Every child is different, and will of course require different levels of support, some things will work for some but not for others, that is okay. Some children may seem fine, some may withdraw, some may be angry, everything in between and all of the above. That's also okay.
Some children may decide bedtime is the time to talk… sound familiar? That's okay.
You'll likely be feeling absolutely shattered and as your life is turned upside down, there's a whole host of things running through your mind. That is also okay and completely normal. We will all experience the shock, loss, anger, frustration, pain and shear heart break in different ways and at different times. One of the most critical things through it all though, is to support yourself first. Initially you might think "how selfish - my child comes first!" but it's only by being there in a good enough place can your child lean on you and you be there to support them in the months and years ahead.
Recovering from CSA (child sexual abuse) is often a long and windy road, but it is not the end - the road to rebuilding lives and thriving again IS POSSIBLE and can be a whole new start for you and your family.
Practical things to put in place
There's loads of things that will take time, patience and purpose when supporting your child - we've never come across any shortcuts or #Lifehacks - but there are tried and tested ways to do all you can to position your child for recovering and regrowth after their disclosure.
Look after yourself
Of course, our kids are our number one priority - but if your really struggling and not getting help, the trajectory isn't looking too favourable. So instead, make sure you do focus on you (even just a little!) so that you have some strong support in place and then better able to support your child. If feels counter intuitive, but it is logical. Make sure you get breaks, have a healthy hobby and do some stuff (even just occasionally!) that makes you feel good about yourself. We're all different, but feeling good is not only good for you, but will have a massive impact on your child whose picking up on your state of mental health.
If your child is school age, then a good tip is for them to have a "trusted adult" at school who they can talk to when they are there. It is useful to watch the videos on the SAFER Schools website here.
After school clubs, weekend clubs, Guides, Scouts, Pottery?! Whatever it is, it's important that children are encouraged to spend time with their peers to build positive relationships and friendships.
After trauma it's perfectly understandable you as an individual and maybe the family are feeling tired and have less drive to do things. It can be easy to slip into a routine of doing very little, so if it's possible - keep getting some fresh air and burning off some energy to boost those happy hormones! Being outside is proven to help reduce stress, increase positive mental health perspectives and help ground your mind and body in positive thoughts.
There are also some great books available to help children after trauma:
Practical things for you
Where can I get support? There are a range of places you might like to get help when supporting your child recovering from child sexual abuse.
Your GP: Firstly we encourage you to let your general practitioner know that you're experiencing severe stress and trauma if you feel that's the right thing for you. They may be able to refer you to a local support service that is most relevant to you. Alternatively ask them to complete a professionals referral to ACTS FAST which can be found on this page.
Family and Friends: If you can, let your loved and trusted friends and family know, although we understand sometimes this isn't possible. Fortunately ACTS FAST is here if you feel you need support.
Organisations that may also be able to help support parents and carers supporting children after a CSA disclosure:
Exercise: I know. Sometimes you just really don't need to see or hear that word, but just consider it.
Whether you’re a yoga-kind-of-person or a Mai Thai pro, you do you. Don't knock a good walk either - just 10min of brisk walking has been proven to have fantastic overall benefits to mind and body - so go for it!
Be kind to yourself:
Try and plan in some things you know you love doing, this could be coffee with a friend or on your own, sitting in the sun (remember your sun-cream!), mindfulness, meditation, baking, singing, reading or getting some fresh air! Whatever it is, make the time if you can, when you can.
Statistically, it is likely that the abuse was perpetrated by someone known to the child, if this is the case you're likely experiencing feels of betrayal, as well as guilt, shame, and self-blame. Although in most cases this guilt, shame and self-blame is not yours to carry and you are NOT to blame, we understand why you feel this. Just know you deserve support and it wasn't your fault.
Reduce those expectations:
From packing the diary with social appointments, to keeping the house nice and tidy - know that it's OK not to be OK and yo don't need to have it all 100%, 100% of the time. Being a human means we live on a sliding scale, so coming to terms with that and no longer holding yourself to perfection is key to living day-to-day.
When you feel ready, you can access some free courses by Victim Focus which follows an anti-victim blaming approach and aims to empower you by providing understanding. Some of these articles, resources and courses are aimed at the primary victim however they can help build further understanding if you are not the primary victim or also a victim of sexual abuse.
Victim Focus - Caring for yourself after sexual violence by Dr Jessica Taylor.
Detailed PDF article on caring for yourself after sexual violence here.
Reflective journal for parents and carers: supporting your child after sexual abuse
End Victim Blaming - The Adult Colouring Book (be warned, this does contain swear words!)
Finally, you can’t look after others if you aren’t also looking after yourself, we understand many parents and carers feel guilt around prioritising themselves. It's very natural to feel that way, but even just occasionally, give yourself a break and and do something just for yourself.
If you'd like therapeutic support or enquire about counselling for moving forwards from a CSA disclosure, please get in touch and let's discuss how ACTS FAST can help.
Answer machine: 01202 797217
Online (chat and contact): www.actsfast.org.uk