2014 Victorian Centres Against Sexual Assault (CASA) Forum; Fact Sheet: Responding to children talking about sexual abuse.