Okay, let me ask; Do you have doubts about reporting child abuse? That’s normal, especially for people who don’t work with young people in a professional capacity. Here are a few things that you may be feeling right now, and if so, what I encourage you to do:
What if I got it wrong? What if I didn’t actually hear or see what I think I did? Maybe I got it all wrong and if so, I should just keep my mouth shut?
That is an option. You could do that, yes. But then, what if you did get it right and this really should be reported? And if you’re plagued with doubt and decided to not report it, what about that child or teen who is relying on you to do the right thing to help make it stop? Remember, your job here is to report suspected abuse and neglect. You are not required or asked to prove that something bad has happened. Your only responsibility is to report what you “suspect” or feel in your gut has happened. It is the job of other people who are trained professionally to make that determination. So do what you can to stop a suspected abuse of a child and go ahead and report it. Let other people, trained professionals, get your report and let them investigate it and determine if abuse has happened or not. If abuse did not happen, life goes on and your conscience is clear. If abuse did happen, however, then you have helped to protect one child from ongoing and life damaging harm.
What if the kid is lying and is just trying to hurt the alleged abuser?
Sadly, this can happen, but it happens rarely. Again, report what you saw, heard or what was reported to you. Let the child protective agency sort that all out. That’s what they do, and they’re usually very good at it, too. Don’t analyze the situation, just report the information as best you can.
I know the alleged abuser and I don’t want him to have his life ruined by this. Maybe I should just talk with him, make sure he gets help, and deal with it that way?
Bad idea. A thoughtful and kind idea, but still a bad one. Predators who abuse children are masters at covering things up, making excuses and making promises. These people need and deserve help, but they also need containment and accountability, too. And your idea of being their best buddy ever by trying to make sure that they straighten out and stop offending does only one thing for sure–it makes you an enabler. You will be manipulated and lied too and you’ll have no way of ever knowing for sure–until the next victim comes along. Don’t allow yourself to slide into that awful position. Focus on the child or teen that needs your help right now. Help to get them safe and keep them safe and report the suspected abuse no matter how well you think that you know the alleged abuser.
Can I be held liable or get sued by the perpetrator if I report child abuse?
No, you can’t get sued for reporting suspected child abuse or child neglect. If that were the case then many people would never report it. If you report what you saw, heard or were told to the appropriate authorities and you do so in good faith the law protects you from being sued, no matter what the outcome of an investigation.
He knows that we’re watching him now and he no longer has a way to be near the child he molested, so what’s the point of reporting anything?
Characteristically, sexual predictors will lay low for a while until the “heat” is off and things have calmed down. Usually, these people have had previous victims and just didn’t get caught. And statistics have shown that these people will offend again and again if given the chance. Make the call and report what you know, which will help prevent abuse happening to yet another child out there.
I don’t have the number to call.
You do, if you can get to any phone in any US state. Having doubts about reporting child abuse is not unusual. But trust me when I say….do the right thing and pick up that phone. You’ll sleep better tonight, and will a child out there that needs your help.
Click here to find a list by state for reporting child abuse
To contact a national hotline number, see below: