Healing Begins With Awareness

If you live on Maui and suspect that your child has been abused, there is a chance that he may have been. He/She will be looking to you for support and protection.

There are steps you can take to support your child emotionally and physically here on Maui. As hard as it may seem, try to stay calm. Talk to your child in a gentle, evenhanded and non-judgmental manner.

Even though your child was not at fault, he/she may feel somehow that she was to blame. Reassure them this was not the case, and that they did the absolute best thing in telling you.

Always report incidents or suspicions of sexual abuse. Resist any urges to “work it out” on your own, for two very important reasons:

Abuse victims tend to work through their trauma more successfully if they feel that they are listened to, and protected by, a “safe” adult. They will heal more quickly if they know this person will fight for them. Victims can easily be re-victimized – and further traumatized – if their stories are ignored or discredited by someone close to them.

If the abuser does not get help and is not held accountable, he will likely continue to abuse others.

Call Dept. of Human Services-Child Welfare Services (also known as Child Protective Service) at 1-888-380-3088

or the police department, at 244-6400 on Maui, as soon as possible. An abuse report must be made in the state where it occurs.

The goals of child welfare agencies are to protect children, to preserve families and to prevent further abuse. The law requires that they look into each report of abuse, decide whether services are needed, and arrange protection services and family treatment when necessary.

Sometimes criminal charges must be filed, depending on the severity of the abuse.

You may give the information anonymously.

If you are confused or anxious about what to do, you also may want to discuss the incident with your pediatrician or school guidance counselor. Know that these professionals are considered “mandatory reporters,” and they will be required to notify the proper authorities if they suspect abuse.

Set up ongoing counseling sessions for your child. Find a counselor (licensed clinical social worker, licensed

professional counselor or psychologist) who is experienced in treating child victims of sexual abuse.

(Ask your pediatrician, school guidance counselor, child welfare worker or community mental health center for referrals.) Make sure your child feels safe and comfortable with this counselor.

Sexual abuse is too big a trauma for your child to recover from by themselves. Working with a good counselor will help them realize:

They are not alone.

They did nothing wrong, but the abuser did something very wrong. It is not their job to protect or satisfy the needs of grown-ups.

How to deal with possible feelings of anger, confusion, hurt, guilt, fear and betrayal.

Be aware that this experience may raise many confusing feelings within yourself, such as guilt, rage, despair and powerlessness. With some parents, it reawakens memories of abuse they themselves experienced. If it feels too difficult at any point, you may want to contact a therapist and get counseling for yourself.