It is estimated that at least two thirds of sexual assaults are never reported to the police. This number may be higher for children. What we do know is that reporting a traumatic experience, even to a parent, is a huge step for a child to take. It shows incredible trust and willingness to receive help. Unfortunately, the role of women and children in society can mean that victims are not believed or their experiences minimized. If a child close to you has revealed trauma, then there are a few steps you can take to help them cope.
The emotional toll of abuse can be difficult for anyone to process. This is why the first reaction is one of shock and numbness, followed by denial. This is a normal part of a child’s coping mechanism and it is your job to explain this to them. Help them to understand the stages of recovery, including what sparks their emotional reactions. Identifying and understanding emotions is the first step to taking action to overcome suffering. The life of a child as they grow and enter puberty is already a time of confusion. Adding the emotional effects of trauma can make this even worse, so start by building emotional clarity and understanding.
Offer Support, But Allow Time
When you discover a child you love has been abused, your first reaction may be of anger and strong desire to help them. You’ll want to know all the details immediately, so that you can take action. While this comes from a good place, be understanding of a victim’s unwillingness to be open. Make it clear that you are there to support the child without judgement. Recovering from trauma is a long process, which may take years or even decades. Time is crucial in the healing process, so don’t push the child to talk if they don’t want to. This may push them further away from you, causing them to retreat further into themselves.
Consider Professional Help
Dealing with trauma can be a difficult time not just for the victim, but also their friends and family who act as a support group. Don’t feel ashamed for wanting to seek help from a professional. Trauma treatment is a lengthy and complex process, but fortunately there are therapists with decades of experience in this area. Visiting a psychiatrist can cause anxiety for a child, so be understanding if they are reluctant at first. However, it could be instrumental in aiding the recovery process. You still play a vital role as a caregiver, but the therapist can take some of the strain off both you and the child.
Even if you have not suffered trauma yourself, supporting someone who has can be a difficult process. Explore the incredible wealth of literature online and in books and educate yourself on the subject. Teach your child to understand their emotions fully and offer non-judgemental support. Always consider a therapist and don’t be ashamed of seeking professional help.