"The danger is that you frighten a child or contaminate the information," says Paula Stahl, director of the Children's Charter/Key Trauma Clinic in Waltham, one of the leading childhood trauma centers in the state.
Children's disclosures aren't necessarily direct:
Preschoolers tend to blurt out angry statements: "I hate that baby sitter!""You can't make me go to Uncle Joe's!"Rather than dismiss this as stubbornness, ask questions: "Why do you hate him so much?"
Whether or not you know who the perpetrator is (including if it's the other parent), the next step is the same: Get professional help immediately, someone who has experience with sexual abuse. (See tip box.) Expect a telephone consult within 24 hours of your call, says Stahl
.The first meeting should be without your child.
It's a mistake to think you can handle this within your family, even if your child insists on not telling, Stahl
and others say.It becomes another secret and translates to a child that this is too shameful to deal with, that you think it's his
fault, or that you don't really believe him.