The Not Destroyed Family

How to get your child to name the sexual abuser

It’s human nature to want your child to name his or her abuser right away, but many won’t be ready.

It’s important to realize from the very beginning that you will never feel confident of your child’s truth if you feed her any information.  Also, your word will not hold up in a court of law if you introduce ideas to your child.  Even if you feel absolutely positive who the predator was, you must allow your child to be the one to describe and name the predator.  This process is important to you, but it is even more important to the children.  The process of telling their story, hard as it is to watch for you as their caregiver, is important to their healing.  Their shame will not be released if you attempt to rescue them by speaking for them in any circumstance.  They will only be empowered by their own words, not yours.

Your questions must be open-ended.  In other words, don’t name their feelings, their experiences or their people.  Wait until they share and then you can empathize and reassure.  For example:

“_____________, can you tell me what happened?”

“What happened next?” “Do you remember who was there?”  “Did something keep you from telling me?”

You must have patience as you work toward your child’s truth.  Your job is to protect them first, provide a safe place second and third, always, always believe them.  Even if they tell half the story and then begin to test you and say the perpetrator was cookie monster, you have one answer:  “Yes.  I believe you, and it’s going to be OK!  I’ve got this!”  

When Joshua finally was able to say the name of the man who raped him – Sam – he laughed, cried and yelled the name at the same time.  I already knew the name by then.  I thought I did, anyway. But until Joshua said it himself, I knew I couldn’t be 100 percent sure.  

Here’s a script to make it easier:

After you ask questions and provide a safe place for long enough, your child should be ready to name his or her abuser.  Before that moment happens, you’ll need to cover yourself in prayer, plan ahead for your reaction and perhaps memorize this:

“Thank you for telling me your truth.  I am so proud of you.”

And wait.  In silence. Wait in the safe space you’ve provided, allowing your child more time to tell anything else he is ready to share.  When he signifies to you that he is done, then you say……

“If you have more truth to tell me, I’m right here. I promise to take care of you and listen to any truth you want to tell me, and I will still love you.  I will still be proud of you.  I will still adore you.  I will still KNOW you are the most amazing kid EVER because you ARE!”


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