Child and Adolescent Sexual Abuse

The Shock of Finding Out

sexual abuse @ auckland therapy : counselling and psychotherapyWhen a young person discloses sexual abuse, most parents feel deeply shocked along with a whole range of other feelings like anger, rage, guilt, fear, betrayal, grief, confusion and worry. Parents and family members should seek help immediately to talk to someone who can guide them through what needs to happen and how to help the child/ young person.

Following your child’s disclosure, it is important to consult with CYFS, the Police, ACC and Sexual Abuse Agencies who can assist you through the process of notification.

What your child /adolescent needs from you

  • To be listened to and believed.
  • To be reassured of your love and support. Tell your child that you are very glad they told.
  • To know that you will make sure they are safe and the abuse will not happen again.
  • To know that he/she can recover and get better and say that you will find people to help make this happen.
  • To be told many times that it was not their fault and the offender is totally responsible for what happened.
  • To keep your child’s routines and boundaries in place. This will help your child move forward and feel safe and secure.
  • To find a therapist for your child / adolescent, and therapeutic support for yourself. Even if your child is not outwardly showing any signs that the abuse has affected them it is important to get help as soon as possible to prevent any long-term effects developing.

What you can expect from counselling for your child / adolescent

It is important to have an independent person, an expert in child abuse recovery, to check the impact the sexual abuse has had on your child / adolescent. It is especially important that children do not blame themselves for the abuse.

If a child grows up believing that he/she was to blame for this bad experience will set a child up for a great many difficulties like shame, guilt, low self-worth and becoming a victim both psychologically and emotionally in the future.

Children need a place where they can safely express their many feelings, thoughts and confusions about what happened. Children tend to protect their parents from further distress and so they will often report that they are just fine. More often than not this is not the case.

Sexual abuse can traumatise a child and without help these symptoms can become entrenched and cause many difficulties to develop like anxiety, fears, social problems, lack of trust, withdrawal, grief, depression, etc.

It is a known fact that children who have been abused are more vulnerable to further abuse. Some counselling and education can address this issue and help your child be emotionally strong, confident, assertive with high self esteem. Keeping Safe education is usually given to children/adolescents as part of their therapy process.

Children need to resolve as much as possible at their present age and developmental level. However your child will go on processing the abuse at each new developmental stage and further counselling is available for them throughout their life if they need it.

A young person can recover from abuse but it will take time and commitment. Parents are the key people in encouraging a child’s growth and healing in a safe and supportive home environment. Parents and children both need guidance and expert help to ensure a smooth recovery.

Find a Therapist

Our Child & adolescent team have particular interest and experience in working with child and adolescent sexual abuse. You are welcome to contact any of them for further information or for an appointment.

(For adults who experienced sexual abuse as children, see Sexual abuse survivors.)