Responding to Concerns of Child Abuse

Discovering that a child you care about has been abused can be devastating. You may feel overwhelmed, wondering where to begin on getting help and support for your loved one. The following is a list of steps to take that can give you and your child a sense of empowerment and safety.

Respond responsibly.

Remain calm. Overreacting can frighten your child or prevent your child from telling more. Emphasize that your child did the right thing by telling. Say, “I’m glad you told.” “I’m proud of you.” “I believe you.”

Stress that your child is not to blame and relay that your child will not be in trouble for telling. Do not talk negatively about the person of concern in front of your child.

Report concerns as soon as possible.

You can make a report either to the Colorado Child Abuse Hotline at 844-CO-4-KIDS, or to the law enforcement agency in the town, city, or county where the abuse occurred. You do not need proof to report concerns of child abuse. The hotline screener may give you instructions on next steps.

Seek medical attention, if needed.

Children should be medically evaluated by a professional trained in child abuse and neglect. If your child is having acute pain, injury, is acting abnormally, or having symptoms that worry you, seek immediate medical attention.

Ask your child only neutral questions.

If your child makes statements about being injured, it is okay to ask a few neutral questions such as “How did you get hurt?” or “What happened?” But it is important to avoid asking leading or suggestive questions (questions which require a “yes” or “no” answer), or engaging in repeated questioning of your child. Do not attempt to video or audio record a disclosure on a recording device.

Document what happened.

The types of information to document might include when and where the injury/abuse occurred, any additional information about the nature of the abuse, and how an injury occurred. If your child disclosed to you how the abuse happened, try to document the conversation. Keep in mind to document what questions and statements you made to your child and what your child’s exact words to you were, as much as possible. Only ask additional questions if necessary to ensure your child’s safety. In many cases, additional questions can be deferred to a trained professional.

Leave the investigating to the authorities.

It is important to let the authorities handle any investigation. Do not confront the person you suspect of abusing your child.

Protect your child from additional conversations about possible abuse.

Do not talk about the abuse concerns to others in front of your child. Talking specifically about the suspected abuse where your child can hear can be overwhelming for your child and may taint any further investigation taking place.

Get support for yourself.

TreeTop can provide family support and referrals to agencies to help both parents and children.

Recognize the strength in your child.

Children are remarkably resilient. In fact, children often bounce back more quickly than adults from adverse situations. If you can recognize the resilience in your child, can provide supportive resources such as counseling should your child need this, and can continue to keep your child safe, the long-term effects of the abuse should be greatly reduced.