What to do After Discovering Child Sexual Abuse

Your worst fear has come true. You never really believed your priest could be capable of sexual abuse, not the man you trusted with your secrets and spirituality.

But there’s been a lot of news in the past several years about the fallibility of priests in the church. How could you have missed the signs all this time?

Hey—derail that train of thought right now. There’s no point in questioning the past, only in where you’ll go from here.

There’s no time to waste, your child deserves quick and effective justice—not a pouting parent with coulda-shoulda-woulda on their mind.

Take these steps to get your child on the path to healing:

• As with any criminal charge, contact your local authorities first. The sooner the better; once an officer is dispatched at the behest of your complaint, a file will be opened. Everything that happens from here on out will be part of public knowledge. If you’re the one that first discovered the abuse, there’s a chance you’ll awaken others who have also known about it, or suspected it, but were too afraid to make it public. The more voices you find, the better.

• Next, contact a priest abuse lawyer. Yes, they exist. That’s how prevalent this kind of thing has become. Take a small comfort in knowing that child abuse lawyers are very good, and they’ll do everything they can to find justice.

• Finally, find therapy and counseling for your young one. They have to know it’s not their fault, and that they were brave and strong for telling the truth. Your sexual abuse lawyer may even be able to point you to quality professional help.

The road to healing is long. And for some, that road doesn’t lead through a court of law, and that’s okay. It’s your healing process, nobody else’s. But for others, healing means seeking justice and using the courts to prevent an alleged guilty person from repeating crimes.

For that, you’ll need a good lawyer and a bit of knowledge about the U.S. criminal justice system, which that lawyer will be happy to provide. And that won’t be all; your lawyer will provide you with the tools you need to find peace. It won’t be instant; your gratification may not come for a long time. After all, investigations and court proceedings generally do not move quickly. But as your family heals personally and spiritually, justice will accompany that healing.