Abused or neglected children often show both physical and behavioral symptoms. Older children may not talk about the problem, because they fear or want to protect the offender or they do not believe they will be taken seriously. Sometimes children report abuse to an adult they trust. These conversations should be taken seriously and acted upon. Some symptoms are specific to certain forms of maltreatment. There are also general symptoms that can occur with all types. READ MORE HERE
How to Respond
Provide safety, love and support. Let them know it’s okay to cry or be mad. Make sure your child understand it is not his or her fault. Don’t coach or pressure your child to talk about things.
Some things you can say that will help your child:
- I believe you.
- I know it’s not your fault.
- I’m glad I know about it.
- I’m sorry this happened to you.
- I will take care of you.
- I’m not sure what will happen next.
- Nothing about you made this happen. It has happened to other children too.
- You don’t need to take care of me.
- I’m upset, but not at you.
- I’m angry at the person who did this.
- I’m sad. You may see me cry. That’s all right, I’ll be able to take care of you.
- I don’t know why that happened.
- You can still love someone but hate what they did to you.
Responses to avoid:
- Are you sure that happened?
- Are you telling me the truth?
- Why are you telling me?
- Let me know if it happens again.
- Why didn’t you stop him/her?
- What did you do to make this happen?
- Why did you let this happen?
- Practice your response before you are in the real situation.
- Pay attention to your body language. Give the child signals that you are hearing what he or she says and that you can help.
- Let the child know that it was brave to share something (no matter how minimal) about a difficult subject. Be openly admiring of this courage to reinforce the disclosure process.
- Tell the child that you will do everything you can to see that he or she is kept safe and keep them away from the suspected offender.
- Affirm your caring for the child and that your relationship has not been negatively altered. Some children ashamed and assume they are less lovable because of the abuse.
- As soon as possible, write down the actual words used in the disclosure and in your interaction with the child. The child’s first statement has forensic significance and the exact words are important.
- Contact Child Protective Services or Law Enforcement and make a report immediately.
- Return to a normal routine as soon as possible.
- See that your child receives therapy as soon as possible. Trying to sweep the problem under the rug usually causes more problems. It will not go away.
- Find help for yourself. You don’t have to do it all yourself.
- Teach your child the rules for personal safety. Tell them what to do if someone tries to touch them in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable.
- Your child may need an extra sense of security; stay close and assure your child that you will keep him or her safe.
- Do not try to determine for yourself if the allegation is valid or invalid. This is the role of law enforcement and child protective services.
- Do not use shocked or disbelieving body language. The child may interpret this to mean that you find thechild unacceptable versus the act perpetrated on them.
- Do not try to talk a child out of what he or she is saying. If you are skeptical, do not express your doubts to the child. This is the task for investigators to sort through, and you can express your doubts to them.
- Do not stand over the child while he or she is talking. This may cause the child to feel crowded or dominated.
- Do not suggest to a child that you think he or she may have been abused. This can be damaging and is problematic in cases in which abuse did happen but the information was elicited through the use of leading questions.
- Do not gossip about these allegations to friends, relatives, or associates.
- Do NOT confront the offender. This could be very unsafe for you and your child.
The most important step you can take to protecting our children is to report suspected abuse. If you feel that the child is in immediate danger, please call 911. If you need additional assistance or you are unsure of whom to contact, call the National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453)
By the time you finish reading this, 15 children will have been abused; In the next five minutes, 30 more; Within the next hour, 360 more; And by tonight, close to 8,000+ children will have suffered from abuse, 5 of which will die. Child abuse has increased 134% since 1980 and is now considered a worldwide epidemic. The high jump in child abuse deaths and the shocking increase in statistics highlights the frightening lack of public knowledge.
Educate Yourself--Learn the Facts--It may Just Save a Child's Life!!