How to talk about abuse with a child…
When you respond there are some key things to remember. As difficult as it may be, it is important to:
Check how they are feeling about their safety
Write some notes about what they have told you
Respect the fact the they may only tell you some details
Respond empathically, objectively and use supportive language
Be calm, patient and listen carefully to what they are saying
Acknowledge their feelings and that it can be hard to talk about
Let them tell you in their words what happened and how they felt
Let them know you want to protect them and what you plan to do next
Give them time to talk about what has happened from their point of view
Contact an appropriate authority or child protection service listed below
Tell them if you don’t know an answer and say that you’ll find it out for them
Tell them that you’ll need to talk to someone whose job it is to keep them safe
Maintain a calm appearance by controlling expressions of panic, shock and disbelief
Ask open questions like: What happened? How does it make you feel? How often does it happen?
What to avoid when talking about abuse
When talking about abuse it’s important to avoid:
Filling in the story – by giving them words or asking leading questions like “Did mum or dad hit you?” or “Do they make you afraid”?
Asking too many questions – leave the investigating and fact finding to trained professionals
Expressing anger about the alleged abuser – they may be an adult the child loves and cares for
Confronting the alleged abuser – it could make things worse or unsafe for the child
Making promises you can’t keep – such as promising you will not tell anyone
Pressuring the child for information – or for details beyond what they want to say
Questions that infer blame – like “Did you try to stop them?” or “Did you scream or call out for help?”
Key messages a child needs to hear…
Supporting a child who has disclosed abuse can be overwhelming. Above all, here are some important messages they need to hear from you:
Reporting child abuse
If you have a reason to suspect a child is experiencing harm or at risk of experiencing harm, contact an authority in your state or territory and talk to them about your concerns.
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