What To Do If a Child Discloses to You

  • Try to remain calm. Do not express shock, panic or disbelief, as this may cause a child to feel anxious or that they have done something wrong and they may withhold or withdraw information.
  • Find a private place to talk.
  • Be a listener not an investigator – encourage the child to talk in their language and ask just enough questions to act protectively. Say, “Can you tell me more about that?” Do not conduct any form of interview with the child.
  • Believe the child. Children rarely lie about sexual abuse.
  • Reassure the child that they have done the right thing by telling you.
  • Stress that what has happened is not their fault. Say, “You are not in trouble” and, “If I look or sound upset it is because adults want children to feel safe”
  • Check your tone of voice and help the child make sense of what you are feeling. Say, “I am feeling concerned for you. What can we do right now is talk about ways to help you feel safer.”
  • Act protectively. Say, “You know some people do wrong things. It is up to grown-ups to protect children. Every child has a right to be safe; we have laws in Massachusetts to help protect children.”
  • Do not make promises you can’t keep. (For example, promising you will not tell anyone, as you need to tell someone in order to get help for the child.)
  • Do not contact the abuser, regardless of who that person is, leave this to Department of Children & Families and/or the police.

Did You Know?

Often when children tell someone they are being abused and are confronted with a negative reaction, the child will withdraw their statement in fear that it has offended or hurt their confidence.

Report Suspected Abuse