What to do if a child discloses to you

VERY IMPORTANT

The child disclosing abuse or neglect may feel ashamed, angry, scared (especially that you won’t believe him/her), and/or powerless. You may feel outrage, anger, frustration, sadness, disbelief, or disgust in response to what the child is telling you. However, it is of UTMOST IMPORTANCE that you remain calm and in control of your emotions. Children pick up on every little reaction and may close down if they suspect you are having a negative response. In order to help the child, it is important that you stay calm in order to be able to reassure the child that you will see to it that something is done to help keep him/her safe.

DO:

*Listen carefully to what the child is saying
*Tell the child you believe him/her
*Tell the child the abuse was not his/her fault
*Let the child know you will make a report to help stop the abuse

DO NOT:

*Make promises you cannot keep, such as promising that you will not tell anyone
*Push the child into giving details of the abuse; your job is to listen to what the child wants to tell you, not investigate
*Ask direct questions to the child – this could be harmful to the investigation
*Discuss what the child has told you with others who are not directly involved with helping the child

* This information quoted in in part from Prevent Child Abuse North Carolina (www.preventchildabusenc.org). The Child Advocacy Center, Inc. is an Affiliate Agency of Prevent Child Abuse NC.