Have the conversation somewhere your child feels comfortable.  Do not ask your child about abuse in front of the person you believe might be abusing the child.  Ask whether anyone has been touching him or her in ways that don’t feel OK or that make him or her feel uncomfortable. Follow up on whatever made you concerned. If it was something your child said or did, ask about that. Ask in a nonjudgmental way, and take care to avoid shaming your child as you ask questions.  “I” questions can be very helpful. Rather than beginning your conversation by saying “You (the child) did something/said something that made me worry...” consider starting your inquiry with the word “I.” For example: “I am concerned because I heard you say that you are not allowed to close the bathroom door.” Make sure that your child knows that he or she is not in trouble, and that you are simply trying to gather information. Talk with your child about secrets. Sometimes abusers will tell children that sexual abuse is a secret just between them. They may ask the child to promise to keep it secret. When you talk to your child, talk about times that it’s OK not to keep a secret, even if he or she made a promise. If children do disclose abuse, parents should assure them they believe them, that they will protect them and take steps to end the abuse. Parents should report abuse to authorities.For information, visit the RAINN website at http://tinyurl.com/3agtaop
For information about talking to your children about sexuality in general, which ideally should be done before inquiries about potential sexual abuse, visit the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry’s site at: http://tinyurl.com/25o7vu
The site also includes information on how to recognize the potential signs of abuse.