Most children who suffer child abuse do not tell anyone. It is heartbreaking to hear, but many go their entire lives without speaking to anyone about their abuse. Keeping this secret can have severe effects on their personality, their mental and physical health, their relationships and their self-esteem.
What to do
If a child comes to you and tells you that they suffer from child abuse or were abused in the past, the first step is to believe them. Children seldom lie about being abused. Most kids do not understand what child abuse is, much less how it feels.
Managing the situation
Stay calm, be supportive, express care and ask simple questions that will gather basic information. If the child has come to you with this, it is likely because they trust you. They may not trust another person, such as their parent or the police, so use this opportunity to ask as many questions as you can, so you can help provide the police with information that the child may be too scared to share with them.
Supporting the child
Abused children rarely feel safe, ever. Even after treatment or therapy, feeling a sense of safety is something that they may no longer have. If you can re-establish a sense of security for them, try to do so. Do what is necessary to protect the child from further harm while remaining calm. Children feel safest when they are in the care of adults who they perceive as being in control of their emotions.
Planning for the future
Create a plan for how you will help the child. Recovery will take time. There are resources available for caregivers of children who have been abused. Make sure that you are consistent, honest and trustworthy in order for the child to thrive in your care.