1300 211 238  or  info@playtherapymelbourne.com

Play Therapy Melbourne | NDIS Provider, ASD Therapy, Child Counselling.

ABN: 99 391 728 349

  • Play Therapy Melbourne

Sexual Abuse and Play Therapy

Child sexual abuse can damage children physically, emotionally and behaviourally. It can shatter a child’s world and sense of safety. The majority of children who experience child sexual abuse experience a variety of problems, some of which extend into adulthood (Rutter & Taylor (eds), 2002). The primary harmful effects of childhood sexual abuse are psychological.


Sexually abused children are more likely than other children to:

  • Have a regression in behaviour, school performance, or obtaining developmental milestones

  • Have inappropriate sexualised behaviours

  • Become clingy or irritable

  • Have disturbances in sleep and/or eating

  • Have learning and social problems at school

  • Have poor self-esteem

  • Be self-destructive or aggressive

  • Start bedwetting and/or soiling beyond the usual age (WHO, 2017).

How you can help

  • Tell your child that you believe them.

  • Tell them you do not blame them and you are glad they told you.

  • Reassure and support them, tell them you love them.

  • Tell them you will try and keep them safe.

  • Try to understand as much as you can about the effects of child sexual abuse so that you can best support yourself and your child.

  • Access professional support for your child.

How Play Therapy can help

  • For children, play is their natural form of expression – a special language which is spoken through toys. Through play, children communicate what they cannot with words (Ater, in Landreth, 2001).

  • Stimulating the right hemisphere of the brain, which responds to non-verbal modalities such as play, art, music and sandplay therapy, assists in the processing of trauma (Gil, 2006).

  • Through using play to express their abuse, children can stay emotionally safe by, for example, making the toy feel the pain rather than themselves, or by making a toy the abuser (Ater, in Landreth, 2001).

  • Children learn to come to an acceptance of what has happened to them, and learn new ways of coping to protect themselves from further abuse (Cattanach, 1992, in Landreth, 2001).