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Sexual Assault Series- How to React

Every 98 seconds someone becomes a victim of sexual assault.  That is why we need to constantly educate and communicate with our children.  If we see behaviors that are “out of character” for them, parents often dismiss it as an external factors like “They are under stress with school, work or friends”, “Oh they must be going through puberty” or “It’s that time of month.” Always ask probing open ended questions and don’t stop until you get an answer…or not.  Many times their silence can be more telling.

Here is a video to help parents talk to their children.  Open communication and proper education can help prevent many of sexual abuse incidents from occurring.

Finding out your child has been violated by sexual assault can take a toll on the parents.  It is important for parents to take care of themselves and find ways to manage their feelings, so they can help care for their children.  Focusing on creating a safe environment for the child is imperative. The child needs to feel free from blame, judgement and harm and supported with their emotions.  It is imperative that when your child discloses to you, you continue to repeat the following messages through both your words and your actions:
  • I love you.
  • What happened is not your fault.
  • I will do everything I can to keep you safe.

There are many organizations that help victims of sexual violence.  RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) is the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization. RAINN created and operates the National Sexual Assault Hotline 800.656.HOPE, online.rainn.org  in partnership with more than 1,000 local sexual assault service providers across the country and operates the DoD Safe Helpline for the Department of Defense. RAINN also carries out programs to prevent sexual violence, help survivors, and ensure that perpetrators are brought to justice.

According to the Rainn.org, it’s not always easy to know what to say when someone tells you they’ve been sexually assaulted, especially if they are a friend or family member. For a survivor, disclosing to someone they care about can be very difficult, so we encourage you to be as supportive and non-judgmental as possible.
The following helpful information can be found on their website.

How am I supposed to react?

There is no “right” reaction to hearing that your child has been abused. You may experience a wide range of reactions and feelings that may impact different aspects of your life. Some common reactions from parents include: anger, anxiety, fear, sadness and shock.

It is important to keep in mind that there is no one “right” reaction, and that all reactions and responses are normal. Having both you and your child talk to a professional about these thoughts and feelings can help sort through these issues. Professional support can also result in healthier long- and short-term results for both you and your child.

How do I manage these feelings?

Your child is counting on you for support. In order to put your child’s safety first, it’s important to take care of yourself. That means finding a way to work through your feelings and reactions to the abuse that doesn’t interfere with your child’s welfare. It may not be easy, but with the right support it is possible.

  • Consider talking to a counselor one-on-one. Individual counseling gives you the chance to focus entirely on you and your concerns, without needing to worry about how your child will react to those thoughts.
  • Develop your support system. It might be family and friends you trust, or it might be a support group that you didn’t have a connection with before.
  • Set limits. Dealing with these emotions can be time- consuming and draining. Set aside time for activities that don’t revolve around the abuse.
  • Practice self-care to keep your mind and body in healthy shape.

In many cases, support means providing resources, such as how to reach the National Sexual Assault Hotline, seek medical attention, or report the crime to the police. In all cases, listening is the best way to support a survivor.

Here are some specific phrases RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Hotline staff recommend to be supportive through a survivor’s healing process.

“I believe you. / It took a lot of courage to tell me about this.” It can be extremely difficult for survivors to come forward and share their story. They may feel ashamed, concerned that they won’t be believed, or worried they’ll be blamed. Leave any “why” questions or investigations to the experts—your job is to support this person. Be careful not to interpret calmness as a sign that the event did not occur—everyone responds to traumatic events differently. The best thing you can do is to believe them.

“It’s not your fault. / You didn’t do anything to deserve this.” Survivors may blame themselves, especially if they know the perpetrator personally. Remind the survivor, maybe even more than once, that they are not to blame.

“You are not alone. / I care about you and am here to listen or help in any way I can.” Let the survivor know that you are there for them and willing to listen to their story if they are comfortable sharing it. Assess if there are people in their life they feel comfortable going to, and remind them that there are service providers who will be able to support them as they heal from the experience.

“I’m sorry this happened. / This shouldn’t have happened to you.” Acknowledge that the experience has affected their life. Phrases like “This must be really tough for you,” and, “I’m so glad you are sharing this with me,” help to communicate empathy.

There is a local resource in Glynn county that can help victims and families of sexual violence. Here is their contact information:

Safe Harbor Children’s Advocacy Center & Connie Smith Rape Crisis Center

Brunswick, GA  31520

(912) 577-7107 Crisis

(912) 554-0609 Admin

email: help@safeharborcenterinc.org

website: www.safeharborcenterinc.org/service

If you feel your child has been violated and need to report it, you can contact the Glynn County Police Department.  They also have more useful tips on their website on how to talk to children.

This is part of a series of articles by All on Georgia-Glynn on preventing sexual violence. See the previous article on sexual predators in Glynn county and check your neighborhood here.

Carrie Magalski is the Media and Public Relations Contact for All on Georgia- Glynn County. A speaker and the author of "Heaven's Angels" book, her inspiring articles, writings and radio interviews are featured in various multi-media venues. Her leadership roles encompasses higher education, broadcast communications, business, and corporate trainings through Coastal Pines Technical College. She is a seasoned professional with excellent relationship building skills and creates and enhances strategic growth through partnerships with community, corporate and governmental agencies through various multimedia modalities. She is the owner of Immersion Enterprises, LLC- which provides corporate trainings, PR and marketing, as well as ecotourism and experiential education services through Turtle Tides Amelia. Carrie serves on the Board of Directors of Back in His Arms Again, a ministry that helps families suffering from infant loss.

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