What To Do If A Child Discloses Abuse

The trauma of a child reporting abuse is very real. If this happens, the first concern is to remain calm and supportive of the child. Give the child an opportunity to tell you in his or her own way what happened. Don’t overreact or criticize the child in any way.


  1.  That you believe him/her and you’re glad s/he told you.
  2. That s/he didn’t do anything wrong.
  3. That you will do your best to see that s/he is not hurt again and you will make every effort to get help.

Do not promise the child that you will do anything specific. You may not be able to keep that promise.

Children who report sexual or physical abuse need to be examined by a doctor. Make the child a part of the process. If possible find a physician the child knows or one who is particularly experienced in abuse cases.

REMEMBER: Almost without exception children do not lie about abuse, except to deny that it happened.

REMEMBER ALSO: The trauma of abuse is long-term and not always apparent. When a child reports being abused, the process of recovery begins. The next step is to report the abuse and begin the process of treatment for the child and, whenever possible, the perpetrator.

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Author Dr. Sherryll Kraizer has a Ph.D. in education with a specialization in youth at risk.