How to Help an Abused Child Who Discloses to You
The first step in child abuse help is in properly dealing with the allegations of the abused child. It’s imperative to handle this situation correctly in order to make the child feel safe enough to report the child abuse to the authorities. Mishandling a child’s outcry can make a child recant; which makes helping the abused child impossible.
If an abused child reports the abuse to you, you should:2
- Remain calm
- Reassure the child they did nothing wrong, it is not their fault and they will not be punished
- Reassure the child you believe them and that you are glad they told
- Offer comfort – tell the child you will help
- Ensure the safety of both you and the child
- Understand that the child may express him or herself with language appropriate for their age and may not know the proper terms for body parts or specific acts. Do not correct a child’s use of language.
- Tell the child that you cannot keep this information secret (in many countries and states this is the law)
- Report the child abuse to the authorities immediately
To help an abused child you should not:
- Interrogate the child
- Make suggestions as to what happened
- Act shocked, disgusted or doubtful of the abuse. This may make the child uncomfortable and less likely to talk.
- Accuse them of lying or try to change their mind
- Blame the child
- Use words that may frighten the abused child like “rape,” “child abuse,” or “jail”
If a child does “take back” (or recant) what they have said about being abused, it may be because they don’t feel it’s safe enough to come forward. These children continue to need love and support and if abuse is still suspected, the authorities should be informed.