There are no hard and fast rules that dictate how to respond when a child comes to you and tells you he or she is being abused. Common sense dictates that care must be taken to protect the child and honor the courage it takes to disclose. The following are a few guidelines that may help:
- Remain calm and show concern but try not to act overly alarmed. A child may retract information or stop talking if he or she senses a strong reaction.
- Allow the child to tell his or her story in their own way. Avoid probing or leading questions.
- Let the child know that what happened is not his or her fault.
- Listen without passing judgment. Most children know their abusers and often have confused feelings.
- Do not investigate yourself – DCF and the police are charged with this responsibility.
- Do not make promises you cannot keep.
- Let the child know that you will be talking to other people who may be able to help keep them safe.
- Contact DCF and law enforcement for assistance with safety planning and to file a 51A report.
- Let the child know you will be available if they want to talk again.