CHKD child abuse experts offer advice

NORFOLK, Va. - April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, and experts at Children's Hospital of the King's Daughters (CHKD) are offering advice on how to help child sexual abuse survivors heal.

"I would like to see that stigma of getting help and support go away," said Laura Kanter, the mental health services coordinator for CHKD. "It's not fair to the people who have had things happen to them. It's not their fault."

Kanter said responses to childhood trauma differ from person to person.

"For some people, they're able to put it in perspective in their life and move forward," she explained to News 3 This Morning's Jessica Larche. "And for others, they really do need that intensive opportunity to talk."

Kanter said unaddressed emotions about sexual abuse during childhood can lead to post traumatic stress disorder or abusive coping strategies, like drugs, alcohol or repeating the cycle of abuse.

"They start to develop those unhealthy strategies because it's overwhelming and they don't know how to deal with it," she said.

However, Kanter stressed that the extreme is not everyone's story.

"I would say the majority of kids that we see do not have sexual acting out behaviors," she said.

Kanter said therapy can be a tool to help people move passed the pain, no matter how many years have gone by since the traumatic event.

Related: Grieving Norfolk mother speaks out about death of baby girl, allegedly at the hands of child's father 

"There’s effective treatment to help them to move past that and to help them put those experiences in perspective in their lives where it doesn’t have to keep having that significant impact," she said.

Kanter said for families with insurance, you can reach out to your insurance provider for recommendations for therapists.

However, if you are not insured, she suggested reaching out to your local community services board or United Way for free or reduced counseling.

Additionally, she said if caregivers have an interest in seeking services at the CHKD Child Abuse Program, they must contact their Child Protective Service worker, foster care worker or an investigator, like a police detective, and ask to be referred for services.

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