Yesterday we talked about specific behaviors of concern that may tell you that someone is sexually abusing or being abused. Now we’re going to talk about what to do if you see a behavior of concern and/or a child discloses abuse to you.
Trust Your Gut and Speak Up
Wherever you see behaviors of concern – in a family, neighborhood, or youth organization – trust your gut and speak up. When approaching the person about whom you are concerned, use “I” statements, state your feelings, and request that the behavior of concern stop. For instance:
“I’m uncomfortable talking about this, but think it’s important. I notice you are tickling a couple of children at nap time. I feel uncomfortable with that. I’d really like you to respect the children’s body-safety rules and the school’s “no tickling” policy.”
If you observe the concerning behavior in a youth organization, also tell the administration—and keep telling until someone takes it seriously. If you don’t get the response the situation warrants, report it to your local social service agency or police department. You can also call your local child advocacy center for guidance.
When a Child Discloses
First and foremost, it is never a child’s fault or responsibility when he or she is sexually abused. At the moment of disclosure, you have the opportunity to begin the process of healing.
- Believe the child or teen. “I’m sorry this happened to you and I’m so glad you told me.”
- Respond supportively. “It’s not your fault and it’s okay to be scared (mad, sad). I love you. We’re going to get through this by talking to some special people who help keep kids safe.”
- Call your local police department or social service agency.
- Obtain help for medical and psychological needs.
Please remember that children rarely fabricate stories about sexual abuse. Young children do not have the language or the knowledge about sexual acts unless they have been exposed to or have experienced them.
Child sexual abusers count on our silence, but we have the power to break the silence by speaking up!
We can end child sexual abuse in our community! What will you do?