Children have different abilities to express and communicate serious concerns with their bodies, mental health, and overall safety depending on their age. For instance, young children who lack the vocabulary to explain an allegation of sexual assault may burst out in anger by screaming or physically hitting things.
Regardless of age, children are almost always afraid there will be consequences to disclosing. They may fear embarrassment from peers or other family members like siblings. If a child comes to you to explain an allegation, recognize the trust they are placing in you. It is vital you act upon what you are told, too. In Indiana, everyone regardless of age or occupation is a mandated reporter of child abuse.
Who to call immediately
If it is an emergency, call 911 immediately. If you are unsure, and no one is in immediate physical harm, call the Indiana Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-800-5556. There, trained operators can walk you through the process.
If a child discloses abuse to you…
- Listen carefully and avoid expressing your own views, shock, or disbelief. It could cause the child to shut down and retreat.
- Let them know what they have done is very brave. Reassure them they are safe, and it’s good they aren’t “keeping a secret” any longer.
- Tell them it’s not their fault. Most children think they are to blame, not the perpetrator.
- Don’t talk to the alleged abuser. Confronting the abuse could put the child in danger, jeopardize an investigation, or a future court case.
- Explain what you’re going to do next. Tell them why you’re reporting the abuse, to whom, and how they will help. Do not delay reporting abuse.