*** TRIGGER WARNING
I know these things happen but still my brain cannot wrap itself around the idea that an adopted girl as young as 3 has been sexually molested – her behaviors graphically illustrate that it is the reality. My heart hurts just trying to think about it.
One recommendation is related to Sex Ed Rescue – finding a better way to talk to your child about sex. Cath Hakanson is the person behind Sex Ed Rescue. She is an Australian and a qualified sexual health nurse, author and speaker. She believes that kids need help to thrive in this sexualized world. Sex Ed Rescue can help parents with … giving age-appropriate answers to tricky questions about sex, starting conversations that feel natural and guided by your personal values as well as becoming an ask-able parent.
There was a warning about virtual therapy places (specifically mentioned Better Help). They don’t all vet their “therapists”. There are horror stories out there of people being paired with people who outright say they aren’t licensed. I’ve seen people say they were matched with open white supremacists, counselors who were just telling them to leave their spouses over trivial arguments, and even therapists who were doing sessions while buying groceries – meaning that anybody in the store could hear your personal issues–a major HIPAA violation. The person went on to say – if you can find a legitimate virtual therapist it’s fine, but it would probably be difficult to find one willing to work with sexual assault victims virtually. She shares that when she was in foster care, she had to see a therapist and one of the topics that came up was child sexual abuse. One of the ways they questioned her was through games to make it more appropriate to what a child could understand. If a kid is old enough to just talk things out, virtual therapy would be great, but it would be increasingly difficult to be effective the younger the child is.
Tiffany Hamilton aka Never Alone Support was recommended. She is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse at the hands of my step-father. She says that her goal is to provide this type of support to any victim who is seeking it. She says, “I want to help them where they are with whatever they need. This is my passion and my hope is that I can make a positive difference in the lives of sexual abuse victims and help to save them from a life of addiction, self-harm, and suicide. She has a podcast on Apple.
Most important – from an adoptive parent of children who have been sexually abused – I know that for a single parent, keeping her world and physical contacts limited is not easy but in my experience it is absolutely necessary. 4 years in for us and we’ve had a lot of progress with consistent therapy and boundaries.
I would be extremely cautions of any child or adult you leave her alone with, until you have some significant progress in these behaviors and she understands that it is not okay for others to touch her private area other than diaper changes. And also that she cannot touch others. I would also limit how many people can change her diapers. Children that have been sexually abused and have sexual behaviors are more likely to be abused again, and it’s more likely that someone close and trusted would abuse her. If she goes to daycare/school they need to have a designated person to change her, not just who ever is available. She needs to have healthy boundaries with others and a limited number of people who can have contact with her genital area for her care and hygiene.
Do not shame her for masturbating, it’s not something she has control over, but you want her to be safe – so be sure to keep her in the clothing that prevents her from inserting anything. But touching herself is an appropriate response with a child who has been sexually assaulted. Gentle redirection without shame is what you need. So don’t say “you can’t touch,” say “oh look at this toy! It is okay to redirect her to an appropriate activity that occupies her hands – “Let’s wash your hands and play with playdoh!” Gentle redirection, if she tries to have anyone else touch her. “It’s not appropriate for so and so to touch you there.” This is why it’s important to limit who can change/bathe her. She needs to know that only those people who are safe can touch her when they bathe/change her.
This is an extremely urgent need. Contact her pediatrician, see if they can expedite referrals. Also, DOCUMENT EVERYTHING. Keeping logs may help you find patterns in her behavior that can identify possible triggers, and could also identify abusers. For instance if she spends time with a family member and is sexually acting out every time following a visit that is a red flag. Contact your local children’s advocacy center and see if they can do a forensic interview. A forensic interview could identify the abuser and knowing the nature of the abuse could be helpful.