Child Abuse is a hidden epidemic and a conversation that many people are uncomfortable discussing. Child abuse occurs at every socioeconomic levels, across all ethnic and cultural lines, within all religions and at all levels of education. It is imperative that we break the silence of abuse, whether it is neglect, physical abuse or sexual. If a child is believed to be abuse, it must be reported to the local law enforcement agency as soon as possible to ensure the child is protected. Getting the secret out is the first step towards healing!
Adults know they should report abuse and neglect but fail to do so for several reason. The most frequent reason for not reporting is lack of knowledge (whether about abuse or the lack of familiarity with state reporting laws). Other reasons for adults not reporting abuse include:
- Adults are shocked and frightened by what they have seen or what they have heard.
- Adults doubt themselves.
- Adults fear the consequences or are unwilling to get involved. "It's none of my business".
- Fear of retaliation from the family.
- Fear that the report will have a negative impact on the existing relationship with the child.
- Belief that someone else will report.
- Fear that reporting will make the situation worse for the child.
Although any of these reasons are understandable and frightful, the consequences of NOT reporting could be a detriment to the child's safety. In some situations, it can be life threatening. When you report, child welfare professional will assess the situation and determine the most appropriate a response. It is not your responsibility to investigate but it is your responsibility to be involved and contact appropriate services when you have a heightened concern. Please consult local the Child Abuse Protocol for details of reporting abuse.
Why Children Don't Report Abuse
Only 1 in 10 child ever report abuse. For physical abuse, the signs are usually more evident whether a bruise, mark or broken bone. For children who are emotionally, sexually abused or neglected, there are usually no signs or symptoms. It is up to the child to disclose the abuse whether to an adult or to another child who may in turn tell an adult. Children do not report abuse for several reasons:
- Children are usually abused by those who are stronger and more powerful, so reporting can be terrifying.
- They are usually abused by those in position of authority. Children want to believe that adults have their best interest at heart.
- Children fear they will suffer negative consequences such as being blamed for "seducing" or being accused of lying.
- Abusive adults many threaten the child that if they divulge the "secret", their loved one will be harmed or themselves.
- Perpetrators may also threaten that the child welfare services and authorities will break up their family.
Because most perpetrators deny the abuse and it is not witnessed by others, the child's statement about what happened becomes a critical part of the investigation. It is imperative that the child be interviewed by a trained forensic professional in a manner that is objective and non-leading.