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RESPONDING TO DISCLOSURES OF CHILD ABUSE

February 12, 2020

IMPORTANT: If a child is in immediate danger or risk, phone 000. If you wish to report concerns that a child is being sexually harmed, including grooming of a child, please report to Policelink on 131 444. You will also find a list of child protective services contacts at the end of this article.

Your response to a disclosure of any kind of child abuse (including sexual or physical) can be the first important step in stopping the abuse and protecting that child or young person from further harm.

This initial response can vary depending on circumstances and needs. Responses may include putting in place protective strategies, engaging appropriate support services or making reports to relevant authorities.

It is important to understand how difficult it can be for a child or young person to disclose abuse or sexual harm. Offenders put a great deal of time and effort into ensuring the child remains silent. Some of the reasons a child or young person may have trouble disclosing include;

  • The offender has told them not to tell, and often with accompanying threats such as, “they will take you away from your family if you tell”.
  • They think they will get into trouble.
  • They feel guilty or ashamed.
  • They feel that no one will believe them.
WHAT TO DO IF A CHILD OR YOUNG PERSON DISCLOSES HARM TO YOU

If a child or young person discloses to you, try to follow these steps:

  • Listen carefully to all they say.
  • Let the child use their own words.
  • Be patient and calm.
  • Tell them you believe them and it’s not their fault.
  • Let them know you will do everything in your power to help them, but do not make promises that you may not have any control over or be able to keep.
  • Let the child know that you will need to tell someone to help keep them safe. Though this may upset the child, it is very important that you act protectively and in the child’s best interest.
  • Do not force them to talk about it; you are there to listen to what they want to tell you.
  • Do not use direct questions (questions that only require yes or no answers) or leading questions (i.e. “Did he touch you on your private parts?”) Instead, try using open questions, for example, “Then what happened?” “Tell me more about that.”
  • Do what you need to do to make the child feel safe.
  • Importantly: follow your obligation to report as soon as practically possible.
  • When documenting, use the child’s exact words as best you can.

 

RELATED READING: What is grooming?

 

WHAT TO DO IF YOU SUSPECT A CHILD OR YOUNG PERSON IS BEING HARMED

Sometimes a child or young person’s behaviour or words may lead you to suspect or become concerned that child is unsafe or being harmed. In this situation, it is important that you:

  • If at any time your believe a child is in immediate danger, please call 000.
  • Do not frighten the child or young person by asking confronting questions.
  • Let the child or young person know that you are there for them if they ever need to talk.
  • Record your concerns including any behavioural observations or conversations you may have had with the child or young person.
  • Importantly: follow your obligation to report as soon as practically possible (see below for a contact list).
  • If in doubt, contact the Bravehearts Information and Support Line on 1800 272 831.

 

DOWNLOAD OUR FREE PARENT’S GUIDE TO TEACHING CHILDREN ABOUT PERSONAL SAFETY 

 

CONTACT LIST

Australian Capital Territory

Office for Children, Youth and Family

(Department of Disability, Housing and

Community Services) *mandated reporters

Phone: 1300 556 729 or 1300 556 728

communityservices.act.gov.au/ocyfs 

 

New South Wales

Department of Community Services

Phone: 132 111

community.nsw.gov.au

 

Northern Territory

Territory Families

Phone: 1800 700 250

territoryfamilies.nt.gov.au

 

Queensland

Department of Child Safety, Youth and Women

Phone: 1800 811 810 (b/h)

or 1800 177 135 (a/h)

childsafety.qld.gov.au

 

South Australia

Department for Child Protection

Phone: 131 478

childprotection.sa.gov.au

 

Tasmania

Child Protection Services (Department of Health and Human Services)

Phone: 1300 737 639

dhhs.tas.gov.au

 

Victoria

Health and Human Services (Families and Children) 

Phone: 131 278

services.dhhs.vic.gov.au/families-and-children

 

Western Australia

Department of Communities, Child Protection and Family Support

Phone: 08 9222 2555 (b/h)

or 1800 199 008 (a/h)

dcp.wa.gov.au

 


Latest news

Dear valued clients,

The health, safety and wellbeing of our clients is, and always has been Bravehearts highest priority. The situation regarding the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) locally and around the world is changing daily. Considering the latest government directives in response to COVID-19, and in looking forward as far as is possible, we are making changes to the way we deliver our support services. Bravehearts have moved to a position of contactless service delivery. All regular sessions and support services will now be conducted via telephone and our E-Health platform.

Bravehearts will continue to provide counselling and support services to all existing and new clients.  

The decision to proceed in this way has been made to safeguard the health, safety and wellbeing of our clients, staff and that of the community. The service changes are temporary. We will advise you of further changes.

We continue to accept and action new referrals for all services. Anyone wanting to access our services can call Bravehearts on 1800 272 831. People can still be referred, by calling, or by filling out an online referral form. We anticipate having a significant online and telephone capability to support clients and the community through this time.

If you have any questions about the changes outlined above, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

We appreciate your understanding during this uncertain time.