Dealing with child sex abuse  

It can be difficult to know whether a child is being abused, as the abuser may be secretive about their actions. In this video, a child sex abuse consultant from the Marie Collins Foundation explains what to do if you think a child is being harmed, and how to discuss the subject of abuse with a child.

How can I tell if a child is being abused?

Transcript of Dealing with child sex abuse

Child sexual abuse is any sexual behaviour directed towards children...

..by adults, male and female, and by young people themselves.

And it can involve activities from voyeurism

to the most outrageous sexual offences, such as rape of children.

But which also now involves sexual behaviour online.

And this is a growing concern.

On the research today, approximately one in six children

experience some form of sexually abusive behaviour.

So we have a serious issue.

We know that very few tell us. Often they feel shame, guilt,

because the abuser will often put the guilt onto them for the behaviour.

And impacts can be extensive.

The hardest thing for us as adults is to try to come to terms with the fact

that we think someone might be harming our child.

And then what do we do about it and how do we talk to our child about it?

So I would say first of all, if you do think someone's harming your child,

for whatever reasons...

It may be nothing to do with your child's behaviour,

but you're uncomfortable with someone around your child.

Very difficult to define that. But if you do feel that,

the first thing you need to do is talk to someone about it.

And there is a helpline that all adults can go to to talk about any issues

where they have concerns that maybe their child is being abused.

And why we need to talk about it is, it feels such a huge step to take

to actually accuse someone of sexually harming a child.

And we're probably fearful to do that. And that's understandable.

But we must make sure

that we protect and keep all children safe in our society.

When you talk to children you have to bear in mind their stage of development.

And if you're talking to a five-year-old,

obviously your approach is going to be quite different to a 14-year-old.

So you need to know your child

and think of the best way to approach them on the matter.

Children are going to be holding a whole lot of guilt

because of the grooming process

and the probably close relationship they have with the person who's harming them.

They're not going to come out straight away

and say, "Yes, this has been happening."

And they'll need to know that you won't be too shocked by what they might say.

So it's about how you give permission to the child to talk about anything.

Don't interrupt the child. Just let them tell you in their own words

and in their own way what has happened.

Obviously check that the child is alright.

You might want to ask a question or two, but don't endlessly question the child.

Just let them in what we call free narrative,

as they tell their tale, let them do that.

What you need to do is be reassuring.

Try not to be too shocked or to show that you're shocked.

And also let them know that you will look after them, keep them safe,

but you will probably have to take some action about it.

You will need to phone either the social services department,

which are now called children's services,

and / or the police,

and let them know you have this concern and why you have this concern,

and they will make an appointment to see you or ask you to go and see them.

A big step, I know,

but when you think about if you don't do that, then this abuse will continue

and the child or children concerned will then be affected

and could be affected for the rest of their life.

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