Working 4 You: Talking to children about abuse

Following several days of coverage about child sexual abuse, KXLY reached out to local resources for advice on how to approach the subject with children.

In one case covered this week, a mother told detectives she found out about her 4-year-old daughter’s alleged assault because she had previously asked her daughter about it and received no as an answer. When her child answered yes, after the alleged assault, the mother immediately contacted police.

Partners with Families and Children is a local agency that works to prevent, interrupt and repair cycles of abuse and neglect within families. They say having those kinds of conversations is critical to preventing and responding quickly to any kind of abuse.

“Starting a conversation with your child early about what their body is, giving appropriate names for their body parts and letting them know that if at any point you feel uncomfortable, please come and talk to me about that,” said Stephanie Widhalm, the program director of PWFC’s Child Advocacy Center.

The next step is equally important. If a child approaches you for help, your response matters.

“As difficult as it may be, try and remain as calm as possible. Thank the child for being brave to come and tell them what’s happened and let them know that it’s okay to come and talk to them again if they ever need to come and talk to someone about it,” Widhalm said.

She also suggests reaching out the the appropriate community agencies to seek help for the child, but also for yourself or the of that child. Those include local law enforcement, Child Protective Services and a community sexual assault resource.

“Here in Spokane we have Lutheran Community Services, they have a 24-7 crisis line. They actually come in and provide advocacy support on site for us” Widhalm said.

Their main goal for the agency but also or the community is to create a space that is safe for children as they begin to heal from trauma.

“My hope is that I’ve at least given them the opportunity to feel some sort of light and to be a kid in all of these moments. I see the child in front of me, I don’t see the things that have happened to them,” Widhalm said.

Catch up on the day’s news and look ahead to tomorrow by signing up for the Daily Local email newsletter from KXLY4. Headlines, events, and staff picks every weeknight at 8 p.m. Sign up HERE to get your news on the D.L.