Coping and support

By Mayo Clinic Staff

If a child tells you he or she is being abused, take the situation seriously. The child's safety is most important. Here's what you can do:

  • Encourage the child to tell you what happened. Remain calm as you assure the child that it's OK to talk about the experience, even if someone has threatened him or her to keep silent.  But don't ask leading questions (questions that suggest specific answers) — leave detailed questioning to the professionals.
  • Remind the child that he or she isn't responsible for the abuse. The responsibility for child abuse belongs to the abuser. Say "It's not your fault" over and over again.
  • Offer comfort. You might say, "I'm so sorry you were hurt," "I'm glad that you told me," and "I'll do everything I can to help you." Let the child know you're available to talk or simply listen at any time.
  • Report the abuse. Contact a local child protective agency or the police department. Authorities will investigate the report and, if necessary, take steps to ensure the child's safety.
  • Seek medical attention. If necessary, help the child seek appropriate medical care.
  • Help the child remain safe. Don't let the child be alone with the abuser. If that's not possible, do what you can to eliminate the abuser's access to the child. Make sure the child knows how to call for emergency help if needed.
  • Consider additional support. You might help the child seek counseling or other mental health treatment. Age-appropriate support groups also can be helpful.

If the abuse has occurred at school, make sure the principal of the school is aware of the situation, in addition to reporting it to the local or state child protection agency.

Oct. 23, 2012

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