The Stop It Now! campaign advises:
A. Stay steady
The child will look to you for cues that they will be okay.
Unquestionably, sexual abuse can change a child’s view of the world. Yet,
regardless of how devastated you are, they need to believe that they will be
alright, that they are not “damaged goods.” As is true for other severe
traumatic events, with protection, support and specialized treatment, children
can—and do—recover. Children can—and do—go on to live full, happy, productive
lives. Lots of successful people, including many famous figures, are survivors
of sexual abuse. Breaking the silence is the first step.
B. Believe what they say
Thank the child for telling you. Let them know you love them. If the disclosure is hard to believe, keep reminding yourself that false disclosures are rare. If you absolutely feel you need more information, think of the first step: stay calm. Ask clarifying questions in a matter-of-fact way. Be very, very careful to avoid questions that suggest you expect or want a specific answer (for example, stay away from leading questions such as “Did somebody touch you right here?”). Try not to show relief or disapproval to the answers your child gives. When children detect pain in others resulting from their disclosure, they will sometimes try to take back or “recant” the disclosure. This is common and is not necessarily an indication that the abuse really didn’t happen.