What To Do If A Child Reports Abuse

Here’s a text from another great site about child abuse:


You may feel overwhelmed and confused if a child begins talking to you about abuse. It is a difficult subject and hard to accept, and you might not know what to say. The best help you can provide is calm, unconditional support and reassurance. Let your actions speak for you if you are having trouble finding the words. Remember that it is a tremendous act of courage for children to come forward about abuse. They might have been told specifically not to tell, and may even feel that the abuse is normal. They might feel they are to blame for the abuse. The child is looking to you to provide support and help- don’t let him or her down.

Avoid denial and remain calm. A common reaction to news as unpleasant and shocking as child abuse is denial. However, if you display denial to a child, or show shock or disgust at what they are saying, the child may be afraid to continue and will shut down. As hard as it may be, remain as calm and reassuring as you can.

Don’t interrogate. Let the child explain to you in his/her own words what happened, but don’t interrogate the child or ask leading questions. This may confuse and fluster the child and make it harder for them to continue their story.

Reassure the child that they did nothing wrong. It takes a lot for a child to come forward about abuse. Reassure him or her that you take what is said seriously, and that it is not the child’s fault.

Reporting child abuse and neglect

Reporting child abuse seems so official. Many people are reluctant to get involved in other families’ lives. However, by reporting, you can make a tremendous difference in the life of a child and the child’s family, especially if you help stop the abuse early. Early identification and treatment can help mitigate the long-term effects of abuse. If the abuse is stopped and the child receives competent treatment, the abused child can begin to regain a sense of self-confidence and trust. Some parents may also benefit from support, parent training and anger management.

Reporting child abuse: Myths and Facts

  • I don’t want to interfere in some one else’s family. The effects of child abuse are lifelong, affecting future relationships, self esteem, and sadly putting even more children at risk of abuse as the cycle continues. Help break the cycle of child abuse.
  • What if I break up someone’s home? The priority in child protective services is keeping children in the home. A child abuse report does not mean a child is automatically removed from the home – unless the child is clearly in danger. Support such as parenting classes, anger management or other resources may be offered first to parents if safe for the child.
  • They will know it was me who called. Reporting is anonymousIn most states, you do not have to give your name when you report child abuse. The child abuser cannot find out who made the report of child abuse.
  • It won’t make a difference what I have to say. If you have a gut feeling that something is wrong, it is better to be safe than sorry. Even if you don’t see the whole picture, others may have noticed as well, and a pattern can help identify child abuse that might have otherwise slipped through the cracks.

Child Abuse Hotlines: Where to call to get help or report abuse

3 thoughts on “What To Do If A Child Reports Abuse

  1. 2013/08/17
    I just dropped by and I was reading about listening to a child who is sharing about their child abuse. I read about “Avoid denial,” “Don’t interrogate” and “Reassure the child that they did nothing wrong.” However, I was reading it from the point of view of an “inner child” breaking the news to the “adult child” who has buried the truth, but is now recovering their memories of their childhood abuse. I think it is interesting that I was reading it from that perspective.

    I am an adult male survivor of childhood sexual abuse and incest. I have been working on my recovery for 25 years with mixed results. Sometimes strong recovery, sometimes weak. I have a strong and supportive wife who encourages me and stands by me.

    One other thing I wanted to say before leaving. Twenty-five years ago I warned several of my friends with young children and my brother and sister-in-law because of my niece and nephew, to be careful and watchful or avoid completely my main perp. To my utter amazement, my warnings and exhortations were ignored and their children were all put in harm’s way. I will never understand this.

    Also, I called authorities on members of my family because of the abusive treatment I witnessed them commit against their children. The authorities rebuffed me, even though I was a close family relative, because I lived out-of-state. So in both of those cases, whether in warning people away from the abuser or contacting the authorities about abuse, I had no success when it came to protecting children even though I risked ostracism by friends and family. But I would do it again though, to protect the children because I have no control of the outcome – I can only do my best – then it’s out of my hands


  2. David, thank you for sharing about how you allowed the inner child to tell the story of their abuse to the adult child….that is often what healing prayer is all about…giving the inner child/adult permission to go into those dark places with Jesus, always with Jesus….I am so sorry that you had to go through what you did as a child…and that no one fought for you…

    It is so difficult when we do what we can to protect the child yet the authorities or those involved in the child’s life seem to turn a deaf ear and ignore what is the obvious….rest in that you did your best….it may be out of your hands but never out of reach from the Lord’s ear…this is when the most we can do it pray….


  3. 2013/11/09
    I’m back again and specifically looking to post under this topic.

    My wife and I went out with a family member the other day. He visited us unexpectedly because my wife had shared news recently with her family of a cancer diagnosis. During the course of the conversation, he disclosed that he was sexually abused as a child by a family member. This was a shock to us both (because of the identity of the perp) and my mind raced to this page and the advice here.

    I think I had a unique issue in the situation too, because I wanted to be supportive and I was wondering if it would be helpful to tell him that I am also a male survivor of childhood sexual abuse and that he is not alone. (The book “Victims No Longer” was such a help to me in the beginning because then I knew there were other male survivors.) In the end, I just listened sympathetically and tried to affirm him. He is not a Christian (in the “Born Again” sense) at present, so some of our options for him were restricted.

    I have to pray about what my follow-up with him should be.

    Thanks, David


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