It is everyone’s responsibility to report suspected child abuse and neglect. If you have specific knowledge or if you suspect abuse or neglect, please contact Children’s Aid or the police immediately.
Stay alert to the signs of child abuse and neglect. You may have concerns based on some physical or behavioural signs, or a child may tell you of abuse.
What should you do if a child discloses abuse?
If a child does disclose, be attentive to the child’s behavior. Be aware that a child disclosing abuse may be very cautious and may use simple, child-like language or terms unfamiliar to you.
A child may expect you to be aware of the abuse, feeling he/she has been marked in some way that should be obvious to adults.
Do not carry out an investigation yourself. Any attempt to do so may jeopardize our investigation, or potentially place the child at greater risk.
Believe the child
Abuse victims often believe they are, in some way, responsible for the abuse they receive and may be hesitant to discuss the abuse. Your acceptance of what the child says is very important. Recognize that it may be difficult for you to accept the identity of the abuser or that the abuse occurred.
Victims of sexual abuse may feel they are breaking a “trust” or “telling a secret,” or they may have been threatened with harm to themselves or others if they tell. Remember that your relationship has allowed the child to open up to you.
Listen openly and calmly
You may feel angry, frustrated or it may be painful for you to hear a child disclosing abuse. It is very important that you put these feelings aside and give the child your full attention. You can demonstrate your attentiveness with signs such as nodding understandingly.
Allow the child to tell what happened in his/her words. Do not “interview” the child or press the child for details. Where possible take the child aside to a safe, quiet place.
Reassure the child
It is important that you tell the child you will do something to help. Reassure the child that what has happened is not his/her fault, and that he/she is doing the correct thing by telling you.
Do not promise the child things you are unable to provide, such as that the abuser will go to jail or that the child will have a new home. Do tell the child you will do your best to help him/her.
Write down the facts
A written record of what the child has told you is important. If you cannot record the conversation at the time of disclosure, do so as soon as possible and use the child’s own words avoiding interpreting what was said. Even if you feel a comment or fact is insignificant, record it anyway — don’t leave anything out.
Report the disclosure
All individuals have a duty to report child abuse. As soon as possible after a disclosure, contact the police or the Children’s Aid Society. Children’s Aid Societies are prepared to help 24-hours a day.