While many abused children may be frightened to tell someone about the abuse, or may even be unaware that what is taking place is not normal, some abused children may confide in an adult they consider “safe.” If you are that adult, you should know how to respond. Childhelp’s two-page How to Handle Child Abuse Disclosures brief offers pointers and advice on what to do and what pitfalls to avoid. Some highlights are excerpted here with a few adjustments:
- Believe the child.
- Avoid denial.
- Provide a safe environment.
- Reassure the child.
- React as calmly as you can.
- Document exact quotes.
- Be supportive, not judgmental.
- Understand the different types of child abuse and neglect.
- Report any suspicion of child abuse and neglect to the proper authorities.
- Remember that you do not have to shoulder the burden alone—a trained professional will be able to help.
- Blame the child.
- Make assumptions.
- Make promises.
- Touch the child, if at all possible.
- Confront the potential abusers.
If a child confides in you that he or she is abused or neglected, please don’t disbelieve the child or simply look the other way. While this is true for any abused child, it is all the more true for abused homeschooled children, who may have fewer adults in their lives that they feel they can trust. If you are one of those adults, please step in to help. And whatever you do, don’t turn around and tell the child’s abuser what the child just confided to you: this could have very negative consequences for the child and warn the abuser that they need to hide the child’s abuse better.
If you would like to know more about how social services deals with abuse and neglect tips, you may benefit from reading the Child Welfare Information Gateway’s How the Child Welfare System Works brief. If you have questions or need advice, you can contact the National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453).