It can be a scary time when you realize that a child is being abused. You are likely to feel angry at first, and you might not know exactly how to proceed. While you obviously want to help the child, you don’t want to make the situation worse in some way. Unless you are a professional in this field, you might not know how to approach the matter at first. If you find yourself in such a situation currently, the tips below should make it easier to handle the matter appropriately.
When speaking with a child whom you suspect is the victim of abuse, keep the following points in mind.
If a child comes to you to say that they have been abused by an adult, you should never deny their claim. Even if you have your doubts as to what is happening, you need to be supportive and comforting at this time. Should you say something critical or indicate that you doubt their story, they may stop talking and may not again open up about the abuse. There will be a time and place for the case to play out legally, but that is not your responsibility. Trust that the child is telling the truth and give them the supportive ear that they need.
Let the Child Talk
This is going to be an emotional conversation for both of you, but you don’t want to get in the way by interjecting your own words or opinions. The abuse is the child’s story, so let him or her tell it. Allow them to talk for as long as they would like, and make it clear that you are paying attention and what to hear what they have to say. The more information you can gather at this time, the better chance you will have of getting the abused child the care they need.
Don’t Place Blame
Abuse is never the fault of the child. It doesn’t matter what initiated the abuse, the child should not be blamed – so make it clear that you don’t blame them for what is happening. It is common for children to think that they ‘deserve’ their punishment, because that is often what is being said to them by the abuser. You need to break that line of thinking, and make them understand that they don’t deserve this type of treatment.
Trust the Professionals
It will be tempting to confront the abuser directly after being told such a story by a child, but that may be a mistake. This person may be violent, and they have something if they are caught and convicted as a child abuser. Rather than taking matters into your own hands, contact the authorities and tell them you are concerned about the welfare of a child. From there, the professionals will be able to take action in accordance with the law. You can remain supportive for the child throughout the process, but let law enforcement handle the rest.