If you have concerns about your child’s physical health related to suspected sexual abuse, the Child and Family Advocacy Center of South Central Minnesota can help you with scheduling a medical evaluation with a Mayo pediatrician who is specially trained to work with children who have experienced sexual abuse.
If your child reports a sexual abuse incident that has happened in the last 120 hours (5 days), they should be seen as soon as possible at an emergency room.
If a report is made to social services or to the police, the investigators will decide if your child needs to be interviewed. Forensic interviews are conducted by forensic interviewers who are specially trained to talk to children in a neutral, fact finding manner that will minimize any further trauma.
Your child may have to testify during a criminal proceeding; however, many cases do not continue to a trial. If the investigation leads to criminal proceedings, the Child and Family Advocate will offer education and support about the process to help you and your child.
Tell your child that you are proud of them for telling about the abuse event. Let them know that you are here to help keep them safe. If your child offers details regarding the abuse, listen to them but do not ask specific questions regarding the details. Tell your child that the abuse was not their fault. As a caregiver, finding support for yourself is very important during this time. If you have questions about what to say to your child, you can get support through an advocate at First Witness.
When a disclosure has just been made and an investigation has just started, it is difficult to know whether an arrest will be made or charges will be filed. The decision about charging will be made based on the evidence found through an investigation. If charges are filed, they are filed by the state in cases of child sexual abuse. It is not necessarily a parent’s decision to file charges in cases of child sexual abuse.
Many things can change when a child abuse disclosure is made and an alleged perpetrator is no longer living in the home. The Child and Family Advocate can help you apply for resources and figure out a plan to pay your expenses.
While it is important to find a support network during an investigation, it is important to remember that an investigation is ongoing and too much discussion of the details of disclosure and case may hurt your child’s case. You should not confront the alleged abuser of the allegations. This could place you and your children in danger.
Remember that you do not owe anyone an explanation regarding what has happened to anyone. You can say, “I’d rather not talk about it”, “It has been a very difficult time for us”, or “I appreciate your concern”. Family members may have strong positive or negative reactions to the abuse incident. Not all friends and family members will believe your child or be supportive of the decision to report abuse.
Child abuse investigations often take much longer than we expect. Your family’s healing does not depend on the criminal justice system’s investigation or response. The Child and Family Advocate can explain the investigation process and can make calls to relevant professionals to find answers.
It is important that your child feels believed. However, it is hard for some people to believe that someone they know and trusted could hurt a child. Perpetrators do not present themselves to others in a way that makes us see them as harmful, it is important to understand that others may not recognize an abuser who is an acquaintance or family member.
You can choose to shield your children from family members who do not believe them. The Child and Family Advocate can help you to figure out what to say to friends and family members who do not believe what your child has said.
Child on child sexual activity can be more complicated than it may seem. Children of a similar age and cognitive ability may act out sexually together without intending to harm each other. It is important to understand normal child sexual behavior so that we can identify behaviors that may alert us to the possibility of abuse.
An OFP may be needed if the alleged perpetrator could have access to your child or is contacting you after being asked not to. It is also possible that the investigation team may ask you to get an OFP. The Child and Family Advocate can help you with the process to obtain an Order for Protection.
Parents often feel like they are riding an emotional roller coaster after their child discloses abuse. Some common feelings after the disclosure are: denial, anger, helplessness, lack of assertiveness, shock, numbness, guilt or self-blame, and betrayal.
It is possible that you are able to support both of your children. It is a very difficult situation to handle without support. Most parents who have an older child victimize a younger child feel very conflicted about how to support their children.
Sexual abuse can happen to any child. Children are vulnerable and rely on adults for most things. Perpetrators systematically groom and build trust with adults and their children before the abuse occurs.
Through the process of “grooming” the offender is able to gain the trust of others and access victims. Perpetrators come from all races, ethnicities, religions and incomes. Many appear to be trusted members of our communities.
There are many reasons children may not tell! Children are often very afraid to speak out regarding the abuse. Abusers tell children no one will believe them. Abusers also may threaten them or loved ones if the child tells. Many children do not want to get the abuser in trouble. Some children may not have the words to describe what has happened to them. Other children may not want to make other family members sad or upset and so they do not disclose.
Visitation is not an issue that is necessarily decided in the criminal court process. If there is an upcoming visit with an alleged abuser, your advocate can help you make a plan to keep your child safe. The Child and Family Advocate can help you plan for any family court proceedings that may affect visitation in the future.