Does every child who is sexually abused need treatment?
Parents Ask: Does every child who is sexually abused need treatment?
You’d be hard pressed to find research or a professional that doesn’t support counseling or therapy for victims of sexual abuse. However, parents who discover their child has been sexually abused are often reluctant to start therapy, worrying that it may make the child feel even more traumatized. Especially parents of very young children, who often hope that their child will simply “forget.”
Not every child will need lengthy, intensive therapy. However, the trauma of sexual abuse left untreated is often carried through a lifetime, with negative health effects, higher rates of substance abuse, and emotional scars affecting daily life, relationships, and family.
Victims who seek the assistance of a trained therapist or counselor are shown to experience a far lighter burden. For children who have been sexually abused, the earlier they are given the opportunity, the more capable they are of battling feelings of anger, shame, and damaged trust in relationships that can otherwise scar for a lifetime.
Kids can’t just “forget” sexual abuse.
Even for very young children, sexual abuse is incredibly confusing. Children are often required to speak with police who are investigating the predator. Children may sense strained relationships within their family, feel the stress of their parents and caregivers, and even understand a disturbance in the way they are being treated.
Having the support of a mental health professional can be helpful to help a child understand the abuse, put the trauma into age-appropriate perspective, and practice healthy ways of reacting to their own feelings.
Feelings that, depending on the circumstances of their sexual abuse, your child might not feel comfortable expressing at home. A therapist or counselor will work with a child to make sure that he or she doesn’t blame themselves or hold other distorted beliefs about their sexual abuse that need to be corrected.
Kids aren’t the only ones who can benefit from help.
Parents, discovering the sexual abuse of your child is traumatic for you as well. It’s important for your child, and your own mental health, that you don’t ignore your own feelings about the sexual abuse and attempt to “soldier on.” There’s significant supporting research for the benefits of trauma-focused therapy, showing that through support and professional treatment, your family can move beyond the shadow of this traumatic experience to enjoy lives that are not defined by sexual abuse.
Don’t assume your family can simply overcome the trauma of sexual abuse. Contact Keep Kids Safe today for assistance finding support near you, or view Counseling Options for additional information.