What to do if a child or young person tells you they have been abused

What to do if a child or young person tells you they have been abused

If a child tells you they have been abused, your initial response may be outrage and shock, but your response is very important. 

Try to stay calm and not show your anger to the child or young person.  It is essential that the child or young person is reassured that they are believed and that they will be supported and kept safe. A child or young person should never be made to feel ashamed for telling someone they trust that they have been abused, so keep reassuring them they have done the right thing by telling you. There is often enormous pressure on children who have been abused to keep quiet, so it will have taken a lot of courage to speak to you about the abuse.

  • The first thing to do is make sure the child or young person is safe and they are not at immediate risk of further abuse
  • Listen carefully and let them tell you what has happened in their own words.  Do not ask leading questions but try and ask open questions like “is there anything else you would like to tell me?”
  • Thank them for telling you and acknowledge that you understand it has taken courage.
  • Make some brief notes about what the child has said soon after the disclosure.
  • Do not promise that you will not tell anyone.  You will have to share what they have told you with the appropriate agencies.
  • Reassure them that they are not to blame.
  • Where there is a report of a rape, assault by penetration or sexual assault, you should contact the Police. This will usually lead to a referral to Children’s Social Care.  Children’s Social Care will consider if Early Help, Section 17 or a Section 47 Statutory Assessment are appropriate.
  • You may want to get help for yourself to deal with your emotions following a disclosure from a child.

Please consider that:

  • a child under the age of 13 can never consent to any sexual activity,
  • the age of consent is 16,
  • sexual intercourse without consent is rape,
  • creating and sharing sexual photos and videos of under 18s is illegal (often referred to as sexting). This includes children making and sharing sexual images and videos of themselves. 
Get in touch via isva@idas.org.uk or ring our helpline on 03000 110 110.
"My child’s memory of going to court is playing Connect 4 with you and how funny he found that. I would like to thank you for that. I would never have thought about doing that in such a traumatic situation and now he talks about the court experience in a positive way because he was able to relax and I could process everything, You really made it easier to get through everything.”