What To Do If a Child Discloses to You

Try to remain calm. Do not express shock, panic or disbelief.

The MA Pediatric Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) Program provides direct care to child victims of sexual abuse and assault throughout the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Pediatric SANEs provide coordinated, expert forensic and medical care in accordance with “Do No Harm” principles to child victims 11 years of age and younger. Below is a list of Pediatric SANEs within the Child Advocacy Centers and the one emergency response model.

  • Find a private place to talk.
  • Be a listener not an investigator – encourage the child to talk in his/her 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.
  • Reassure the child that he/she has done the right thing by telling you.
  • Stress that what has happened is not his/her 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