How can we comfort and support a young girl who has just been through the trauma of rape? We just learned that one of our children was recently the victim of a sexual assault. We are absolutely devastated. How can we help our daughter heal from this traumatic experience? What first steps should we take to come alongside her?
If you haven't already done so, contact the police. In the emotional aftermath of an assault, the urge to deny what's happened may cause a victim to wait days or weeks to report it. As a matter of fact, because of embarrassment, fear of retaliation or apprehension over dealing with police, doctors and attorneys, the majority of sexual assaults go unreported. It's in the everyone's best interest that the truth be made known and justice done.
The officers who take the report will need to ask about specific details of the assault that may be painful to answer but are necessary to document the crime. It's important that your child be completely honest, candid and consistent in describing what happened. This will make for the strongest case against the attacker.
A medical evaluation should also be done, even if your daughter does not believe she was injured. A thorough examination is necessary to assess her physical condition, to collect important evidence and to provide counseling regarding the possibility of pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections. As with the police report, parts of the examination will be difficult and uncomfortable, especially if your daughter has not had a pelvic exam before. But the long-term benefits of proper medical care are worth the temporary discomfort.
Most important of all, your daughter needs your love and understanding during this crisis. This event cannot be ignored and will not be forgotten. She will require generous amounts of both time and support to recover from the physical, emotional and spiritual after-effects of sexual assault. Many powerful feelings must be sorted out, including a mistaken sense of guilt or shame. While we realize that both of you are experiencing a wide range of conflicting emotions at this time, it's critical that you put your feelings aside and let her know that you care about her. Tell her that you're ready, willing and available to walk through this agonizing experience with her. Help her rebuild her sense of dignity and worth. Without this important repair work, she will be vulnerable to sexual pressure and abuse in the future.
It's very likely that you will need professional help with this daunting task. That's why we'd strongly recommend that your child receive counseling from an individual who is qualified to deal with the impact of a rape experience. If you need assistance finding a qualified Christian therapist practicing in your area, Focus on the Family's Counseling department can provide you with a list of referrals. Our staff counselors are also available to discuss your situation with you over the phone.