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Speaking up on sexual assault: when is the appropriate time for parents to discuss with their kids

Posted at 10:16 PM, Apr 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-23 22:16:12-04

FORT MYERS, Fla. — More charges have been filed against a former Collier County Public School teacher accused of having inappropriate relations with students.

But how do you know if your child would speak up if they were the victim of an assault? It’s a situation that can happen to anyone of any age. Being the victim of sexual assault is traumatizing, but what happens when the victim is a minor?

“Because of their age, development cognitively- they’re not able to comprehend the importance of telling when someone is doing something wrong," says Dr. Yaro Garcia with the Department of Counseling at Florida Gulf Coast University. "So you have those struggles going on.”

For Dr. Garcia, talking about these type of situations with families is a day-to-day occurrence.

“When something like this happens, there is also going to be a transition of a lot of stress that comes along with it because not only do they need to attend to the child, but perhaps now the school is involved or other parties," said Garcia. "A court, there’s a case, there’s TCF- there’s other entities involved and all of that requires their attention.”

According to Garcia, there is a strong likelihood the person committing the assault is known by the parents. But how do you make sure your child would speak up if they were victimized? Garcia says it all starts with a talk.

“There are many, many instances where people who are meant to care for our children engage in hurting our children," she says. "It’s important to assume that if that happens your child knows about it and knows what to do if it happens. Having that safe conversation with your child is key.”

And spending more time together as a family, Garcia says, can help with the healing process.

“The parents checking in with the child and, again, for a long period of time," Garcia says. "Even giving the space to the child to check in with the parents. Now, having that balance when they’re supporting each other throughout the whole process, that piece becomes key in healing from this.”

There are plenty of resources, such as counseling, available for families of victims of assault. You can find out more about FGCU's Counseling & Psychological Services online right here.