Child abuse brings up all kinds of emotion: anger, fear, sadness, desperation. As an adult, your reaction will have a big effect on how a child deals with the trauma of abuse, so first and foremost, don’t panic. Child abuse is scary, but you are not alone and there is help.
Step-by-Step Instructions: Reporting Child Abuse
When a child tells you they have been abused, it’s called disclosure. Disclosure can be a scary and difficult process for children. Some may take weeks, months, or even years to tell, and some may never tell at all.
- Believe the child. Child abuse, and child sexual abuse, is alarmingly common. It happens. Do not assume the child is making up an issue of child abuse. Tell your child you believe them. It is very important to say this out loud. Let the child know that he or she is not to blame for what happened. Praise the child for being brave, and for telling you about the abuse.
- Stay calm. Your reaction will impact how your child handles, talks about and heals from the abuse. Children whose parents and caregivers are supportive heal more quickly, so stay calm.
- Listen, but do not interrogate. Let the children tell in their own time and in their own way.
- Do not make promises you cannot keep. This a very emotionally charged time, but refrain from making promises you cannot keep such as, “You’ll never have to see them again,” “I’ll make sure they go to jail.” Let your child know you will do everything in your power to protect them from harm.
- Give emotional support. Tell your child they are loved, accepted, and important to you. Reassure, do not blame, punish, or embarrass your child.
- Report. Protect your child by getting them away from the abuser and immediately reporting the abuse to local authorities. In Florida, any person who knows, or has reason to suspect, that a child is being abused, abandoned, or neglected is a “mandated reporter,” meaning they are legally obligated to report their suspicions. Suspected reports can be made 24/7 by phone or online:
- Keep your child informed about what will happen next. Talk to your child openly about what’s going to happen in an age-appropriate manner, particularly as it relates to legal actions. Children feel very uncertain in these situations, so reassure them they are being kept in the loop.
- Get professional help. Centers like Kristi House can help you navigate the legal, medical, and emotional services you and your family may need to heal. There are more than 800 child advocacy centers like Kristi House throughout the U.S.
Florida Abuse Hotline
In Florida, any person who knows, or has reason to suspect, that a child is being abused, abandoned, or neglected is a mandatory reporter. Suspected reports can be made 24/7 by phone or online:
Kristi House is the only local agency that collocates and coordinates with other agencies involved in the emotional, physical, and legal needs of child abuse victims. Our ability to connect victims to family advocates, therapists, prosecutors, forensic interviewers, medical professionals, and Guardians ad Litem is unduplicated in our community.
We work together as a team for the benefit of children who are victims of abuse and trauma. Our multidisciplinary team meets each week to review all new and pending cases. This process ensures that each child is being protected, receiving the services they need and that perpetrators are being held accountable.
In addition to coordinating an expert team of care for each child, Kristi House provides direct treatment and social services at no cost to victims and their families. Please call Kristi House at (305) 547-6800 for help.
If you are a service professional, parent or caregiver, you can make a direct referral to Kristi House for sexual abuse, physical abuse, family conflict, child sex trafficking and co-occuring substance use disorders and trauma. Access fillable referral form here, and/or contact Kristi House at (305) 547-6800 for referral assistance.