Q&A: My child’s friend told her about sexual abuse. What now?

Q&A: My child’s friend told her about sexual abuse. What now?

A question from a concerned parent:

Q. My child came home and told us that her best friend revealed to her that her stepdad makes her do inappropriate things of a sexual nature.  My daughter told her to report him but the friend said she doesn’t want her stepdad locked up as he is the sole breadwinner.  She also swore my child to secrecy.  What am I to do?

The WMACA team writes:

A. It is a wonderful tribute to your child’s personality and character that she is trusted enough by her friend to talk about such a personal issue, and very relieved that she reached out to you – often children just do not know how to raise such a daunting topic.

Firstly, you should affirm to your child that she did the right thing by approaching you with the issue, obviously a difficult thing to do after being sworn to secrecy.  In this instance it is good to point out that it is the kind of secret that can hurt someone, and it is a brave act to speak to a responsible adult. It is ESSENTIAL that you speak up – your child needs to see you take action against obvious child sexual abuse.

It’s not uncommon for a child to not want to disclose for fear of getting the perpetrator in trouble, instead just hoping it goes away.  Unfortunately it probably won’t stop soon without intervention, and what this really means is that this child needs help to get out of this unsafe situation, and that the perpetrator will, without intervention, no doubt carry on with this type of behaviour, and often the abuse will extend to more than just the one victim.  This may seem like a very difficult decision to make, but we’d encourage you to speak up – the consequences of not reporting this may be even greater.

Women & Men Against Child Abuse have clinics with experienced social workers available to assist you with the process, or you are welcome to contact our offices on +27 11 789 8815 or our website – www.wmaca.org.

Also, please ensure you seek council for your child – Changes in mood, behavior, scholastic performance or development could signify that she struggled with hearing her friend’s disclosure.  This doesn’t reflect negatively on your actions, but is rather a very normal reaction to something children shouldn’t have to deal with at their age.  Your child did an incredibly courageous thing, and in our eyes she’s a HERO.


The Women & Men Against Child Abuse Team


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