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How do Children Disclose?

Children may disclose sexual abuse by directly telling someone about it. They may also disclose less directly, using different types of verbal and behavioural hints and clues across a period of time. A child may say something like “Uncle Andrew does funny things”

When children do disclose it can be to parents, siblings, neighbours, coaches, teachers, peers, grandparents etc

Research indicates that some children do not tell because they feel they will not be believed or be taken seriously. For this reason, it is fundamental that adults, whether family members, friends or professionals, actively listen, respond sensitively and take the disclosures seriously

With a disclosure of child sexual abuse

When children are supported, listened to, and kept safe following disclosure, the effects of sexual abuse can be reduced. If a child discloses to you:

  • Keep calm, children can tell if their disclosure is making you angry or upset and this may dissuade them from talking about the abuse.
  • Say: “I am very glad that you have told me this”
  • Children are often afraid that they won’t be believed. It is vital that you take them seriously. Tell them that you believe them and that what happened was not their fault
  • Children can feel confused about the person that abused them; they may love the offender but hate the abuse. This is a common and normal response.
  • Listen actively, but do not ask for details.
  • Inform the child that are going to act to keep them safe and this may mean that you cannot keep this information a secret.
  • Ensuring the immediate safety of a child who discloses is important. Make sure that they are not going back to an environment where there is a risk they will be abused. If they are unsafe call the Police or Child Youth and Family Services.
  • They may need medical attention. Look in your local directory for specialist support services that can assist you in what steps to take after a disclosure.

Supporters need support to make sure you are not dealing with this alone, ring your local specialist sexual violence service for information resources or just to talk.