How Children Heal From Sexual Abuse

by Julia Catlin

I work with children and parents, primarily addressing childhood trauma and working with families to intervene in a traumatic event that has occurred. A question I often get from friends and from clients is, “How do people heal from sexual abuse?”

It is a complex answer and certainly not a fun topic to discuss. I typically address trauma with children, and then later the parents reveal to me that they have also been victims of sexual abuse. This makes it even more painful to watch their own children go through similar experiences.

However, in my point of view, hope always exists. We always have a chance to heal from an old wound, even if that wound occurred when you were 4 years old, or 16, or 25.

It is  easier to pretend that it never happened because oftentimes, abusers are the people that we are raised to trust. They can range from our biological parents, to the people mom and dad are dating, to uncles or siblings or family friends. Healing can be difficult in families where a believing, trusting caregiver  is not present.

If a child is talking about sexual abuse, the number one factor in healing is the consistent support of a believing, loving caregiver. That can be a parent, a grandparent, a relative, coach, teacher, pastor, daycare worker, or anyone who takes care of the child on a consistent basis. The power of a supportive, loving caregiver is unmatched by any counselor or doctor. Caregivers are responsible for molding the work that counselors do into something meaningful, reliable, and consistent. Change and healing happens after the child has left the office – and loving, supporting caregivers are to thank for that.  

In anyone’s healing, it only takes one caring person to make a difference. And anyone can be that person. Are you?


Next in this series…

Why does my foster kid/adoptive kid hate me so much?