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Helping Children Deal with
the Trauma of Sexual Exploitation


The best way to reduce the suffering of a child traumatized by pornography or sexual predators on the Internet (or by any other medium) is prevention. If your child tells you that he or she has seen or read something on the Internet of a sexual nature or has had contact with a sexual predator and appears to be experiencing some trauma from that experience, talk with your child about it and, if necessary, seek professional help. Identifying, and sometimes discussing, the signs and symptoms of psychological damage is a first step to relieving the child's suffering. Try to provide opportunities to talk about feelings. When hearing and accepting a child's feelings are too difficult, therapy involving the child and the family is often necessary. The following, is a recommended strategy if you think your child has been abused, traumatized, or sexually exploited while on the Internet:
  • Believe your child! Children rarely lie about sexual abuse or trauma.

  • Commend your child for telling you about his or her experience.

  • Convey your support for your child. Your child may fear that he or she is at fault and responsible for viewing the pornography or interacting with a sexual predator. Try to alleviate this self-blame.

  • Temper your own reaction. Recognize that your response sends a critical message to your child. Your greatest challenge may be to not convey your own horror.

  • Report the suspected illegal online activity to your local police. In some communities the local police department is equipped to investigate computer crimes, such as online solicitation of a minor. Also report such incidences to the CyberTipline: 800-843-5678 (

  • Locate a specialized agency that evaluates sexual abuse or trauma victims - a hospital, a community mental health therapy group, or a child advocate agency.

  • If your child has been physically abused as a result of contact with an online predator, contact a physician with experience and training in detecting sexual abuse.

  • Talk with your child's teachers, baby-sitters, other parents, and adults who have supervised your child online. (Enough Is Enough Take Action Manual)


© 2001 by Donna Rice Hughes. Request permission if you wish to reprint or post.