Welcome back to this conversation about how parents should talk to their children about sexual abuse. In a nutshell, we’re looking at the difficulties that come up when a parent questions their child about a possible sexual abuse situation. Obviously, as parents, we want to know that our kids are safe, and find out the detail when they aren’t. But how do you, as a parent who isn’t a trained forensic interviewer, ensure that the information you’re gathering from your child isn’t tainted in some way? How do you ensure that you’re getting the truth?
Changes in behavior can indicate sexual abuse
Many experts say that changes in behavior can be indicators that your child has been the victim of sexual abuse. And that’s true – things like increased nightmares, more frequent bed wetting incidents, and sociable children suddenly becoming more withdrawn can all indicate sexual assault. But they can also indicate bullying at school, or even be reactions to a family’s changing dynamic, like a pending divorce. Not all behavior changes are signs of sexual assault, so don’t make assumptions!
Talk to your child, but don’t lead them!
One of the greatest difficulties for parents when talking to their children about sexual abuse, is not to ‘lead’ the conversation. If your children think you want to hear a certain thing, they’re more likely to say that, in order to please you. So be sure that your questions are open ended, and don’t imply in any way that you want or expect a certain answer! A few examples to consider:
Good question: Tell me about your day. Did anything interesting happen today?
Bad question: Did something bad happen to you at school? I want you to tell me about the bad thing that happened!
Good question: Sometimes people tell kids to keep secrets from their parents, but that isn’t safe or healthy. If someone ever tells you to keep a secret from me, I want you to know you won’t get into any trouble if you share it!
Bad question: If someone tells you to keep secrets from me I want you to come and tell me right away! Did someone tell you to keep a secret from me? They did, didn’t they?
Make sure your questions are age appropriate!
One of the pointers experts say parents need to remember is that the subject of sexual abuse needs to be handled differently, depending on how old your child is. When you’re asking a 3- or 4-year-old, keep the questions simple and open-ended. Don’t put words in their mouth, and don’t expect them to have all the right words to express a complex issue. When talking to teens, make sure you reinforce the fact that you’re willing to listen to whatever they have to say, and that nothing is an “unacceptable” topic. This is a difficult subject, but you can do it!
Sexual abuse is a very serious accusation!
Talking to your kids about abuse is very hard for parents, but being accused of abuse is even harder! So if you or a loved one have been accused of child abuse or neglect, call the skilled attorneys at The Kronzek Firm immediately at 866 766 5245. We have spent decades advocating for parents, and fighting to keep families together. We can help you too!