What to do if you think your child has been sexually abused.

About the Author: JB is the volunteer co-coordinator, and a regular writer, for Fighters Against Child Abuse Australia. She is a stay-at-home mum with 6 children aged between the ages of 7 months and 20 years and is currently working toward a BA Literature / Sociology, and a diploma in counselling.

So what do you do if your child tells you that they are a victim of abuse? First of all, you need to stay calm. It will hit you like a brick to the face, but you need to hold it together for the time being.

 It has taken enormous courage for your child to come forward, and you don't want to risk them thinking they have done the wrong thing.

If the abuser is someone close to you it will be hard to believe, and at some point you will grieve the loss of the person you thought they were, but right now you need to put that aside and take action.

Reassure your child that you believe them (even if you are still not sure what to think), that you will help them, that it is not their fault, and that they have done the right thing in coming forward.

Then call the police, and ask to see someone in the child protection unit. These officers specialise in dealing with traumatised children.

They generally wear plain clothes, so they aren't intimidating, and they know how to tell the difference between abuse, a misunderstanding, and a lie.

 It is important to note here that children are almost always telling the truth about sexual abuse.

Abusers will often target children who have a history of lying, mental illness, or having been 'coached' or alienated by another parent. Why? Because they know that nobody believes these kids.

No matter what your child's history, always give them the benefit of the doubt, and let the police decide whether their story checks out. They will not make an arrest or even inform the alleged offender if they don't believe it to be true, so you needn't fear incriminating an innocent person.

Before you get to the interview, let your child give you as much information as they are able (you will be called as a witness), but do not ask any specific questions, because they could be seen as leading, and that will damage the case.

 As much as you want to confront the abuser, don't. They are not going to tell you the truth if they are guilty, it implies that you don't believe your child, and it is a safety risk.

 Not only that, but it will alert the offender to the possibility of police involvement, giving them time to destroy any evidence that might be found.

 Unless you are dealing with this situation immediately after an incident where there may be evidence present, it is best not to take your child for a medical examination until it is requested by the police.

They will usually use specific doctors who know what to look for, give reliable evidence, and know how to work kindly with victims of assault. This is not something you want to have your child go through twice because it can be quite upsetting.

 Please do not pass judgement based on the medical. Research shows that only 4% of sexually abused children will have an abnormal result at the time of the examination.

 Even in confirmed cases of severe abuse including penetration, this number only increases to 5.5%. Perhaps if juries were given those statistics we would have a much higher conviction rate.

There is every chance that you child will disclose information to you, and then change their mind and insist it was a misunderstanding or a lie. Unfortunately this is a very common response, because they don't want to hurt you, damage relationships, or talk about something so intensely personal.

They might be afraid of what will happen next, afraid of what the abuser will do, or convinced that nobody will believe them. The abuser may have made threats, and told them repeatedly that they will not be believed, or that they are at fault.

Try to remember that this is not a reflection on your relationship with your child. Don't ever blame yourself for not knowing. Abusers are almost always the people we trust the most. These people make it their life's work to ensure that they can win the trust of both parents and children.

It is a long-term grooming process, with entire relationships, families, careers, and lives built around it. There is no occupation, religion, social class, age, gender, sexual orientation, or prior life experience that excludes someone as a possible offender.

These people will charm their way into any walk of life, invent any history, and do as much work as they need to get access to potential victims and avoid suspicion.

 They will live their entire life 'in character' if they have to, and almost all are serial offenders. The best thing you can do for your child is be there to support them every step of the way.

Even if they seem fine, make sure they get ongoing professional support from someone who specialises in child abuse, because the effects don't often show until much later in life.

This is an incredibly traumatic experience not only for the victim, but for everyone around them, so make sure that you take some time out and find someone to help you process your feelings too.

Child sexual abuse is a topic nobody wants to talk about. Not only is it an uncomfortable subject, but like most crimes, we assume that 'the system' is taking care of it, and that it couldn't possibly be happening to anyone we know.

 The problem is that the less we talk about it, the easier it is for abusers to offend.

Some statistics:

• 1 in every 6 boys, and 1 in every 3 girls is a victim of sexual assault before the age of 16  • 93% of abusers are known to the victim

• 80% of abusers are family or close friends

• Between 23% and 40% cases the abuser is another child (this does not include normal childhood curiosity)

• Some sexual abusers are female, but between 86% (male victims) and 94% (female victims) are male.

 • Each male abuser of girls has an average of 52 victims • Each male abuser of boys has a staggering average of 150 victims

• Only 3% of these crimes are ever detected (the researchers guarantee anonymity) • Statistically, children living with a parent and their live-in partner are at far greater risk of abuse

• NSW data shows that approximately 15% of reported child sexual abuse cases lead to prosecution, of those only 40% result in a guilty verdict.

• The average custodial sentence for those convicted of child sexual abuse in Australia is 6 years • On average, convicted child sexual abusers serve just over half of their custodial sentence

Could it be happening to someone you know? It is estimated that 1 in every 6 boys, and 1 in every 3 girls, is a victim of sexual assault before the age of 16.

 Have a think about how many children you know, and let those numbers sink in. You might not know who they are, but you do know survivors. With statistics like that, we are all personally affected.http://www.facaaus.org/

Posted in:  Life Lessons

19 Replies


I was in this painful situation 15 years ago with my first son who disclosed disturbing details of abuse involving his grandfather. I removed him from harm immediately and attempted to speak to my partner about the possibility that his father was abusing our son. My then partner refused to believe this and against my wishes (while I was out) took my son too spend time with his grandfather. It was then that I decided there was no choice but to end my relationship and return to Australia with my son as it was the only way he would be safe. This was a terribly traumatic for us and the ensuing years involved counselling and other therapies to endeavour to undo the damage caused to my son. He had begun stuttering some time before the abuse came to light. I am so glad I acted quickly and bravely because I know I did the right thing. I know there are family members that doubt the abuse happened but a mother knows and a child doesn't lie about such things at the age of 3. My son is now 17 and doing wonderfully in all aspects of life. We have an incredible bond and I am glad we discovered the abuse as early as we did.

The Imperfect Mum

What a beautifully brave woman you are. Good on you for taking the measures to make your son safe, poor little man. X

Heidi Egarter

Thanks for your kind comment and your support. It means a lot :)

Hayley Stone

I'm going to do a bit of a spiel for the nsw police sexual assault reporting service SARO here. If you are an adult victim of sexual assault including childhood sexual assault you can record information anonymously through this service without a court case. It allows the police to collect data about offenders. I highly recommend the service and it is a great stepping stone if you later decide to pursue charges. You could provide vital information to protect others. There is no time limit on reporting sexual assaults.

Sarah Kunjuraman

That's very hard to read but very important at the same time. I hope I never go through this. My love to anyone that has


Sorry, but I don't agree its always the case. My ex's wife, tried to tell me that my boys told her that I allow them to kiss my privates. They took my children, to the police station, than was refered to DHS. Their was an incident where my 5 yr old kissed his step brother on the penis. Having been questioned she told them, that he told them that it was a sucking action. It was all proven untrue, but was a horrible experience for myself, as I believe she told my son to say it..


I was sexually abused until I was 10 years old, by my grandfather, one day he tried to do it to my best friend, so I locked us in the bathroom until my mum picked us up. I lied and said he showed us dirty magazines and I never went there again. I didn't tell my parents (or anyone else) what really happened until I was around 20 years old. I have 2 young boys we don't have secrets, ever, we talk about our bodies using the correct names and also discuss appropriate/inappropriate touching.


I was absolutely floored when my sweet innocent daughter of 5 disclosed that my partner and a member of the army had touched her..
I stayed calm, called the police immediately and stayed at a friends as i found our "home" was a horrible place to stay in at the time.
The above steps are pretty spot on and grateful my gut instincts lead me to do those exact steps.
My daughters offender was found guilty and is currently serving 8 years with a parole of 5 years. He still denies what he had done and pleads his innocence, but the evidence was there and we took the right steps to ensure we were safe.
We are currently doing really well, started with councelling throughout the court proceedings which was really hard. But since stopped as I didn't want a repeat reminder every time we saw the "councellor".
I'm so incredibly proud of my daughter for talking to me about this, I didn't see it coming and had no idea nor did I know the "grooming" process- so study that too!!
I hope there will be more parents that are strong to call the police as I know many parents just carry-on or leave the partner and not take the proper action! We need to stop these horrible people from being amongst our children!!


I'm in a situation where I am at a loss of what to do...I have a 16month old daughter. Last year my partners sister accused my partner & his brother if sexually interfering with her when she was younger. She raised it to the parents, she is now an adult in her 20's. My partner denied it, the brother admitted it. My partner soon became very angry alot when I tried to discuss anything about it...I was respectful in my questions but had a bad feeling about it all. The next night my partners parents phoned again & he told me that he was cleared & it was all untrue. My suspicions grew, I text the brother (he thought it was my partner) and the brother admitted that it happened & it very much sounded like they were both involved. When I raised this with my partner (I did so non accusingly after seeking counsellor advice) he went ballistic & threatened to kill me. Neighbours called police, there's a DVo in place & this far I've had supervised visitation for him with our daughter. He has went on a smear campaign, told many lies & slandered me along with his family. Now he wants to fight custody...what do I do? His sister will not go against get family & press charges, they are sweeping it under the carpet & it seems because I know about this "secret" or whatever it is I'm being punished.


Report it to DOCS / FACS / CPS (child protection in your state) - they don't need a conviction to take it as the truth, and can fight on your behalf to keep him away. Do you have copies of the texts? Appeal to the sister to talk to child protection even if she doesn't want to press charges.


I have a copy of the texts, the police in our remote town have screen shots of the texts. They didn't seem interested in it. The sister will protect her family so it's pointless appealing to her. The family & my ex are making my life hell since this all unravelled. I have seen lawyers as the my ex told the police I aggravated him by raising this issue. My ex has told me he will destroy my life & has threatened that he'll get custody of my daughter, his reason he said "I know that's the thing that will hurt you the most". He has been to a lawyer this week, I'm just worried what will happen next!


Get child protection involved. Their power trumps everyone else's, and if they believe you they will fight. You need to get a good worker, and make sure they like you, otherwise it will be hard.


Thank you do much for posting this, in my experience this is spot on. I only wish my mother could have read this, but if this helps even just one parent of a child who's been abused to deal with it appropriately it'll mean such a difference in the Child's road to recovery.


This is very confronting.. Just over 2 years ago my then 5 year old daughter told me of abuse she suffered from her then 12 year old brother who lived with his father. To say its like a brick in the face is to say the least. You always say 'if anyone touches my child I'll kill them' but no one tells you how to feel when both the victim and the abuse are your children. I had absolutely no idea what to do so I reported the matter to docs and her father. He chose not to believe her and actually said 'who knows what she has been talking about with her friends at preschool'. After about 2 months (YES you read that right!!) they sent out a JIRT worker to question her and take my statement. They concluded that yes she had been abused but because of her age and that she wasn't able to give days, dates and what she was wearing etc that she wasn't a credible witness for prosecution and they wouldn't be taking the matter any further and handing it back to docs who did nothing. It's been just over 2 years now and I have had no contact with my son. It lately has been bringing up a lot of mixed emotions. Feelings of anger, hurt and the grieving of the loss of my relationship with my son. In hinds sight there were signs but nothing that couldn't be put down to normal behaviours. Please don't think 'it will never happen to my child' it does and sometimes by the person you least expect.


So i am not sure what else to do. My now almost 8yr old son has shown almost every sign that he has been sexually assulted by my ex husband. He has only told us two things that he made him do but only one was sexual but he has done many things that shows much more has happened to him for him to understand. He was ariumd four yrs old when this would have happened. I have talked to him my family has he has seen five councelers but freezes up and wont speak about anything else. He is acting out sexually and i have other children in my house and it is not safe or ok for him to show them these things he learned. We cannot get him to talk about anything. My ex husband is in prison for now for abusing myself and my.kids are terrified of him as well as myself. I do not know what else to do to try to help him stop with the outbursts of sexual behavior and talking so we can make sure that man never is out of prison to harm my children again. Councelers and cps have all tried but he freezez and wont say anything else. I am at a lose for words. I had to have my son go stay with my mom till we can figure something out bc it is horribly effecting my other children.. if anyone can help please help.
~ torn mother


My daughter told me that he puts his finger inside me (pause....all the way). When asked who he is, she said the name of her mothers partner. I called a child psych I had been given the number of (having issues with her going to her mothers, I have custody) and she put me onto Docs. Who called the JIRT team. They called me and requested an interview with my daughter. She would not talk to them (on the Friday) so we went back Monday. All she talked about was mummy and daddy not being best friends anymore. They said without her making a statement they couldn't do anything about it?????? Now my Ex wife says I made it all up, its me trying to split her and the man of her dreams up. I couldn't give a shit about them. All I care about is my Princess. My princess turned 4 today.
How is a 4 year old going to give explicate details about something like that without something having happened???
She is not the sort of child that opens up to strangers...
I spoke to my lawyer and tried to stop her going there for the first week of the school holidays, but could not...
Very upsetting...
Now the question is how much further do I take this??? I believe her, but how safe is she and do i put her on the stand???
I just want her to be SAFE!!!!!!!!!!!!


What about medical evidence? I suspect an action like that may have torn or at least stretched her hymen. Take her to the Dr.


i am going through the same thing with my (just turned 5yrs old) grandbaby. the mother dated this person while they were in lake mary hosp (a disabled place for children) (the mother has disabilties). they were split up and the mother didnt know where he was until she found him on facebook a couple or so years ago.eventhough she is married and at the time had this child, she went and picked him up and moved him into their home. he has Schizophrenia along with other things. i have had the 5yr old in our home since she was born until 3yrs. the mother decided she wanted her to live with them, so we convinced them to let her stay with us at least from thursdays at noon until monday at noon, she was already traumatized over that, then she was wetting herself all the time, had bad breathing problems, and acting out..we dropped her off this last time and she followed us down the road and we had to stop and take her back, she would hide in our truck, she cried and cried every time we left to take her there, it was getting worse all the time..i finally convinced the mother to allow me to keep both the children (the sister is age 2yrs) until they got their place in order, they lived in the country and had just moved to some property we purchased for them, and she agreed..things were going fine until one night the 5yr old crawled in my bed and kissed me on the mouth with an open mouth sucking my lips, i pushed her away, and ask her who taught her to kiss like that..she told me this person living with them did (he is almost 30yrs old). i sat up in bed and then she told me how he tickles her, then she laid on her back and told me how he does this (showing me in detail in her private area) and then she turned over and said "then he does this" (reaching for her back area)..i was devastated..i knew the mother would not believe her because the mom knows i dont like the guy, so i still called her and met with her and the dad and told them, and instantly they called her a liar. then they are now saying that i put the words in her mouth because i hate this guy, and they want her away from me forever and the mom has said i will never see her again when this is all complete..they called the police and a detective came out and they have ordered the children to stay in my home until the investigation is complete, also dfs was called and they found the home to be unfit, but they gave them a list to complete and now they have it complete, and they are saying dfs is closing their case on them, all i have for her protection is the detective filing charges on this guy. the mom has said if they charge him, she is letting the state have the 5yr old because if she has to choose, she chooses this predator.. now she is calling the detective wanting to know when can they have the children back..she has said the 5yr old is going to pay for lieing and causing this mess in their family, so i know this is why she wants her back home. she already said they are moving to another state where no one knows where they will be, and taking not only the children, but this predator with them..i am at a lost for what else to do, we are really the only parents this 5yr old even knows, they wont put her in school, the mother signed her up for homeschool, so no one would know their lifestyle. she lives with her husband and this guy in a 2 bedroom mobile home...if anyone has any suggestions, please help us..it looks like dfs is working for the parents, not the child..the detective believes the 5yr old completely, it is just taking so long on the case to get him arrested..

Korrina Brown

Hello how I ask u how ur chase is going. Human service have a lot to answer for. Please fight for the kids rights u need to go to dis and ask for a kin ship order on the kids. U have the right to ask for no visit with the parent due to the safety off the kids.unless test are done on the little girl. I'd we don't protect the kids no one will. A kin ship order is family taking over the kids in there care and did will drive u crazy I have to bubble them out off my life to get on with everyday issue with the kids. That's they have no idea about. Because the kids are not in there care.