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Handling Disclosure
How to respond when they tell.

LISTEN

When a child tells you they have been abused, don't interrupt them. Give them the space to speak. Don't use phrases like "You shouldn't say things like that" or "Are you sure?". It will stop them from opening up. It is not easy for them to speak up as the abuser may have warned or threatened them. Support them by giving them your full attention.

BELIEVE

Children rarely invent stories. They hesitate telling because they fear nobody will believe them. Believing a child is a major step in helping him or her overcome the trauma. Statements like, "I believe you" or "It's not your fault" will help with the healing process.

BE CALM

Finding out that a child has been sexually abused may make you hurt and angry with him or her. But don't show it as the child may think you are angry with him or her. Staying calm will help the child feel safe. Assurances like "I'm sorry this happened to you" or "Let's see what we can do" can encourage the child to open up.

NEVER BLAME

Never blame, punish or embarrass the child. If the abuse happened as a result of the child disobeying you, do not say "I told you so" or "If you had listened to me this would not have happened".

BE AFFIRMING

Abused children are often confused about their feelings, as a result of being manipulated by their abusers. They must e allowed and encouraged to say whatever they feel. Also, their feelings must be taken seriously and affirmed. Statements like "I know this isn't easy" and "You're very brave to tell me all this" conveys empathy, concern and supports a child's needs.

BE SUPPORTIVE

Talking about the abuse can be as traumatic as the abuse itself. Adults must give the child as much support as possible, especially when the child begins to open up. Reassure them by saying things like "I am here to help you" or "I'll go through this with you". Don't forget that even if the child knows you believe and will support him or her all the way, they still need reassurance that you still love them and don't look upon them as 'dirty' or blame them.

Let them know you care. Tell them you love them.

PREPARE THE CHILD FOR WHAT WILL HAPPEN NEXT

Abused children feel helpless. They need to know that there are people around who can help. They must also be told of what they can do, i.e. how to relate the incident, whom to tell and what support is needed.

Allow the child to participate in their 'case' as much as possible. This gives them ownership, and strength and power to endure the trials ahead.

SEEK MEDICAL ASSISTANCE AND REPORT THE ABUSE

It is best to bring the child to any government hospital for treatment of physical injuries. Also, contact the Social Welfare Department or the Police immediately.