Frequently Asked Questions About Sexual Assault and Abuse

FAQ About Megan's Law

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Protecting your child from sexual assault or helping your child if they have been sexually abused can be traumatic and confusing. Many people share the same questions and concerns. Here are comments, frequently asked question, and feedback about the topic of child abuse and sexual assault.

I am afraid of scaring my children by talking to them about sexual abuse, but I am also afraid not to talk to them about it.

What should I do?

Answer: There are many things that we teach our children to be careful about or about how to react to different scary situations. For example, how to cross the street (looking both ways) and what to do in the case of a fire (drop and roll). Add the topic of sexual abuse to the other safety tips that you give to your children and remember, the subject is often more frightening to parents than to their children.

I do not know how to tell if someone is a sex offender. It's not like they wear a sign around their neck. Is there any sure way to identify them?

Answer: There is no way to tell who is a sex offender, with the exception of offenders listed on sex offender registries online. Even then, the chances that would recognize the offenders in a public place is questionable. That is why it is important to trust your instincts, keep an open dialog with your children, stay aware of your surroundings and the people involved with your children, and follow general safety guidelines.

People may falsely accuse someone of being a sex offender or of being sexually abused. How do you know for sure what or who to believe?

Answer: According to research, the crime of sexual assault is no more falsely reported than other crimes. In fact, victims of sexual assault, especially children, will often hide that they have been victimized because of self-blame, guilt, shame or fear.

If someone (an adult or child) tells you that they have been sexually abused or identifies the person that sexually abused them, it is best to believe them and offer your full support. Avoid interrogating them and allow them to decide the details that they are comfortable sharing with you. Help guide them to the proper channels for finding help.

How does a parent possibly handle knowing that their child was sexually assaulted? I am fearful that I would fall apart.

Answer: A common fear with children who have been victimized, is how their parents will react when they find out what has happened. Children want to make their parents happy, not upset them. They may feel ashamed and fear that it will somehow alter how a parent feels about them or relates to them. That is why it is paramount that if you know or suspect that your child has been sexually assaulted that you remain in control, make them feel safe, nurture them and show them your love.

You must be strong and remember that the trauma that your child has endured is the issue. Redirecting the focus away from them to you, by displaying out of control emotions, is not be helpful. Find a support team and counseling to help you deal with your emotions so that you can remain strong for your child.

How can children ever recover from such an experience?

Answer: Children are resilient. It has been shown that children who can talk about their experience with someone that they trust, often heals more quickly than those that keep it inside or who are not believed. Offering full parental support and providing the child with professional care can help the child and family to heal.

Is it true that some children willingly participate in sexual activities and are partly to blame for what happened?

Answer: Children cannot legally consent to sexual activity, even if they say that it was consensual. It is important to remember that sexual abusers use deviant ways to gain control over their victims. They are highly manipulative, and it is common for them to make victims feel that they are to blame for the assault.

If the child feels that they somehow caused the sexual assault, they will be less likely to tell their parents about it.

When dealing with a child that has been sexually assaulted, it is important to reassure them that nothing that was done to them by an adult was their fault, no matter what the abuser did or said to make them feel otherwise.

There is so much about sex offenders on the news. How can parents avoid being overprotective with their children?

Answer: It is important that children learn how to react to the possible dangers that they may be confronted with in life. By being overprotective or exhibiting irrational fear, children tend to become helpless. It is more productive to teach children common sense, provide them with the information that can help them, and keep an open and inviting dialog going so that they feel safe to talk about their problems.

I am fearful that I will not know that my child has been a victim. How can a parent tell?

Answer:  Unfortunately, some children never tell that they have been victims of sexual abuse. However, the more informed parents are about what to look for, the better the odds are that they will recognize that something has happened to their child. Learn to keep close tabs on your instincts and look for any change in your child's behavior that is concerning. Do not dismiss thoughts that something might be wrong. 

Is the court process terribly traumatic for child victims? Are they forced to relive the abuse?

Answer:  Children who go through the court process often feel that they had regained the control that was lost when they were sexually assaulted. The court process can become part of the healing process. In many states, there are professionally trained personnel and child-friendly places designed to help child victims through the interview process.

If my child is a victim of sexual abuse, does talking to them about it afterward make it worse?

Answer:  A child should not feel that they are being forced to talk about being sexually assaulted.

Be careful that you are opening the door for them to talk, but not forcing them through the door. Most children will open up when they are ready. It will help them to get to that point by knowing that when that time comes, you will be there for them.

What should I do if I suspect someone is sexually abusing my child or child in the neighborhood?

Answer:  It is best to contact the authorities and let them investigate. If you suspect the abuse because of something your child or another child told you, your primary role is to believe the child and give them your support.