THE COUNSELING CONNECTION
By Michele Louviere, Director of Counseling Celebration Church, Metairie
Question: We have just discovered that our child has been sexually abused. We are devastated! What can we do to help our child?
Michele Louviere responds:
Sexual abuse is an epidemic in our society.By the time that a young woman turns 18, one out of four will have experienced some form of abuse, and one out of seven boys will be abused.
Although there are many forms of abuse, as well as length and frequency, even one episode of abuse can lead to lifelong consequences.Because of the seriousness of
abuse, parents need to know how to handle this situation.
To begin with, it actually is a good thing that the abuse has been discovered while the child is still young. For most survivors, they carry the secret and shame of their abuse alone never telling anyone.
So, knowing about the abuse takes away the power of the secret.
Secondly, if the child has told you about the abuse, then you are able to begin the process of healing as a child instead of what normally happens – victims usually report abuse after
experiencing a life of difficulty.
Third, the most important part of helping your child is to make sure that your child knows that you believe her/him and that it is not her/his fault. Many times a child has been
“groomed” by the abuser and may have been told all kinds of things to keep the child from telling about the abuse. It takes a lot of courage and trust in the parent for a child to be
able to tell what has happened.
Fourth, as mad and upset as you understandably are, try to protect your child from your emotions. Seek out professional help to assist you as you grieve through this process. It is very important that you focus as much nurturing and positive attention on your child as possible.
Fifth, seek out professional help immediately. If you live in an area with a children’s advocacy center, then call that center. It will be important that someone who is trained in sexual abuse talk and examine your child as soon as possible.
The advocacy centers, like the Audrey Hepburn Advocacy Center in New Orleans, are trained to help families go through the difficulties of abuse.
Taking your child to the pediatrician or an emergency room is another option. You can call a hotline to ask questions and to find local resources.
Possible numbers are 1-800-799-SAFE, 1-800-656-HOPE, or 1-800-4-A-CHILD, which is the
national hotline for sexual abuse.
Finally, try to keep life as normal as possible, such as routines and discipline, and choose carefully who you talk to about this as well.
Again, find a professional, Christian counselor trained in this area to walk with your family towards restoration.
Michele Louviere, LMFT, serves as Clinical Director of Celebration Hope Center, a ministry of Healing
Hearts for Community Development (HHCD). To learn more, go to www.HealingHeartsNola.org.