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Sanford Health Dakota Children's Advocacy Center:
Reporting sexual abuse
Professionals working with children immediately following a report of the abuse are interacting with the child at a critical moment. If a child discloses abuse, during your involvement with them, it is critical to stay calm, listen carefully, and NEVER blame the child or make promises to the child. Thank the child for telling you, be supportive and let them know that they will have to talk to someone else whose job it is to keep them safe.
When families are involved in allegations of child abuse, emotions run high and anxiety levels rise, regardless of whether the allegations are true or false. The allegations alone are stressful due to fear of children being removed from their home, the possibility of what has happened and the social stigma attached to child abuse. Family stressors and the emotional response to these stressors should be expected.
It is important to recognize that the presence of crisis characteristics does not mean that the family is uncooperative. It simply means that they need time and/or assistance in dealing with the crisis situation. It is important for professionals to recognize the signs of crisis and determine when intervention is needed. Otherwise we may cause a child or parent additional trauma. It does not help the family or the investigation to pressure someone in a state of crisis to provide information or to respond in a punitive manner. It is best to call upon the assistance of those trained in dealing with child abuse.
Anytime there is an allegation of child sexual abuse it needs to be reported and investigated by the proper authorities. A report is the statement that you have knowledge of or reasonable cause to suspect a child has been abused or neglected. Any case of suspected child abuse or neglect, where the victim is under 18, must be reported, even if the event occurred in the past. A person mandated to report, or any person wanting to report suspected child abuse or neglect, should contact the County Social Service Office in the county where the child resides.
¹North Dakota Department of Human Services. ND.gov, 2010. Online. Internet. North Dakota State Government. January 2010, http://www.nd.gov/dhs.