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What if a child tells me she/he is being abused?

Keep outwardly calm.

Avoid expressing disbelief or showing anger, tears or other strong emotions that may scare or confuse the child.

Listen to the child.

Physically get down to the child’s level and listen to them.  Let the child tell you what happened in her/his own words and pace. Expect that the information may not be complete and that more details may be provided by the child as time goes by.

Believe the child.

Make it clear that you are glad the child told you and that you know the abuse is not the child’s fault. Now is not the time to ask the child questions for more details, but to assure that you are going to be supportive.

Allow the proper authorities to deal with the abuse.

Do not interrogate the child or attempt to gather all of the information, but instead tell the child you are glad they told you and you want to help them. Leave investigations up to proper authorities.

Say what you can guarantee.

It is likely the abuser made promises and threats to the child. Don’t promise the child that they will never be hurt again, or that the offender will be put in jail. Promise simply to support the child no matter what.

Seek medical attention for the child.

The child may have internal injuries or a sexually transmitted infection that may not be noticed. A forensic medical exam may also provide evidence.

Respond in a supportive manner.

With proper treatment and support, a victimized child can develop a healthy and positive outlook. Additionally, parents and other family members need support too. Child sexual abuse is devastating to the entire family, and a family who gets support is better prepared to support the victim. Free and confidential help is available for both the victim and significant others in PA. Contact your local rape crisis center, or one of the resources listed in this brochure for more information.

Allow the child space.

Help the child regain some sense of control by allowing the child to tell more when they are ready to do so. Do not pressure the child to talk.