When a minor confides that they have been sexually abused, reassuring them that it was not their fault is important for their current and future well-being.
If the perpetrator is a trusted family member or community leader, some minors worry about a possible negative reaction if they share their abuse, and that somehow the abuse was partially or more, their fault. Other sexually abused minors may feel shame or loyalty to the abuser that may hinder their willingness to tell a parent or another trusted individual about their abuse.
Although a natural reaction to some parents, denying the abuse happened or blaming the victim could cause more trauma for the victim. Next steps may include seeking professional support to help the abused and to further the message that a minor should not be faulted for being sexually abused.
The sourced articles below should provide you more information on responding to minors and not faulting them for being sexual abused.
- Help For Parents Of Children Who Have Been Sexually Abused By Family Members
“If you find out or suspect that your child has been sexually abused by a family member, it can take a toll on you as a parent. It’s important to find a way to manage your feelings, so you can focus on creating a safe environment for your child that is free from harm, judgment, and blame. It is imperative that when your child discloses to you, you continue to repeat the following messages through both your words and your actions:
– I love you.
– What happened is not your fault.
– I will do everything I can to keep you safe.“
RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), rainn.org, accessed 6/13/2022
- Sexual Abuse
“Sexual abuse can include both touching and non-touching behaviors. Researchers estimate that about one out of six boys and one out of four girls have been sexually abused. Children respond to sexual abuse in many different ways. It depends on their age, gender, personality and family circumstances. If a child says she or he has been abused, the first thing to remember is to try to stay calm. You may need to reassure the child that what happened is not his or her fault, and that you believe them.”
Nationwide Children’s Hospital, nationwidechildrens.org, accessed 6/13/2022
- Why Sexual Abuse is Never a Child’s Fault…Not Even a Teenager
“I have worked with people who have been molested for quite a while now and while many people know the company line is to say that it is never the victim’s fault, I do find that as adults it can be difficult to understand why we say that. It is true that 2 out of 3 teen victims know their abusers. In cases where a child knows his or her abuser, it is much more often the case that a child or teen was tricked into performing sexual acts rather than, as this judge envisioned a ‘forcible attack.’”
Kate Oliver, LCSW-C, help4yourfamily.com, accessed 6/13/2022
- My Child Was Sexually Abused. What Do I Do Now?
“What do I do? Tell your child you believe them. Thank them for being brave and for trusting you; as hard as this is for you to hear, it’s harder for your child to say. Reassure your child that it wasn’t their fault and that you’ll keep them safe. Afterwards, call the police. This is not something you can handle without professional help. Don’t ask your child a lot of questions, just let them talk. Don’t say bad things about the abuser, your child may have conflicted feelings about them, and doesn’t need you threatening them or saying bad things about them. … You’re not alone. According to the CDC one in five children are sexually abused.”
Stop Abuse Campaign Corp., stopabusecampaign.org, accessed 6/13/2022
- Child Sexual Abuse
“How can I help a child heal?
You can help a child reduce the long term effects of sexual abuse by:
– Believing the child
– Telling the child it is not their fault
– Helping the child identify a professional therapist or counselor to talk about the abuse and their feelings”
Kids Matter Inc., kidsmatterinc.org, accessed 6/13/2022
- ‘It’s Not Your Fault.’
“A child may need to hear this often, especially as they see the fallout of the crime (loved ones arrested, family members upset, friends and families’ lives disrupted).”
Focus for Health, focusforhealth.org, accessed 6/13/2022
- Why Children Don’t Tell
“Fear of consequences not only for the perpetrator, but for the victims themselves and their families, can also make immediate disclosure difficult. Perpetrators may make threats to victims about hurting them or people they care about. Because of the stigmas associated with sex, victims also may believe they are at fault, that no one will believe them if they tell, or that they are impure and dirty. These ideas lead to victims feeling shameful and embarrassed about what happened, and may fear repercussions from parents or family members if they tell.”
Samantha, Alliance For Children, allianceforchildren.org, accessed 6/13/2022
- When Children Disclose Sexual Abuse
“A child’s disclosure of sexual abuse is daunting. As a parent, try and remain calm. Don’t ‘overquestion’ the child, demand details, minimize information, overreact to the disclosure, criticize, or place blame on the child. Listen to the child and respect his or her privacy. Support the child and his or her decision to disclose the sexual abuse, no matter what the child says. Express support because a child needs to know he or she has done nothing wrong, that the situation was the offender’s fault, not the child’s.”
Jane Lefkowitz, LICSW, socialworktoday.com, accessed 6/13/2022
- It Wasn’t Your Fault … Supporting Recovery From Childhood Abuse
“You may feel you could have stopped it but child abuse is such a complex and psychological minefield. Saying you could have stopped something with hindsight may seem possible but the reality is that you probably couldn’t. You couldn’t have stopped it because you were a child. They were the adult and they controlled the power. Children cannot make decisions about abuse; only abusers can do that. They are the ones in control. …”
The National Association for People Abused in Childhood, UK, napac.org.uk, accessed 6/13/2022
- When A Child Tells
“I’ve come to see that there is something possibly even worse than the sexual abuse of a child, and that is when a parent responds to the child’s report in a way that blames the child, minimizes the horror, or conveys in any of a hundred ways ‘your safety isn’t important.’”
Tanya Ruckstuhl, parentmap.com, 3/8/2019