The following speech was made by Pope Francis during his trip to the United States. It was given at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia on September 27, 2015 and addressed to victims of sexual abuse within the Catholic church.
Emotional abuse, or psychological maltreatment, is a fairly common form of child abuse but one that is often difficult to identify or categorize. Although complex and difficult to define, experts agree that occasional negative actions or responses to a child are not considered emotional abuse (we all lose our heads at times and say things we regret later). Regardless, even occasional emotional abuse may be harmful to the child. As Douglas Besharov states in Recognizing Child Abuse, “emotional abuse is an assault on the child’s psyche, just as physical abuse is an assault on the child’s body.”
Finding out your child, or any child, has been sexually abused sends waves of anger, hurt, and despair throughout your body. You must remain in control though and keep your emotions in check, especially when in front of the child. If the child made the disclosure herself then this is all the more important. When you discover that your child has been sexually abused, follow these steps.
For professionals that work with children, such as teachers, doctors, or counselors, strict laws covering the reporting of child abuse. However, for others when and how to report suspected child abuse is often unclear. What is generally understood though, is that if child abuse is suspected, it should be reported.