Child sexual abuse generally refers to sexual acts, sexually motivated behaviors, or sexual exploitation involving children. Sexual abuse can include touching offenses and non-touching offenses, such as exposing a child to pornographic images. The most commonly reported cases involve incest (sexual abuse occurring between family members). Sexual abuse is also sometimes committed by other caretakers or friends or acquaintances of the child. Rarely does sexual abuse happen by a stranger.
The CAC offers referrals to various support services for victims of sexual abuse as well as their families. Our Victim Advocate will work with you to get the help that you need. We work closely with medical and mental health providers throughout Chittenden County to insure that our victims receive fast and appropriate care.
If you are the victim of a crime you will be connected with a Victim Advocate as your case is received at the CAC.
For more information about referrals please contact Veronica Rathgeb at VRathgeb@bpdvt.org.
Visit These Links for More Information on Sexual Abuse:
How parents might be feeling?
Once the abuse has been reported, parents sometimes feel as if they are on a roller coaster of emotions. This is normal. You as a parent may be feeling one or many of the feelings listed below, though it is also normal for these feelings to change as well.
Denial- At first a parent may not believe or accept what has happened to their child. They may believe that it happened but that their child was not affected. This is a way for parents to cope with the overwhelming feelings of what has happened.
Anger- Parents may feel angry at themselves for not knowing and protecting their child. Parents may feel angry at the perpetrator or even at the child.
Helplessness- Parents are not likely to know what to expect and therefore may feel that things are out of control. Talk to an advocate or a detective to learn more about what you can expect.
Lack of Assertiveness- Parents may feel invisible and think that there is nothing that can be done to improve this situation. An advocate can help guide you.
Shock, Numbness and Repulsion- This experience can be triggering for some parents who have been sexually abused themselves. Memories from the past may surface. It is extremely important for you and your child’s healing to seek support for yourself as well.
Guilt and Self-Blame- Parents may feel it is their fault what happened to their child and that there was something they could have done to prevent the abuse. The perpetrator is responsible for the abuse, not you.
Hurt and Betrayal- It is normal to mourn the loss of your child’s innocence. A parent may also be experiencing the loss of their spouse, relative or friend who was the perpetrator of the abuse. It is important to grieve both losses.
Fear of Violence- Parents may fear that the perpetrator will try to cause more harm to the family. Talk to the police and DCF about this.
Loss of Privacy- Parents may be concerned that others in the community or neighborhood will hear about what has happened to their child. Investigations of child abuse are confidential. A child’s name will not appear in the newspaper and should be kept confidential through the process.
How your child may be reacting?
Understand that your child’s behavior may change as a result from the sexual abuse. This is how your child is coping. Most likely with the help from a trained therapist or counselor your child will resume their normal behavior.
Some common behaviors that children who are sexually abused display are:
• Feeling sick more frequently
• Changing sleep patterns / Nightmares
• Changes in school performance
• Changes in appetite
• Becoming withdrawn or appearing depressed
• Displaying anger and mood changes
• Wetting the bed
• Sexually inappropriate behavior
• Attention seeking
Some children may not display behaviors that are obvious to their parents; however these children are most likely suffering too.
Generally speaking these behaviors can be difficult for parents to handle. It is important to talk to a trained professional and understand why the behaviors your child is displaying are happening and how you can support your child’s healing.
The single most important factor affecting a child’s recovery is the level of support that a child receives from a parent or caregiver. Chances of recovery are much better when parents do everything possible to support their children.
Why Children don’t immediately tell us they have been abused?
Most children are reluctant to tell someone they’ve been abused, even their parents or caregivers. This is because…
• They fear threats made by the offender.
• They are afraid they won’t be believed.
• They fear getting into trouble or people being angry with them.
• They try to protect the offender; they may love them, but not the abuse.
• Children may not know that what is happening is wrong.
• Some older children are embarrassed to talk about sexual issues.
• Some teens fear telling about the abuse will affect their popularity and friendships.
• They don’t want to be labeled a “tattletale”.
• They are embarrassed and feel it is their fault.
How Can I support my child?
• Keep calm and seek support for yourself. Children will often think or feel that the anger and disgust their parents are expressing at what happened to their child is directed towards them.
• Believe your child. In most cases children are not making up the abuse.
• Provide your child with positive messages. “I am proud of you that you told someone.” “I know that you could not stop it.”
• Explain to your child that he or she is not to blame for what has happened.
• Listen and answer your child’s questions honestly. It is ok to say that you don’t know.
• Allow your child to talk or not talk about the abuse. Silencing them will not force them to forget and forcing them to tell you everything can be damaging. Provide them opportunities for supportive and therapeutic services to talk about and get through what has happened.
Do’s and Don’ts when you speak with your child:
The most important message to get across to your child is it is not their fault.
• Tell them you believe them
• Reassure and support them
• Tell them that you do not blame them
• Tell them that you will try to keep them safe
• Let them know that you love them
• Let them know that you are glad that they told you
• Give them time to talk at their own pace
• Be open and clear
• Allow your child to talk about how they feel
• Try to be calm
• Blame your child for what happened
• Suggest that it would have been better if they had not told anyone
• Tell your child that you blame yourself
• Tell your child to forget it ever happened
• Tell your child not to talk about it
• Get upset when your child talks about the abuse.
Tips for working with CUSI and The State’s Attorney’s Office:
Be calm and reassure your child. Don’t coach your child on what to say. It is important for your child to disclose what has happened in his or her own words and time. This is a difficult time and emotions and fears may be running high. Losing control can cause more problems and is the last thing your child needs. Ask for help if you are upset or angry with how things are going.
Love, support and protect your child. If the alleged offender is someone close to you, it can be very difficult to balance your feelings for them and protect your child. Remember your child only has you to protect them.
Be honest and cooperate. If you are being interviewed and you don’t know something- it is ok to say that you don’t know. Don’t guess. Withholding information can also delay and harm the investigation. You may feel as if people are prying into your life. Team members will inquire only into those areas that are vital to the investigation.
Share your feelings. Feelings and hunches can help give investigators ideas on how to proceed in their investigation. If something doesn’t seem right tell the investigators.