Parenting a Child That Has Been Sexually Abused

Children adopted from foster care or internationally are at risk for having been sexually abused prior to adoption. Adoptive parents may or may not know of this abuse. How can adoptive parents help their child heal from sexual abuse? Host Dawn Davenport, Executive Director of Creating a Family, the national infertility & adoption education and support nonprofit, interviews Dr Eliana Gil, a therapist at Gil Institute for Trauma Recovery and Education in Fairfax, VA. who has worked in the field of child abuse prevention and treatment for over 40 years.

Hit the Highlights
  • The definition of sexual abuse.
  • Does it matter the age of the abuser? Is it abuse if another child is the abuser?
  • Brief refresher on typical psycho-sexual development in children without abuse and how sexual abuse can alter this.
  • What factors often contribute to a child’s vulnerability to the risk of sexual abuse?
  • Parents often don’t know prior to adoption that the child has experienced sexual abuse. What behaviors might indicate that a child has been abused sexually?
  • How does the impact of the abuse differ on the child depending on their relationship to the abuser?
  • How should a parent respond if a child discloses sexual abuse?
  • Are children who are sexually abused at greater risk for abuse in the future, even if they have been removed from the abusive environment?
  • The common belief is that abused children grow up to be abusers. Is there research to support this?
  • How can parents help children heal from sexual abuse?
  • What are protective factors in children or families that make recovery more likely?
  • What community resources and clinical supports should a family seek when parenting a child who has a history of sexual abuse?
  • Identify practical tools and talking points to assist a child in the re-learning of healthy boundaries and expressions of healthy affection.
  • What safeguards should a family have in place when accepting placement of a child who may have been sexually abused?

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Image credit: Dare*2*Dream