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

For Tyler McMillan


The tragic murder of Tyler McMillan last summer is still fresh on our hearts and minds.  A gag order has been enforced in the case, but commenters on our original blog post have shared updates regarding the criminal proceedings.

A commenter on this blog has started a facebook cause to remember Tyler and to stand for justice in the criminal trials of Tyler’s father and step-mother.

If you are a facebook member, one way you can help is to join the cause.  Another way to help is to make a donation to Prevent Child Abuse North Carolina, Inc., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit.

We must all be more acutely aware of the signs and symptoms of child abuse as a result of Tyler’s death and be willing to report suspected cases of child abuse to authorities for investigation.

What else can we do to work to ensure justice for Tyler within our legal system?  What else can we do to make sure what happened to Tyler doesn’t happen to another innocent child?  Please add your thoughts and comments below.

What is Spiritual Abuse?

“Johnson & VanVonderen use the following 7 criteria to identify the abusive system.  These criteria can be used in a wide range of systems, from families and groups to organizations, to see if they are abusive:

  • Power-Posturing
  • Performance Preoccupation 
  • Unspoken Rules 
  • Lack of Balance 
  • Paranoia
  • Misplaced Loyalty
  • Secretive

Spiritual (religious) abuse occurs when a leader uses his or her spiritual (religious) position to control or dominate another person.”

Spiritual abuse can exist in families.  When a parent uses his or her spiritual authority to spiritually dominate a son or daughter, that is spiritual abuse.  Parents are given authority to guide and point their children to God, not to themselves. 

1 Timothy 2:5
For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.

Galatians 5:1
Freedom in Christ ] It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

2 Corinthians 3:17
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

James 2:12
Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom,

2 Peter 2:19
They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity—for a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him.

Some Traits of Families that Tolerate Incest and Child Abuse

I found this list here:

I think the combination of tight control, demand for obedience, and a false show of religion often draws abusers to traditional churches to hide and be nurtured. 



Sexual child abuse is just one of a number of abuses taking place in an incest family. There may also be a history of family violence, substance abuse, and other criminal activity. 

Duplicity, deceit, collective secrets
The incest family hides its embarrassing secrets. 

Rigid and tightly controlled
Incest families have rigid rules to prevent revelation of their secrets. 

Demand for blind, absolute loyalty
Incest families usually have a domineering head of household who rules the family through force. 

Poor boundaries
Disrespect for each others’ privacy, rights, and individuality is common in incest families. 

Parents immature and inexperienced in life
Parents of incest families usually never become fully mature adults. 

Conflictual marriage or troubled divorce
In incest families, this may refer to situations where children are pushed into the drama between a conflicted mother and father. 

No childhood for the children
Incest families are somber and strict places, where the authority figure (usually one of the parents) dictates behavior for everyone else. Rather than let children run around and play, they force children into a regimented routine. 

Chaotic situations, traumatic stress
Incest often takes place in chaotic households, with unstable roots. These families may move often and lack connections to any one community. 

Low level of appropriate touch
In the most toxic incest families all touching is considered taboo. Parents do not hug, caress, or cuddle their children, as normal families do. This is perhaps the most telling symptom of incest. 

Compensating veneer of religiosity
Incest perpetrators often hide behind an external show of religion.

Some signs of neglect

I found a pretty good website with information about child abuse.  I’ll use that information to go through the major symptoms and causes of child abuse.  

It’s never an easy decision to report suspected abuse or neglect.  I’m quoting from the following website in the hopes that it might help someone make decisions in the best interests of a child.  Legally people in some professions are obligated reporters of child abuse and neglect.  Morally all human beings are obligated to protect children.

Some signs of child neglect:

  • Clothes that are dirty, ill-fitting, ragged, and/or not suitable for the weather
  • Unwashed appearance; offensive body odor
  • Indicators of hunger: asking for or stealing food, going through trash for food, eating too fast or too much when food is provided for a group
  • Apparent lack of supervision: wandering alone, home alone, left in a car
  • Colds, fevers, or rashes left untreated; infected cuts; chronic tiredness
  • In schoolchildren, frequent absence or lateness; troublesome, disruptive behavior or its opposite, withdrawal
  • In babies, failure to thrive; failure to relate to other people or to surroundings

A single occurrence of one of these indicators isn’t necessarily a sign of child neglect, but a pattern of behaviors may demonstrate a lack of care that constitutes abuse.

Who to Call for Help

The Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline:      1-800-4-A-CHILD

Call this number for help if you are  1) a victim of child abuse     2) a survivor of child abuse     3) an abuser or someone who is afraid they may abuse a child     4) a witness of child abuse or someone who suspects a child is being abused .  Your call is anonymous.

Justice for Tyler

Last week in a ‘good Christian family’ a 13 year old boy named Tyler was murdered.  By all accounts Tyler was sweet, obedient, and compliant young man.  But apparently he was not perfect.  Last week he made a mistake of some kind.  Because of Tyler’s mistake, his father tied him to a tree overnight as punishment.  In the morning he let him go but the next night he tied him up again with his step-mother’s full knowledge.  Later that day Tyler was found unconscious and all efforts to revive him failed.

I am furious about what happened to Tyler.  For the last few days the Bible verses Tyler’s parents must have used to justify his actions have played over and over in my head.  There’s ‘spare the rod and spoil the child’.  There’s ‘children obey your parents’.  There’s the one about the father taking his rebellious son outside the village to be stoned for his disobedience in the name of God.  I wonder if those verses played over and over in Tyler’s head as he was tied to that tree.  I wonder when he realized his young life was slipping away.  I wonder if and when he stopped believing that his dad was good.

I believe God too is furious about what happened to Tyler.  When the Judeans killed their children in the name of religion God was furious enough to give His chosen people over to the hand of the uncircumcised Chaldeans.  He said:  “They built the high places of Baal that are in the valley of Ben-hinnom to cause their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire to Molech, which I had not commanded them nor had it entered My mind that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin.”  God did not command Tyler’s parents to tie him to that tree.  It had not even entered God’s mind that they could do this horrible abomination.  It was a sin beyond God’s imagination.  A sin that demands justice.  I want justice for Tyler.

May God give us all eyes to see.  To stand in the gap for the Tylers in this world before it’s too late.  This episode was far from a momentary lapse in judgement.  Parents don’t suddenly decide to tie their children to trees.  Abuse, like every other sin escalates as you feed it.  The rush of power and sense of control abusers get from their crimes override rationality like any other drug.  Reports are that Tyler’s dad was ‘scary’ and that he made people feel uncomfortable.  If you as a grown man or woman feel afraid around someone, just try to imagine how a small child must feel when trapped with that person behind closed doors.  

I’m planning to start a series of posts here cataloging the symptoms of child abuse and what you should do if you suspect it may be happening.  It’s not justice for Tyler, that’s in God’s hands now.

*edited on 1/20/2009 to change ‘mother’ to ‘step-mother’*