When a child comes forward about sexual abuse

Family Trauma Therapist Catherine Mogil, PsyD, explains the best way to react and steps to take if a child comes and tells you he or she has been sexually abused
What To Do When A Child Tells You They've Been Sexually Abused
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When a child comes forward about sexual abuse

If your child comes to you and tells you that they've been touched in appropriately, the first thing to do is to try to stay calm. That can be incredibly hard as a parent, but the truth is that kids look to their parents to see what to expect, how bad it is. Even though what happened to them may be bad, they are going to look to you to see if they are going to be okay. So if you can try to stay calm, it will let your child know that they are going to be okay. That's the first step. The second step is to take what they are saying seriously. Believe your child. Kids don't typically make this up. Try to understand what happened and try to understand what it was like for them and their experience of it. After that, I think it's really important to get help. Make sure that you are calling law enforcement or calling Child Protective Services to report it. This models for kids that you believe in safety systems and that they should too. Another important step to take is to talk to your child about what to expect in the coming days, weeks, months. The important point there is that kids do recover from this, even though it's going to be a hard road. With sensitive responding from their parent, getting professional help and support, if need be. They will get better and they will go on to have a normal, happy life.

Family Trauma Therapist Catherine Mogil, PsyD, explains the best way to react and steps to take if a child comes and tells you he or she has been sexually abused


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Catherine Mogil, PsyD

Family Trauma Therapist

Dr. Catherine E. Mogil is an assistant clinical professor at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior in the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles. She is a licensed clinical psychologist and serves as the director of training and intervention development for the Nathanson Family Resilience Center and as the co-director of the Child and Family Trauma Service.

Dr. Mogil is also a consultant for the National Military Family Association's Operation Purple Family Retreats, the Uniformed Services University, and a special military project with the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health. Her recent research focuses on the effects of multiple deployments on military families, including the role of parental functioning on childhood mental health. Working with children of all developmental stages, Dr. Mogil has been involved in several intervention development and translational research projects that examine the efficacy of parent-assisted interventions for infants and toddlers in foster care, school-aged children with developmental disabilities, and adolescents with autism spectrum and other disorders.

Dr. Mogil is certified in parent-child interaction therapy, trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy, and leadership education in neurodevelopmental disabilities. She received her doctorate from Pepperdine University and completed her clinical internship at UCLA. Dr. Mogil also completed a postdoctoral fellowship specializing in the prevention and treatment of child and family traumatic stress at the University of Southern California and Children's Hospital Los Angeles.

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