What to do if your child alleges abuse

Learning that a child may have been abused can be very upsetting for all individuals involved. If your child alleges he or she has been hurt or abused, utilize the following guidelines in order to best respond to your child:

  • First Believe the Child: No one wants to believe that any child has been a victim; however, believe the child because children seldom make up stories about sexual abuse. If the report does turn out to be false or exaggerated, the child may have a serious problem that requires attention.
  • Actively Listen: Encourage the child to talk freely, but do not “put words in their mouth”. Do not deny the problem. Do not make judgmental comments and never blame, punish, or embarrass the child.
  • Stay Calm: It is very important that you stay calm on the outside. Feelings of guilt, denial, anger, and/or confusion are normal reactions to have; however, if you have a strong reaction to a child’s report, the child may be unwilling to talk any further about this with you, the police, or a counselor. Also, a strong reaction from you may cause them to withdraw or may increase feelings of shame, embarrassment, and guilt.
  • Be Supportive Not Blaming: Tell the child that he or she is not to blame for the abuse. Most children, trying to make sense out of the abuse, believe that somehow they caused it or should have been able to stop it.
  • Be Honest: Offer to protect the child and promise to do your best to stop the abuse. Let the child know that telling you was the right thing to do. Do not promise you will not tell anyone or tell the child they will not need to talk about it again.
  • Respect the Child’s Right to Privacy: Be available to listen and remember to respect a child’s right to privacy. Be careful not to discuss the incident in front of people who do not need to know what happened.
  • Do Not Question the Child: A forensic interviewer, local law enforcement or children’s protective services worker are professionally trained to ask such questions.
  • Report Your Suspicions to Child Protective Services: Reporting is important because it lets children know they are believed. It also lets them know that they are not responsible for what happened and that they are victims of a crime. Call CPS at 1-855-444-3911
  • Keeping ALL Children Safe: Many abusers, both adults and juveniles, abuse more than one time and more than one victim. Sometimes, it is necessary to interview juvenile abusers. The interviews are done in order to find out if these children have been victims themselves. In this way, all of these children can get the help they need whenever child sexual abuse is reported.