Caring adults play a substantial role in preventing and stopping child abuse.  By receiving and reporting disclosures and suspicions of child abuse, as well as supporting child victims, you can be an essential part of the societal response to child abuse.  However, by crossing the boundary into investigation, you may cause a victim undue stress, which may weaken the actual case of abuse and lessen your own role as a supporter of the child.

Do not ask the child why they didn’t tell before:

It is very hard for children to come forward with this kind of news.  Asking them why they didn’t speak up before could cause them to move backwards and regret saying anything.

Believe the disclosure:

It is essential that disclosures be taken seriously.  This may be the child’s only opportunity to tell their side of what happened and receive help.

Establish trust and the child’s meaning of vocabulary:

Be sure that you understand what the child is saying.  If the child uses pet names for genitalia, have the child point to the body parts so that you have a clear understanding of the disclosure.  Use the child’s term throughout the rest of the conversation.  Use of proper terms may be intimidating to the child.  Don’t use words that the child does not know such as “abuse,” “molest,” or “rape.”

Verbalize that the child is not to blame for the abuse:

Children usually fear that they will be blamed for what happened to them.  Children need to hear that the abuse was not their fault.

Try to maintain a calm emotional response:

Although you may find a disclosure to be painful or upsetting, it is important to know that children will assume that they are the reason that you are upset and that you’re upset with them, so try to remain calm.

Praise the child for having the courage to tell:

Children may have been threatened with serious consequences if they ever told about the abuse.  Stress that the child did the right thing in telling about the abuse.

Do not assume that the experience was painful or that the child hates the offender:

Quite often, children love the offender.  Expressing your feelings about punishing the offender may cause the child to stop the disclosure.  Also, it is possible that the child enjoyed the attentions of the offender.  Assuming that the experience was painful may increase the child’s feelings of guilt.

Find out what the child expects to happen:

Children may have unrealistic views about the outcome of the disclosure.  It is important that the children understand that you will be acting on their behalf, but the results may not be immediately apparent.  Be honest about what is going to happen.  Try to explain as much of the investigative process as they can understand.

Take appropriate actions on the child’s behalf immediately:

Make a report immediately.  Do not wait until the next day.  Evidence needed for the case may heal or fade during the time spent waiting.  If you are a mandated reporter then you are required by law to make a report.

Determine whether there is an immediate threat to the child:

Is the child safe to go home?  If not, be sure to inform Child Protection, also known as the Office of Community Services, of this concern and advise them of the need for immediate follow up.


New Orleans Police Department Child Abuse Unit: (504) 658-5267

To make a report of suspected child abuse or neglect when the suspect is the child’s caregiver or lives in the child’s home, contact the Office of Community Services—Child Protection in the parish where the child lives.

Orleans Parish OCS: 680-9000. For contact numbers in other parishes go to





1101 Calhoun St.

New Orleans, LA 70118


phone:(504) 896-9237
fax (504) 896-9733

© Copyright 2012 • New Orleans Children’s Advocacy Center
1101 Calhoun St. • New Orleans, LA 70118 • (504) 896-9237 • fax (504) 896-9733