How to Support a Child Who Has Been Abused

Childhood abuse lasts a lifetime. Trauma, be it sexual, psychological, or physical, has devastating effects on identity, self-esteem, and mental health. Survivors often grow into adults who struggle with attachment, intimacy, trust, emotional regulation, as well as depression and anxiety. Although many can get professional help and recover, it is even better for intervention to occur during childhood. If you have recently learned your child was abused or are now caring for one who has been in the past, there are some steps you can take to protect their well-being and help them heal.

Find a Licensed Children’s Therapist Skilled in Trauma

Professional help should be every parent or caretaker’s first step when supporting a child who has been abused. A children’s therapist who specialized in trauma and abuse recovery will be able to find ways to help your child communicate and address their most painful memories without causing further distress. Therapists can also provide advice and strategies for the entire family to support the child. Spending time together to establish a secure attachment style, building trust and providing the child a sense of safety is of the utmost importance.

Offer Reassurance

When a child talks about their abuse, express the fact that you hear and believe them. Many adult survivors of childhood abuse have stated that they tried to tell adults what was happening or had happened to them and were told they were lying or making up stories. While you may already accept and know about your child’s abuse, they may have been rejected, threatened, or scolded for talking about it in the past.

Give them as much emotional support as possible while respecting their boundaries. They may not be comfortable being hugged or touched right away, so be mindful of their body language. Understand that emotional outbursts, fearfulness, and clinginess are also normal responses to abuse, so be as compassionate and patient as possible.

Seek Legal Justice

Seek the counsel of a child sexual abuse lawyer or another attorney if you know the abuser. Every child deserves justice, and putting the individuals who harmed them in prison also prevents them from hurting others in the future. Collaborating with your child’s psychologist is imperative to the legal process as they can provide expert testimonies and observational reports to use in the court. Although the court can never undo the harm of abuse, it can prevent it from happening again and can help bring a sense of closure.

Holding child abusers accountable is the duty of the legal system. Do not let fear or shame prevent you from seeking restitution as you help your child recover.

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