Disclosure Do's And Don'ts

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Dealing with alleged ‘difficult’ or ‘untrustworthy’ girls who make a claim

When dealing with abuse claims from girls who are perceived as ‘difficult’, it is important to be supportive and reassuring. It is not appropriate to doubt the authenticity of the girls claim. Remember that all abuse claims carry merit and none deserve to go unnoticed based on a girl’s character or previous behaviour.

Sample Demonstration Guide for Responding to Disclosure of Abuse from a Child

If a child discloses child abuse to you, it is critical to be prepared to handle the situation in the appropriate manner and then report it to the appropriate authorities.

The guiding principle in responding to any concerns around child protection is that the safety and welfare of the child should always take precedence. No child should be put at more risk by any action you undertake.

If a young person informs you that she/he is concerned about someone’s behaviour towards them or makes a direct allegation you can follow the points below.

General points 61

  • Accept what the child says
  • Keep calm
  • Don’t panic
  • Don’t seek help while the child is talking to you
  • Take what they say seriously, even if it involves someone you feel sure would not harm them. We know from experience that we must listen to what we are told even if it is difficult to believe
  • Be honest
  • Look at the child directly
  • Do not appear shocked
  • Let them know that you need to tell someone else
  • Assure them that they are not to blame for the abuse
  • Never ask leading questions
  • Try not to repeat the same questions to the child
  • Never push for information
  • Do not fill in words, finish their sentences, or make assumptions
  • Be aware that the child may have been threatened
  • Take proper steps to ensure the physical safety and psychological well-being of the child. This may include referring them for medical treatment or to a psychologist
  • Make certain you distinguish between what the child has actually said and the conclusions you may have made. Accuracy is paramount in this stage of the procedure
  • Do not permit personal doubt to prevent you from reporting the
  • Let the child know what you are going to do next and that you will let them know what happens

Things to say or do

  • Repeat the last few words in a questioning manner
  • ‘I believe you’
  • ‘I am going to try to help you’
  • ‘I will help you’
  • ‘I am glad that you told me’
  • ‘You are not to blame’
  • ‘You did the right thing by telling me’
  • Say I cannot keep this a secret, but I won’t tell anyone except for those who must know to help (doctors, police)
  • Report to the authorities
  • Bring the survivor to get external medical and legal help immediately

Things not to say or do

  • ‘You should have told someone before’
  • ‘I can’t believe it! I’m shocked!’
  • ‘Oh that explains a lot’
  • ‘No not...he’s a friend of mine’
  • ‘I won’t tell anyone else’
  • ‘Why? How? When? Where? Who?’
  • Doubt the child’s disclosure
  • Make promises you cannot keep
  • Confront the offender
  • Wash or fix the survivor if they have been abused (as long as their safety is not jeopardized). The survivor’s condition is evidence for prosecution.

At the end of the disclosure

  • Reassure the child that it was right to tell you but do not promise confidentiality
  • Let them know what you are going to do next
  • Immediately seek help, in the first place from the designated child protection officer
  • Write down accurately what the young person has told you. Records should be detailed and precise. Sign and date your notes. Keep all notes in a secure place for an indefinite period. These are essential in helping your organisation/ Social Services/ the Police decide what is best for the child, and as evidence if necessary
  • Use the reporting form is a sensible way of making sure that you gather all the relevant and important information
  • Seek help for yourself if you feel you need support

61 . National Sexual Violence Resource Centre, retrieved from http://www.nsvrc.org/elearning/21385