Sexual Abuse of Children and Adolescents

When a child confides in an adult who has been sexually abused, the adult may feel very uncomfortable and may not know what to say or do. The following suggestions should be followed when responding to children who say they have been sexually abused:


What to say?

If the child indirectly indicates that he has been sexually abused, encourage him to talk freely about what happened to him. Do not comment passing judgment.

  • Show him that you understand him and that he takes what he says very seriously. Child and adolescent psychiatrists have found that children who have someone who listens and understands react better than those who do not. The response to the disclosure of sexual abuse is critical to the child’s ability to resolve and heal from the trauma of sexual abuse.
  • Reassure the child that you did well to say so. If the child has a close relationship with the abuser, he will feel guilty for revealing the secret. The child will be terrified if they have been threatened with harm to him or his family as punishment for divulging the secret.
  • Tell the child that he / she is not to blame for the sexual abuse. Most children trying to make some sense of abuse think that they were the cause of the abuse or imagine that it is a punishment for bad things (real or imagined) that they did.
  • Finally, offer protection to the child, and promise that he will immediately do whatever it takes to end the abuse.

Back to the beginning of the article

What to do?

Report any suspected sexual abuse. If abuse occurs in the family, report it to your local Child Protection Agency.

If the abuse occurs outside of the family, report it to the police or your district attorney’s office. Individuals who report abuses in good faith are immune from prosecution. The agency receiving the report will conduct an investigation and take the necessary action to protect the child.

Parents should consult their pediatrician or family doctor, who may refer them to a doctor who specializes in the evaluation and treatment of sexual abuse. The doctor examining the child will be able to assess his condition and treat any physical problems caused by the abuse; You may also obtain evidence that will help protect the child and assure him that everything is fine.


A child who has been sexually abused should undergo a psychiatric evaluation by a child and adolescent psychiatrist or other qualified mental health professional to determine how sexual abuse has affected him and thus determine whether he needs professional help to overcome the problem. trauma of abuse. The child and adolescent psychiatrist can also help other family members who may be very affected by the abuse.

Although most allegations of abuse are true, there may be false allegations in cases of child custody disputes or in other situations. Sometimes the court may ask a child and adolescent psychiatrist to help you determine if the child is telling the truth, or if it will hurt to testify in court about the abuse.

When the child has to testify, there may be special considerations (such as the use of video to record the testimony, frequent breaks, the exclusion of bystanders or the option of not having to look at the accused) which make the experience causes less stress.

Adults, given their maturity and knowledge, are always the culprits in abuse cases . The child who has been abused should never be blamed.


When a child confides in someone about sexual abuse, it is important to give support and love; This is the first step in helping your child reestablish his confidence in adults.


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