Doctors can provide even better support to parents whose child has been sexually abused, including by seeing not only the child but also the parents as victims and therefore offering guidance in their own coping process. This is one of the recommendations from a study by Kenter Jeugdhulp, Amsterdam UMC, GGD Amsterdam, the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and the Achmea Victim and Society Foundation.
‘Non-abusive parents whose child has been sexually abused are not always seen as victims, even though the event is just as traumatic for them. It is important that doctors who come into contact with parents of children who have been sexually abused also realize this and provide appropriate help,” explains researcher Caroline Jonkman of Kenter Jeugdhulp. Supporting parents is important because the parents’ response weighs more heavily in the child’s recovery than certain characteristics of the abuse. ‘It is also important that doctors, if they are confronted with this, think about when details about the sexual abuse are told, and to what extent it is necessary to tell this. Details are not always known, but when they are, they can sometimes help parents better identify any developmental problems. But it can also make them feel guilty towards their own child. It is therefore important to look carefully at the needs of the parent and to provide information in phases.’
‘There was little information available for healthcare professionals about how to deal with parents of children who have experienced sexual abuse,’ Jonkman continues. ‘While paediatricians, gynecologists and general practitioners are often involved at an early stage, when it appears that a child has been sexually abused. We conducted interviews with parents and professionals who have had to deal with this and came up with several recommendations, including those just mentioned.’ The research itself is still under review, so the underlying data cannot yet be shared. ‘But the most important thing is that the research has led to a number of action perspectives for those care providers.’
The advice is contained in a recently released brochure and a vlog on the website of the Center for Sexual Violence (CSG). In addition, a webinar and a podcast about this can be found on the website of the academic workshop on child abuse.