Check in with a therapist or counselor first
If possible, talk with a therapist or counselor ahead of speaking with your children about sexual abuse. Therapists (especially those with a focus on family therapy and/or trauma) can help you plan an approach for speaking with your children based on your unique circumstances.
Even if you don’t have a dedicated therapist or counselor, try calling a sexual abuse hotline to speak through the process with a dedicated volunteer or advocate.
Determine your goals for the conversation
Having a conversation with your child about sexual abuse could be necessary for a variety of reasons – and your approach should vary accordingly. A general conversation about safety and recognizing abusive behaviors, for example, will require a different approach than a conversation about sexual abuse that has happened to your child or within your family.
Before speaking to your children about this complex topic, determine your goals and intentions for the conversation. Some examples of potential goals include laying a foundation for general safety and boundaries or helping your child heal from their own experiences of abuse.
Remember that your child is innocent
One of the biggest mistakes parents make when talking with their children about sexual abuse is using a “shame and blame” approach. Regardless of whether any actual abuse has taken place, it’s important to remember that your child is a child and that their wellbeing is your number one interest. Especially for children who have experienced abuse, encountering compassion, empathy, and meaningful support from parents and guardians is a critical factor in ensuring that they can effectively heal.