Disclosure of sexual abuse is difficult for children. Abused children face many barriers to disclosure:
Most children do not disclose directly about their sexual abuse but may try to give hints about what is happening to them.
Often a child may disclose only pieces of their story, to gauge the reactions of others. If the person to whom a child discloses reacts negatively, the child may not continue with their story or disclose again.
When a child discloses abuse, your initial reaction may be one of shock and anger.
If you display that reaction, you risk frightening the child which could lead them to stop communication or retract what they were trying to disclose. To avoid this outcome, keep a calm, compassionate face. Put on your “poker face”.
As an SRO or school employee, you do not need a direct disclosure to report abuse. You simply need suspicion of abuse.
What is appropriate to say in the moments after disclosure?
When a child begins to disclose, it is often uncomfortable for the child and or you.
A child may stop and start, hesitate, or stop talking all together. At such times, you may be inclined to ask the child questions to determine whether filing a report is necessary.
However, asking questions often has the opposite effect and can further shut down the child. It is often more effective to simply make statements rather than ask questions.
“This is difficult to talk about.”
As an SRO you are not the investigator, judge, or jury. You are there to support and report.