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Children's Health

6 Things that must be done when sexual abuse is discovered in Children

Dr. Tomi




Once one discovers a child that has been sexually abused, the next step is to immediately seek help, with the health of the abused child as the primary goal and then dealing with the predator subsequently.

The aim of treatment is to help cope with the immediate impact of the abuse and to ameliorate or prevent the development of short and long term sequel that may disrupt the child s social, emotional and personality development.

Treatment should target both the physical and psychological aftermath of the abuse.

There’s no one cause of sexual abuse hence good treatment should address all levels of vulnerability.

A wide range of professionals are involved in assessing the child’s needs and selecting a course of treatment. Professionals such as therapist, clinical social workers, primary care physician, psychiatrist, psychologist and even law enforcement agencies.

Sexual abuse can be discovered at any stage; it could be at the immediate post-abuse period for a child that has just been exposed to it or a child that has previously been under the siege or it could be discovered later on when abuse has ceased.

For an immediate post-abuse child;

Medical treatment would involve; presenting at a hospital where;

1. The child would be properly examined for reassurance that there is no permanent genital damage or other physical injuries.


2. Treatment for sexually transmitted diseases should be considered in adolescent depending on circumstances of abuse.


3. Possibility of occurrence of pregnancy and prevention options should be discussed with pubertal sexual assault victims.



4. Prophylaxis for HIV should be considered if the sexual contact was within 36hours but a baseline HIV screening should be done to determine the status of the patient before the assault.


5. Inpatient care may be necessary in some cases such as when the child’s safety is in jeopardy, severe physical injury etc.




6. Referral or consultation for mental health.
for mental health treatment is typically necessary in children who experience the most serious type of abuse .eg. abuse involving family members and high degree of physical force-exhibit behavioral problem.




It’s difficult to obtain specific information on the type of victim for whom specific treatment is most effective

A review of clinical practice suggests that victim’s characteristics often determines which specific modality of treatment is offered. The selection of a treatment modality may be guided by age, gender, level of functioning of the victim.

Treatment, it is reasoned, will partly attenuate the severity of the anticipated and acute symptom and will serve as a prevention against the delayed onset of emotional disorder.

Child sexual abuse is a serious and excruciatingly painful experience for the victim and his or her family whose effect can last a lifetime. It’s even more common than we know of as most cases are not even reported or never even come to light, it should be abhorred and reported immediately.

If you are a victim or you know a victim, know or let them know that the experience doesn’t define you and you are not alone.

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Dr Tomi Sofela (MBChB) is a graduate of Olabisi Onabanjo University in Ogun State registered with the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria. She is on a mission to pursue fulfillment and enjoys watching movies, reading novels and organizing friends and family get-together.