During the holiday season, many of us are looking forward to seeing friends and family at various events. But for survivors of child sexual abuse, these get-togethers can be a stressful time of being around their abuser or the loved ones who reacted poorly to disclosures. Here are a few things to keep in mind.
To help adult survivors of sexual abuse:
- Stand with survivors. Victims deserve to be heard, believed and supported. Let survivors know that you believe them and want to help them feel comfortable.
- Show compassion. Everyone reacts to trauma differently. If a friend or family member is withdrawn, declines to participate in activities or seems upset, check in with them. Offer to listen, and let them know that you respect their boundaries.
- Seek help. If you or an adult loved one is in crisis in Chicago, call the 24-hour Chicago Rape Crisis hotline: 1-888-293-2080. Outside of the metro area, call the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) hotline: 1-800-656-HOPE.
It is also important to be vigilant at events where children are present. Help prevent sexual abuse this time of year by:
- Keeping the conversation open. Remind the children in your life that no adult should ever ask them to keep a secret – but explain the difference between a secret and a surprise. Be sure children know that they can come to you right away and tell
you anything without fear of repercussion.
- Set and respect boundaries. If children do not want to hug, kiss or otherwise show affection for family members, don’t make them. Reinforce these boundaries regularly with your behavior and words to remind children that their bodies are their own.
- Trust your gut. If something feels off, offer extra support, consult with another adult you trust and, if you suspect abuse, call the child abuse hotline: 1-800-25-ABUSE.