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8. How should we react if a child tells us he/she has been abused?

Children's workers are in a unique position and your relationship with children cannot be underestimated. Your group may be providing a safe haven, and perhaps the only place where a child feels comfortable and able to talk to adults. It is therefore possible that a child may approach you to talk about abuse.

The following guidance may be of help:-

a. General points:-

(i) Accept what the child says.

(ii) Keep calm, do not appear to be shocked.

(iii) Look at the child directly.

(iv) Be honest.

(v) Let them know that you will need to tell someone else - don't promise confidentiality.

(vi) Even when a child has broken a rule they are not to blame for the abuse.

(vii) Be aware the child may have been threatened.

(viii) Make notes as soon as possible, writing down exactly what the child said, including the child's name, age, address, relevant family information, and details of the situation and the activity that preceded disclosure

(ix) Never push for information or question the child.

b. Helpful things to say:-

(i) I believe you.

(ii) I am glad you have told me.

(iii) It's not your fault.

(iv) I will try to help you.

c. Avoid saying:-

(i) Why didn't you tell anyone before.

(ii) I can't believe it.

(iii) Are you sure this is true.

(iv) Why? How? When? Who? Where?

(v) Never make false promises.

(vi) Never make statements such as "I'm shocked, don't tell anyone else".

d. Concluding:-

(i) Again reassure the child they were right to tell you and that you believe them.

(ii) Let the child know what you are going to do next, and that you will let them know what happens.

(iii) Immediately refer to your line manager.

(Even if abuse is no longer happening it is still important to report the matter, as the adult may be abusing other children. Also it may be that the child will need guidance and help in overcoming the effects of the abuse, plus the police may wish to prosecute.)

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