I found an article in Psychology Today by Brooke Axtell (one of the country’s leading experts and advocates for survivors of sexual assault) o be so helpful, I wanted to pass along a few excerpts to you all. Remember that no child is immune to becoming a victim of sexual abuse (44% of sexual assault victims are under the age of 18), and the shame and pain associated with sex abuse can often silence the victim. Remember to engage in constant conversation with your kids about healthy sexuality and what is or isn’t appropriate. If your son or daughter ever shares a situation that raises red flags, don’t bury or ignore it. It’s up to you to help protect your children from child sexual abuse.
Now, for the great tips from the article:
- Encourage your loved one to express him/herself. Victims of sexual assault are three times more likely to suffer from depression. Consider finding a counselor who integrates expressive arts therapies (such as art, music or dance therapy). Creative expression helps teens connect with and process the truth of their experience.
- Help her/him explore contemplative practices. Contemplative practices (like praying or meditating) can help quiet the mind in order to cultivate a personal capacity for deep concentration and insight. This is particularly helpful in healing disassociation, a way that trauma victims disconnect from their experience in order to survive.
- Visit the website for Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network. Through the site, you can search for your local rape crisis center and learn more about sexual assault. Teens can also connect with trained advocates in an Online Hotline/instance messaging section. After connecting with your local crisis center, research recovery groups and ask for referrals—it’s important to help survivors know that they aren’t alone.
- Encourage your teen in discussions about the media. Help your teen dismantle messages that reinforce sexual objectification. Verbal abuse expert, Patricia Evans, says that verbal abuse occurs when someone “tells lies about who you are.” Mainstream media constantly tells lies about who girls are, so this is especially important as you talk to your daughters (whether or not they have been victims of sexual abuse or assault). Help your kids critically engage with representations of girls and women that emphasize their value as sexual commodities.
- Talk about healthy relationships. Surviving sexual assault is one of the greatest predictors for your teen to eventually experience some form of relationship violence. Be pro-active in discussing the difference between an abusive and a respectful relationship. Model this in your own life as well.
- Honor boundaries. Ask for permission before touching or hugging a survivor. It is important that a survivor of sexual abuse or assault feels in control of their own body.
- Never blame the survivor of sexual abuse. Remind your son or daughter that it is not their fault.