What To Do If A Child Discloses Sexual Abuse


A caregiver’s response to a child’s disclosure of sexual abuse can greatly impact the journey of healing.  While sexual abuse is a difficult subject to discuss, here are a few tips of what to do if a child discloses sexual abuse.

  • Stay calm. It is completely normal to have many emotional responses to a disclosure of sexual abuse.  However, remaining calm will allow the child to feel the comfort he/she needs at the time.  There will be a time and place to process your own feelings about the child’s disclosure.  It is also important not to bombard the child with questions.  Open-ended, clarifying questions or statements would be appropriate such as ‘Who did that?’, ‘Tell me more’, ‘Where did this happen?’
  • Be supportive. Never blame the child for what has happened.  Let them know you are glad they told you about the abuse.
  • Seek help. Child sexual abuse is against the law and needs to be reported to the proper authorities.  Each state has different reporting laws, however, this number can be called for guidance in your particular state 1-800-4-A-Child.  For a list of each state’s agency in dealing with child abuse issues visit this website: https://www.childwelfare.gov/organizations/?CWIGFunctionsaction=rols:main.dspROL&rolType=custom&rs_id=5

If the child is in immediate danger, call 911.


Article written by Keeley Mendenhall, Licensed Clinical Social Worker at Primary Children’s Hospital. She has worked with many children and teens and families that have been through sexual abuse. She’s trained in evidenced based treatments that help people heal.