Most child victims suffer sexual abuse at the hands of someone they know and trust, someone that you know and trust. The first step to preventing abuse against children is awareness and education. As more parents, professionals, and community members learn about the realities of child abuse, the effort to combat this serious problem gains strength.
Your child may be feeling ashamed, angry, powerless, and/or scared (especially that you may not believe him/her).
- Stay calm. Do not overact.
- Find a private place to talk.
- Listen to what your child is saying.
- Assure your child that you believe them.
- Do not question your child or tell him/her what to say.
- Let your child know that telling you was the right thing to do.
- Let your child know he/she is not in trouble.
- Do not pressure your child to tell you more than he/she is comfortable talking about.
- Don’t be judgmental of your child or the abuse.
- Let your child know you must tell others what happened in order to help keep him/her safe.
- Make sure your child understands that the abuse was not his/her fault.
- Let your child know you will take care of him/her.
- Let your child know he/she can always come to you.
- Call and report abuse:
- Walker County DHR: (205) 387-5400
- Marion County DHR: (205) 921-6000
- Or your local law enforcement agency
- Teach children accurate names of private body parts.
- Avoid focusing exclusively on “stranger danger.” Keep in mind that most children are abused by someone they know and trust.
- Teach children about body safety and the difference between “okay” and “not okay” touches.
- Let children know that they have the right to make decisions about their bodies. Empower them to say no when they do not want to be touched, even in non-sexual ways (e.g., politely refusing hugs).
- Make sure children know that adults and older children never need help with their private body parts (e.g., bathing or going to the bathroom).
- Teach children to take care of their own private parts (e.g., bathing, wiping).
- Educate children about the difference between good secrets and bad secrets (e.g., surprise parties versus secrets they are asked to keep forever).
- Trust your instincts. If you feel uneasy about having a child with someone, don’t do it. If you’re concerned about possible sexual abuse, ask questions.
Parents are the right people to teach their children about sexual abuse. They can have a strong influence on the children’s knowledge of sexual abuse and the values they hold regarding sexual contact. Parents should teach children the facts and have more influence on children’s decisions about sex/sexual contact than their friends.
Sexting refers to sending or receiving sexually explicit images electronically. The images may be of the sender or someone else who is nude or engaged in obscene or sexual activity. It is illegal to produce images of someone under the age of 17 engaged in sexual conduct by phone or computer. It is also a crime to possess these images. While many teens call it sexting, it is a crime violating the Alabama Child Pornography Act.
Victim advocates will continue to follow the child and their family through the judicial system. We will maintain updated documents on the client to address the needs and progression involving the case, including the child and their family. The victim advocate is available to help fulfill the basic needs of the family, connect them to needed resources, help with applications, and work with the family regarding victim compensation. The advocate will follow up with the family in this timeline:
- 24-48 Hour Contact
- Must be made after the initial Forensic Interview
- Gives the client and the family time to regroup and ponder on any needs such as food, clothing, housing, behavioral, etc.
- 2 Week Contact
- Follow up and ensure that needs are being met.
- Examples: Applications are being completed, appointments are being made, and general check up on the well-being of the child and family.
- 3 Month Contact
- Answer any questions as far as the progress of the case and address any further questions, concerns, or needs.
- 6 Month Contact
- Check the status of client and family.
- Address questions, concerns, needs.
- 1 Year Contact
- This is to check the safety, well-being, and progress of the client.
- Assist with any additional needs.
The victim advocate also works to prepare the child and family for court proceedings. Mock court is available, as well as interactive web pages, slideshows, and pamphlets, to prepare for the courtroom. The advocate will accompany the child to court and assist in exercising the victim’s rights.