How to Handle a Disclosure
When a child opens up about sexual, physical, or emotional abuse, it’s imperative to respond in an appropriate manner. Not only do you carry a responsibility to the young child who has entrusted you with a devastating secret, but you also need to get professionals involved as quickly as possible. Use the following do’s and don’ts to ensure you handle an abuse report in the right way.
Do: Pay Close Attention & Encourage the Child
Opening up about an abusive situation takes enormous courage. If a child chooses to share this information with you, affirm him or her and pay close attention to the details being shared. You want to communicate the child’s value and praise the decision to reveal the abuse. Keep in mind, you are not an investigator or a social services worker. Don’t pry or ask questions that law enforcement professionals will handle.
Don’t: Make a Judgment About the Validity of the Claim
An abused child may exhibit a myriad of bizarre behaviors, as he or she tries to cope with the circumstances surrounding the abuse. Determining the legitimacy of such claims is not your responsibility. Instead, you want to provide a supportive ear and contact the right parties who have the resources and training to deal with small children.
Do: Report What You’ve Learned Immediately
Abusive homes are extremely volatile and unstable. If an abuser learns that a child has shared information with another individual, the child may be in even more danger. Speak to local officials as quickly as possible, as this will allow the right course of action to be taken. The child’s welfare should be your utmost concern.
Don’t: Gossip or Share the Information with Others
Do not betray the confidence of a young child who trusts you. While abuse claims are often shocking and unexpected, do not share what you’ve learned with anyone outside of the official channels. Law enforcement professionals and child protection workers follow established protocols that aim to protect children and rescue them from dangerous situations as quickly as possible. Spreading rumors will only hurt the child in the long run.
Do: Talk to a Professional about Your Feelings
Whether you are a trusted teacher, parent, or friend, hearing that a child has experienced abuse is an emotionally challenging situation. You need to demonstrate strength and care for the child in question, but it is completely natural to experience emotional complications after such a revelation. Don’t hesitate to seek out the guidance of a mental health professional, counselor, or religious leader. Talk freely about your emotions and search for coping tools to handle this challenge, but be careful not to betray any information about the child that should remain confidential.
If you need to report child abuse in Idaho, use the following contact details to get in touch with local authorities:
Call 2-1-1 and state your intention to report abuse or call 1-855-552-KIDS (855-552-5437) or contact local law enforcement