Supporting Your Teen After Sexual Assault

When your teen has been the victim of sexual assault, it’s normal to feel left reeling. In spite of the fact that one in four women and one in six men will suffer some type of sexual assault in their lifetime, you still never expect it to happen to your family. Where do you turn? What do you do next? There’s a wide range of emotions playing through your heart and mind. You’re not sure who to contact first. How to support your teen in the wake of this violation? How to move forward? Most importantly, how you can obtain the justice the law provides? As difficult as this time is for your family, it’s important that you take the right steps to properly support your teen.

Go Straight to the Hospital

If you know your teen has been the victim of sexual assault, they need to pay a visit to the hospital immediately. While this may seem even more traumatic in the wake of a difficult experience, your local emergency room has the staff on hand to provide emergency counseling support, gather evidence through a rape kit, and deal with any injuries your teen may have sustained. It may be the last thing in the world a parent or child may want, but medical issues need to be dealt with first—and gathering evidence can help ensure those responsible are held accountable.

Report the Attack

If you go to the emergency room, know doctors and nurses are trained to help you report the attack to the police. Sometimes, however, victims may be reluctant to report the assault until well after the fact—long enough that it may be difficult or impossible to collect physical evidence. It’s important to report the assault as soon as possible, while the vital details are as fresh as they can be in the victim’s mind. This will enable the police to gather the right details and proceed with an investigation effectively.

Only 12 percent of child sexual assault cases are reported, in part due to victims’ fear of judgment, reprisal, or reexperiencing the attack. Overall, only about 37 percent of sexual assaults are reported. While coming forward regarding an attack may be traumatizing, it is also the only way to ensure assailants are held accountable; furthermore, failing to report an attack can also enable the attacker to offend again. Report the assault as soon as possible so that legal action can be taken.

The Importance of Counseling

Looking for a qualified counselor is an important step in the recovery process, for the victim and loved ones alike. You may find it helpful to talk with someone in the wake of the assault. Dealing with a qualified counselor can help the entire family process the emotions during recovery, as well as provide your teen with a safe place to process the experience. Counselors are caring individuals who know how to help victims of trauma recover in an environment that is safe, loving, and understanding.

Teens who have suffered from sexual assault are four times more likely to experience symptoms of PTSD or to become addicted to drugs. They’re also three times more likely to experience a major depressive episode. Getting teens they support they need following sexual assault can help prevent those problems later. Consider contacting a support line like RAINN to get information, advice, or a referral to a trained counselor who specializes in sexual assault cases.

Contact an Attorney

When your child is the victim of sexual assault, it’s hopeful to assume that the police will take care of everything. It’s important, however, to be sure that you also contact an attorney to represent your family’s interests in the aftermath of the attack. While police, prosecutors, and crime victim advocates can be helpful resources, retaining an attorney ensures the victim will have someone protecting their best interests at every stage of the process. An attorney can make interviews, court appointments, and interactions with the justice systems substantially less difficult.

It’s normal to feel outrage in the aftermath of an attack, and parents may feel isolated, helpless, or furious. A trusted advisor can help your family pursue justice to the fullest extent of the law, and ensure you are protected at every stage of the process.

Understand the Recovery Process

There’s no one-size-fits-all recovery process for sexual assault. If your teen has been a victim, it’s difficult to know what to expect. They may experience depression, anxiety, anger, or guilt. They may act out at home, or revert unexpectedly to inappropriate behaviors. Work with your child’s counselor to understand specific behaviors, and be prepared for whatever may come out at home. The safer your child feels in their home environment, the more likely they are to process their grief in an effective, healthy, and collaborative way.

Listening to Your Teen: The Key to Support

Your child is unlike any other. Chances are, you know your teen better than anyone else—but unless you’ve experienced the same trauma, it’s impossible to know how they’re going to respond to a particular event. Listen carefully to your child as they move through the process. Be open to discussions about the attack, but be willing to stop when they need to. Don’t push your child to discuss things that they aren’t ready to discuss.

Let your teen lead the healing process. Respect the fact that they’ll need to move through it in their own way, even if it’s not necessarily the way that you—or their counselor—would prefer. Try to give your teen as much control as possible when it comes to arrangements made for their safety. Feeling out of control is a serious struggle for victims of sexual assault, and ensuring your teen feels in control of their recovery is important.

Note that as your teen is recovering from sexual assault, family and friends may need to be conscientious about physical contact; allow them to dictate physical contact between the two of you. Casual contact that was once normal between you may still be welcomed, or it may be difficult for the victim. Ensure your love and support is expressed in a way that does not unintentionally trouble your teen.

If your teen has been the victim of sexual assault, it’s important to speak with an experienced attorney. A trusted advocate can ensure your family is protected throughout the recovery process, and help obtain justice for the victim of an assault. Contact us at (727) 451-6900 or online to speak with an associate or schedule a free consultation.

Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765
(727) 451-6900

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