When you don’t know what to say: how to talk with child victims

While the issue of childhood sexual abuse is a difficult topic for people to talk about, conversing with a child victim can seem that much harder. Not knowing what to say or how to handle the situation will often lead to unintentional avoidance and/or miscommunication. ChildSafe is here to help you begin navigating these waters by compiling a list of tips, ideas and approaches you can utilize in order to help a child begin their path to healing.

How to approach the subject: 

  • Don’t force a child to talk: Let the child dictate the pace of the conversation, if they are not ready or comfortable to talk about what happened don’t make them. You can always change the topic to something they like talking about until they are ready to open up to you.
  • Use terms and language that the child can understand. Using words and terms that the child will understand relaxes them and makes them feel like you’re on their team. If they use a word for something and you don’t understand what it means — ask them to clarify rather than correcting them. This will give the child a sense of  reassurance and control.
  • Learn as much as you can about childhood sexual abuse. The more you know about the issue going into the conversation, the easier it will be for you to respond to what the child is telling you.

ChildSafe therapists recommend that you:

  • Avoid direct questions, these can make the child uncomfortable. Instead, let the child lead the conversation at a pace they feel comfortable with.
  • Remind the child whatever has happened is not their fault.
  • Tell the child you are glad that they told you about it, and let them know you believe them and are there to support them.
  • Be honest and open with them, talking clearly will let the child know you care about the situation and are not dismissing or invalidating their experience.
  • Confirm the child’s feelings by letting them know it is okay to be feeling angry, sad, and anything else they have expressed.

But most importantly…

  • Let the child know you love them and are here for them no matter what.While finding yourself in this situation can be scary, know you and your child are not alone. While talking with your child about their abuse is a great start, ChildSafe and other local resources are here to help your child down the path of healing. Call us at 970-472-6655 or visit our website today for more information about everything ChildSafe can do for you!

By the Numbers: Childhood Sexual Abuse

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Addressing the stigma: shedding light on childhood sexual abuse

It’s troublesome, difficult to think about, and even harder to vocalize. Even so, childhood sexual abuse is an issue that our communities must eventually face head on in order for victims to heal and assaults to decrease. While it is purposely absent from our everyday conversations to avoid feeling uncomfortable, the fact remains that an estimated one out of four girls and one out of five boys will be sexually abused before their eighteenth birthdays, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The exact number is difficult to measure since it’s impossible to know how many cases of abuse go unreported, but it is significant to acknowledge that an official report of child abuse (not just sexual) is made every ten seconds in the US (Child Help).

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These statistics may be difficult to comprehend, but they show the ever-increasing need for a community effort to bring child sexual abuse out of the shadows and into the light of public discourse. It is only with a collective undertaking and an individual effort that our communities can make significant headway in prevention and healing.

So what can you do to start chipping away at the stigma and create a supportive environment for survivors? There are a lot of different ways you can help.

Not all victims disclose openly or willingly right away. Many children never disclose until they become adults — but even then, treatment is important.

Become a voice for victims — help bring them out of the shadows. Donate money to support the cause. Spread awareness about the issue, its prevalence, and educate others on recognizing signs of abuse. Volunteer for organizations that help victims. If you have a friend or loved one who you know is suffering from this type of trauma, encourage them to seek professional help. The wonderful therapists at ChildSafe work to start the healing process for victims with individualized treatment plans.Screen shot 2014-03-11 at 2.33.17 PM

According to Silvia M. Dutchevici:

“Talking about childhood sexual abuse is difficult. Perhaps, on some level, we believe that if we do not talk about it, it does not exist. Or, perhaps the fact that many cases of childhood sexual abuse often involve incest creates an aversion to discussing it … We need to allow our friends, coworkers, relatives, and patients to openly discuss the trauma and not to suffer in silence.” -Eliminating the Stigma of Child Sexual Abuse

ChildSafe Colorado invites you to start the healing process for you and your loved ones by becoming an active voice in childhood sexual abuse prevention. While combating child sexual abuse seems like a daunting and impossible task, every step you take to encourage open dialogue and provide support goes a long way.

For even more ideas on how you can get involved, visit our volunteer page. Check out our Out of the Shadows Campaign and join us for the kickoff walk on May 4. You won’t regret it.

The First Annual Out of the Shadows & Into the Light Walk

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This year, we are proud to kick off the Out of the Shadows & Into the Light campaign by holding our first annual fundraising walk. Named after the campaign, the purpose of the walk is to create awareness about childhood sexual abuse and raise scholarship funds for victims in need of financial support.

The City Park walk will take place at 8:30 a.m. on May 4, 2014. Participants are encouraged to show up for registration around 7:30 a.m. and enjoy a complimentary breakfast  before the event begins.

Photo by Jeff Andersen

To represent the impact ChildSafe has on our community, cardboard cutouts of shadows will be placed at the walk to represent the more than 600 victims ChildSafe helped in 2013. ChildSafe’s goal is to find monetary support for each of these shadows, which will be represented with a heart on the shadow cutout with the name of its sponsor. Your donation will help to provide comprehensive and specialized mental health treatment to victims of sexual abuse regardless of their ability to pay. cutout_sponIf you are interested in sponsoring a cutout to help offset the costs of a victim’s services, please visit our website for more information.

Registration fees, which include a tee shirt and goodie bag,vary by age group and are as follows:

$20 for participants 18+
$15 for participants 11-17,
10 & under will be free

To register, call (970) 472-4133, or go to Blacktie Colorado and use event code: ChildSafe510. If you don’t get a chance to register, don’t worry! You can pay your registration fee the day of the event with the addition of $10 more per person.

Thank you for a successful and fun Trivia Bowl event

Trivia Bowl team members high-five one another for a successful round. Photography by Rocky

Trivia Bowl team members high-five one another for a successful round.
“Photography by Rocky gv”

Thank you to everyone who came out on Saturday, March 8, to support our fifth annual Trivia Bowl!

And a big thanks goes out to Realities for Children for their continued support of ChildSafe, as well as our Brainiac (secondary) sponsor, Airgas. Thanks also to our Smarty Pants sponsors, Flood & Peterson, Bill Cofer from State Farm, Town Square Media & its affiliates, and Berkshire Hathway. Your support helped us make this event a success for our clients.

Whew — lots of thank you. We hope to always keep it that way. 🙂

To the teams who competed, we had a wonderful time and hope you did, too! The weather was gorgeous, so we are especially thankful that you chose to spend time with us.

The  silent auction was a big hit, and we were very happy to see some really great items go home with some really great people.

Board Member Helen Gray picks up her silent auction wins at ChildSafe's Fifth Annual Trivia Bowl. Photography by Rocky

Board Member Helen Gray picks up her silent auction wins at ChildSafe’s Fifth Annual Trivia Bowl.
“Photography by Rocky gv”

And congratulations to our winning team trivia team, The T-Birds — you guys rocked!

We’re already looking forward to next year and we hope you are too. We couldn’t do this without you! Thank you for helping us start the healing.

Don’t forget about our Out of the Shadows & Into the Light 5K Walk coming up on May 4 at City Park! We would love to see each and every one of you, bright and early, ready to walk for a great cause! To sign up, or for more information, call us at (970) 472-4133, or email us at info@childsafecolorado.org.

Join us for our 5th annual Trivia Bowl

Put on your thinking caps, ladies and gentleman, ChildSafe’s 5th Annual Trivia Bowl is coming up on March 8, 2014!

This year’s Trivia Bowl will be held at Ptarmigan Country Club, 5416 Vardon Way in Windsor. Check-in starts at 1:30 PM with a scheduled running time of 2-5 p.m.! Entry is just $30 per person, which includes an appetizer bar, a Heads or Tails game during the break, a silent auction with fantastic items, and a grand prize for the winning team. Space is limited to 45 teams with up to four players per team, so act fast!

Funds raised will go toward scholarships for our families who need your support.

From now until Saturday, you can follow us on Twitter or like us on Facebook to brush up on your trivia skills and get ready for the big day! Each day we’ll post a new question and give our followers 24 hours to post their answers. Correct answers will be rewarded recognition! Before we post our next question, we’ll disclose the answer. It’s a great way to sharpen your skills!!

Trivia 2014 Concept Art

ChildSafe depends on charitable donations, monetary grants and fundraisers to provide our services to families in need. If you would like to be a sponsor for the Trivia Bowl or if you would simply like to donate, you may do so by e-mailing shindi@childsafecolorado.org or calling (970) 472-4133.

Who we are and why we started this blog

Welcome to our ChildSafe blog! We are so honored you’ve decided to check us out.

We’ll be using this blog to post lots of different things — profiles on our wonderful therapists, stories of hope, information about childhood sexual abuse, links to other stories we’ve read that we feel are relevant to our readers, and much more. So be sure to check us out weekly.

Just as a quick refresher for those of you who know about us and a little information for those of you who don’t: ChildSafe, founded in 1986, is a non-profit organization in Fort Collins, CO that treats victims of childhood sexual abuse, their non-offending family members, and adults who were abused as children. We also treat victims of other childhood trauma. Our experienced therapists have specialized training in trauma and child sexual abuse and see clients from all over northern Colorado and beyond. We use a variety of approaches including Experiential Play Therapy, Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), and most recently, Neurofeedback. ChildSafe takes a systems approach and coordinates services with the Department of Human Services, schools, medical professionals, law enforcement, and other mental health providers. You can find out more about us here or send us an e-mail to info@childsafecolorado.org if you’d like some copies of our brochures.

Childhood sexual abuse is a hard topic — for us, included — but it’s one we have to stop shying away from and address. It affects all of us whether directly or indirectly — family members, friends, or other people you know but are afraid to tell. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys are sexually abuse by the time they reach their 18th birthdays.

This is where we all come in.

Our goal with this blog is to create awareness about child sexual abuse in our community and nationally and keep you updated on our happenings. Some posts will be serious; others will be lighter; all will be connected to helping start the healing process for our brave survivors. We want to bring victims of abuse from out of the shadows and help them go from victims to survivors.

Stay tuned to the blog to read more about the Out of the Shadows Campaign next week!

We also welcome guest voices, so if you would like to contribute, let us know by sending us an e-mail to social@childsafecolorado.org

Let’s start the healing. To find out more about ChildSafe and/or how you can help, check out our website.

*ChildSafe respects the privacy of our clients, therefore no current patients will be featured.