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When a Child Discloses Abuse

  • Be prepared! Listen, listen, listen! This shows the child that he or she is valued.
  • Do not deny, explain away, defend the abuser or justify the abuse. This discounts the victim.
  • Believe the child. Tell the child that you believe him or her. Do not try to find inconsistencies or question the child's motive to tell.
  • Tell the child that he or she is not bad and is not to blame. "People should not be hurt like that." "No matter what, no one deserves what happened to you." "It is not okay that this happened to you."
  • Do not ask why. "Why did you go when he called?" "Why didn't you tell sooner?" "Why did you just do what she told you to do?" "Why didn't you just say no?" These questions blame the victim.
  • Congratulate the child for speaking out. Validate the courage it took to do so. Let the child know that you are glad that he or she trusts you. Acknowledge that it is difficult to talk about what happened.
  • Do not tell the child that you wish he or she had not told you or that you are frightened or confused about what to do – even when you are. Do not show revulsion or shock.
  • Respect the child. You are not the investigator. Be the support system. Let the child decide what and how much to tell you.
  • Do not demand details. Do not pry. This violates the child's trust in you, and it is the job of the investigator.

Revised July 3, 2014