It’s estimated that only about a third of all child abuse incidents are ever discovered. And for the kids who do get help, it can be tough to trust the adults caring for them. Today on Think, Krys Boyd talked to a child advocate from Collin County about how that trust can be re-established.
One reason it’s so hard for adults to help abused kids is that it was often another adult who harmed the child.
“What abuse does to a child … is adults have now let them down. The story that they’re told is not true anymore. Adults aren’t supposed to hurt kids," says Dan Powers, senior vice president and clinical director for Children’s Advocacy Center of Collin County. “The key to adults in a child’s life who’ve experienced abuse is we want to give them a different opportunity to experience a supportive adult. Someone who cares, somebody who’s predictable, somebody that won’t let them down.”
As that trust is re-established, the first order of business is convincing the child that he or she isn’t to blame. Powers says that feeling is prevalent among the kids he works with.
“We’ve got to help them understand it wasn’t their fault – it was the adult making some adult choices – and what they did was very brave by telling," he says.
Much of the rehabilitation process involves returning a sense of power that the abuser has taken away. Abusers often lord it over children in exchange for their silence. Powers says one way to give control back is to make sure kids feel like they’re in charge of their surroundings.
“The last thing we want to do when a child tells somebody that they’ve been hurt is whisk them away," he says. "The message the child gets there is that, ‘I did something wrong – I’m being taken away’.”
Instead, Powers says the goal is to provide a safe, familiar environment that allows abused kids the comfort they need to recover.
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