When kids talk about sexual abuse

Karen Kay Imagawa, MD, shares advice for parents who think their child has been abused and how to be open and ask them in a way in which they will understand
Child Abuse Prevention Tips | When Kids Talk About Sexual Abuse | Kids in the House
KidsInTheHouse the Ultimate Parenting Resource
Kids in the House Tour

When kids talk about sexual abuse

Parents will often times wonder whether or not their child is going to tell them whether something happened, or whether or not they have been sexually abused. If you look at the statistics, the meantime between assault and when the child may have disclosed is three years. So, I think, often times, that's very difficult for a parent. Because, they feel "I'm very close with my child. My child will tell me anything. I feel like they should be able to tell me anything. Is there something I did wrong, and they're not telling me? Are we not close anymore?" And, I think, you need to reassure yourself that as long as you've been providing that support for your child, it's not out of the norm for a child not to tell right away. Some of the things that may instigate a child to tell right away, it's just vary variable. Sometimes, it's in school where they get the good touch-bad touch talk, or the police come in to talk about stranger-danger and safety things, that the child was suddenly disclosed to the school teacher. Or, they may come home and disclose to their parent. Sometimes, it's just something that happens where the child may have been molested multiple times, but something happened that made them tell. Just as an example, we had a situation where the reason the little girl ended up telling was because the molester, the perpetrator didn't let her watch her favorite TV show. And that's what took her over the edge. As he wouldn't allow her to watch her favorite TV show, so she decided that she was going to tell somebody. So, there's various reason. And, sometimes they may not make complete sense to us as adults. But, the child has their various reasons on when they're ready to tell. As a parent the main thing is to be supportive. Letting your child know, from the very beginning, that they can always tell you if something makes them feel uncomfortable; if any person in their life is making them feel uncomfortable. For a younger child you may ask them "Did someone make you feel icky?" They may not understand uncomfortable - "I didn't like it". Again, you don't need to interrogate your child. But, just be open to listening. If your child start talking about something that happened to them at school or when they were at their neighbors house or wherever, just listen to what they have to say. Again, you don't have to be the investigator and interrogate them. But, listening, being supportive.

Karen Kay Imagawa, MD, shares advice for parents who think their child has been abused and how to be open and ask them in a way in which they will understand


Expert Bio

More from Expert

Karen Kay Imagawa, MD

Director of the Audrey Hepburn CARES Center, Children's Hospital Los Angeles

Karen Kay Imagawa, MD: Director, Audrey Hepburn CARES Center, Director, Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics Program, Division of General Pediatrics; Children's Hospital Los Angeles. Karen Kay Imagawa, MD, is also the Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at USC’s Keck School of Medicine and is a full-time attending within the Department of Pediatrics, Division of General Pediatrics, at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA). She received her medical degree at the University of California, Los Angeles, and is board certified in General Pediatrics, Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics, and Child Abuse Pediatrics.  Dr. Imagawa has made significant contributions to program development at CHLA: She is currently the Director of the Joint General Pediatrics – USC University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD) Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics Program ,expanding the program to its current position with the largest number of board-certified developmental-behavioral pediatricians (7) in a Southern California program, and was integral in establishing the ACGME accredited Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics Fellowship program at CHLA . Dr. Imagawa is also one of the founders and the Director of the Audrey Hepburn CARES Center at CHLA, a multifaceted interdisciplinary child protection center involving evaluation, treatment, prevention, education and research in the field of child maltreatment.  Dr. Imagawa is a court appointed expert (730 paneled expert in both Criminal and Dependency Court) in the field of child abuse, and was actively involved in the development of the Foster Care Hub at CHLA, one of seven designated Hubs in Los Angeles County that were initially established to provide forensic, medical, and mental health screenings for newly detained children entering the foster care system.  She previously served on the advisory group for The California Medical Training Centers formulating standardized training in child abuse, and collaborated on a task force to develop standards at the state level for mental health care for child victims of trauma. She is a medical consultant for the Inter-agency Council on Child Abuse and Neglect (ICAN – the official county agency which coordinates the development of services for the prevention, identification and treatment of child abuse and neglect), having participated in various medical task forces establishing protocols and best practice standards for the evaluation and treatment of suspected victims of child abuse, included those with developmental disabilities. Dr. Imagawa’s strength as a clinical educator is also seen in her dedication to education and training. She has been invited to participate in numerous speaking engagements, as well as requests from the media and entertainment industry, involving a variety of topics in the fields of child abuse and/or developmental-behavioral pediatrics. 

More Parenting Videos from Karen Kay Imagawa, MD >
Enter your email to
download & subscribe
to our newsletter