REPORTING SUSPECTED ABUSE OR NEGLECT
The decision to report abuse is almost always difficult. Remember that 85-90% of all sexual abuse and virtually all physical and emotional abuse involve someone known to the child. This means that the offender is usually known to the community. Interpersonal relationships and community considerations frequently bring hesitation to report.
At these times, it is important to remember that the TOTAL responsibility for the offense lies with the offender. Reporting protects the child and may ultimately result in getting the offender professional help. A person who re- ports suspected abuse is not responsible for ruining the offender’s life. The person who has the courage and takes the responsibility to report is saving a child.
Law says that any person who has knowledge or reason to believe that a child has been or is being abused is responsible to report to the Child Abuse Hotline on behalf of the child.
CHILD ABUSE HOTLINE FOR REPORTING SUSPECTED OR KNOWN CHILD ABUSE: 1-800-4ACHILD
ANYONE may report a suspected case of child abuse or child maltreatment. It is important to know that the law does not require certainty before reporting and that you have no responsibility to investigate or to try to gather more information yourself. Any suspected case should be reported.
Reporting suspected abuse or maltreatment does not make a person legally liable, however there are penalties for failure to report. The law protects any person, official, or institution that makes a report in good faith (meaning an honest belief that a child is being abused) by providing immunity from any liability, civil or criminal, that might otherwise result from such actions.
While reporting child abuse can be difficult, if you do not act on behalf of the child, who will?
WHAT TO DO AFTER ABUSE IS REPORTED
The degree of impact abuse has on a child is determined by several factors:
1. The type and severity of the assault.
2. The relationship of the offender to the child.
3. The duration of the assault situation.
4. The reaction of the people around the child after the assault is reported.
5. Support available to the child which enables full recovery.
One of the most important things you can do to aid a child’s recovery is to make sure the child knows the offender is responsible for what happened. Parents have a role to play, but a professional can also be very important in helping a child to resolve the many issues which arise following abuse.
It is not true that a child will forget if the adults do not talk about the abuse nor allows the child to talk about it. The incident is very real for the child and can color every aspect of his or her life, whether s/he talks about it or not. Supporting the child to complete the process of recovery should not be undervalued.
Another area of concern is treatment for abusers. This is particularly important with adolescent abusers. Teenagers who abuse others are beginning a lifelong pattern of abuse that can result in hundreds of children being abused. Intervention at the earliest possible moment can- not be stressed enough and adolescence is the most successful moment for intervention.