Q: My preteen daughter was the victim of a sexual assault. No sex took place, but the man touched her. I am happy to say that the man who did this was arrested and will be tried. But how do I go about talking to her about this? Social workers and psychiatrists are not available in the isolated community where we live.
A: When you speak to your daughter, praise her for her courage in telling you what happened. Try to spend a lot of time listening because she will likely need to discuss what happened more than once to process her feelings. Stress that no one has the right to touch her body in any way without her permission. If you sense she feels responsible for what happened, assure her it was not her fault. Reinforce that she has the right to say no to unwanted touching and reassure her you will do all you can to protect her in the future.
Although mental health resources aren’t available in your community, it might be possible for you to consult by phone with a qualified professional who can offer you some support in helping your daughter, or speak directly with her. Meanwhile, keep an eye out for signs she needs help, such as low self-esteem, guilt, self-blame, social or emotional withdrawal, complaints of body aches, depression, anxiety, deliberate self-harm, and eating and body image issues.