What to do (or not to do) if a child tells you they are being abused

Child Abuse Therapy Treatment Tampa Florida | Physical and Mental
What to do (or not to do) if a child tells you they are being abused.jpg

Approximately 700,000 children suffer from child abuse every year in the United States. Whether it is emotional, physical, mental or verbal abuse, many victims don’t say a word for fear of the ramifications it might have or because they feel ashamed. So for a child to brave the consequences and tell you is an extremely courageous thing to do. Here are a few guidelines about how you can handle the disclosure, keeping the interest of the child as the topmost priority.

You will not have the time to come to terms with what the victim has confided in you. How you respond will influence to a large part how they deal with the trauma and cope with professional help further down the line, such as therapy and counseling.


  • Find it in you to keep a calm exterior, irrespective of the emotional turmoil churning inside

  • It is very important, that you make them feel protected and safe

  • Although this will be extremely hard for you to follow, keep calm

  • Explain to them that you understand how hard it must be to talk about the abuse

  • Ask open-ended questions because they will give you more information than just yes and no responses. For example, ask them what happened, about how they feel, how often it happens

  • Allow them the space to talk about the abuse in their own words

  • Show restraint by listening patiently and carefully

  • Make notes about what they have told you

  • Show empathy and speak supportively

  • Respect their feelings and tell them about how brave they are to speak the abuse but also how strong they have been in the face of it

  • Tell them that is safe now and completely under your protection and that they don't have to fear their abuser again

  • Inform them about getting in touch with an authority that would help reinforce their safety and

  • After the disclosure, waste no time calling the concerned authorities



  • Do not panic and do not let your feelings show. Letting the child know your feelings of wrath, dismay, utter despair or whatever emotional and mental trauma you’re going through will not help him or her. Your negative energy could rub off on the child and have serious consequences later.

  • Don’t push them for further information if they are not comfortable divulging it. Leave that to the professionals like the therapist you will get in touch with. They are specially trained in handling such cases delicately and objectively.

  • If they ask you a question you don't know the answer to, don't lie or make up responses on the spot. Instead, tell them you will find out the information and let them know.

  • Do not at any cost approach the abuser. Again, leave that to the authorities and the laws of justice will take its course. Confrontations might put the child in further jeopardy.

  • Whatever you do, don’t blame the victim such as asking them why they didn’t call out for help or why they didn’t say something sooner.


Therapy is a powerful tool that helps not just the child but his or her parents as well. The therapist will focus on equipping the victim with techniques to prevent further abuse and help him or her deal with the physical, psychological and mental trauma of it. Through therapy, the victim will not only learn what is acceptable behavior and will trust again but also will learn to build up his or her self-confidence and recover from the tragedy of the situation.

For more information on the types of therapy that may help you or your child contact us today.

Collaborative Therapeutic Services (CTS) seeks to maximize clients’ options by offering a variety of services, hours, and service providers with diverse specializations. We offer evening & weekend appointments. Have questions? Contact Us Here or Call 813-951-7346. Located in Tampa, Florida.