07 Nov Child Protection- A Shared Responsibility (Part II)
Some myths and facts about child abuse
(Sourced from www.communities.qld.gov.au/childsafety)
- Myth: Children make up stories about abuse.
Fact: Children rarely lie about abuse. Their disclosures of abuse may vary because of their reluctance and fear to tell what has happened. Children may fear that they or their parents may be removed from the family, or they may be pressured and threatened into retracting any disclosure.
- Myth: Sometimes children are to blame for their abuse
Fact: Children are never to blame for the abuse they suffer. Adults are responsible for their own behaviour and no matter how children behave, an adult never has any right to harm a child.
- Myth: If children do not see domestic violence, they are not affected by it.
Fact: Children do not need to see violence to know that it is happening and to be affected by it. Children see the aftermath of violence in their home and they see the impact of violence on a person close to them.
- Myth: Reporting suspected child abuse can cause more harm than the abuse itself.
Fact: Sometimes people are concerned about children being affected by efforts to protect them, which may include legal proceedings. Continued abuse will cause more harm than any action taken to protect the child.
- Myth: If child abuse is reported to authorities, they will take the child away from their family.
Fact: Removing the child from the family home is a last resort if the child is assessed as being at significant risk of ongoing harm. In the majority of cases, the Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services will work with the family to address issues that are causing the child to be abused or neglected. This often involves assisting with access to family support or counselling services. Children are removed from their families where there is an immediate serious threat to their safety or when it is determined that the risk of further serious abuse is too great.
- Myth: Child abuse only happens in poor families.
Fact: Child abuse happens in every type of family. People who harm children can come from any background, race or religion, and have any kind of job. Some are rich, some are financially disadvantaged and some are well-educated.
- Myth: Young children are the only ones vulnerable to child abuse.
Fact: Child abuse can happen to infants, children and adolescents. Sometimes it might seem like adolescents should be able to fight back, but it is hard to stand up to an adult causing physical, sexual or emotional harm, especially when it is their own parent. Child abuse is often an abuse of power and trust. Cruel words and sexual or physical abuse can hurt adolescents as much as they can hurt a child.
- Myth: Physical discipline is not child abuse.
Fact: Discipline is correcting behaviour and showing a child how to behave in a more acceptable way. Physical discipline will become abuse if it results in harm or injury to a child. There are many ways to discipline children without using excessive force.
- Myth: Children who are abused will harm children when they are adults.
Fact: Many children who are abused do not harm children themselves when they grow up. With support and counselling many children will go on to live productive lives and parent their children safely.
What to do if a child tells you they are being abused:
- remain calm
- do not express shock, panic or disbelief — the child is counting on you to provide calm reassurance that they are being listened to and heard
- find a private place to talk
- thank the child for coming to talk to you about it and recognise their bravery for talking about something that may be difficult or embarrassing
- be supportive, tell them that you believe what they are saying and thank them for helping you to understand
- be a listener not an investigator — encourage children to talk in their own words and ask just enough questions to act protectively, for example, “can you tell me more about that?”
- do not conduct any form of interview with the child
- stress that what has happened is not their fault, for example, “you are not in trouble” and “if I look or sound upset it is because I want you to feel safe”
- be aware of your tone of voice and help the child make sense of what you are feeling, for example, “I am feeling concerned for you,” or “what we can do right now is talk about ways to help you feel safe”
- act proactively, for example, “I know some people do wrong things and it is up to grown-ups to protect children ,” or “every child has a right to be safe, there are laws to help protect children”
- reassure the child that they have done the right thing by telling you, and that they are not in trouble
- do not make promises you cannot keep, such as promising you will not tell anyone — you need to tell someone in order to get help for the child
- as a concerned community member you can contact the Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services and ask how best to respond to the situation
- do not contact the person responsible for the abuse, regardless of who that person is — leave this to the department or the police
- keep information confidential — only those who absolutely need to know should be told at this point.
If a parent tells you that a child has been abused, but the person responsible no longer has contact with the child, you should still contact the relevant department in your state or National Child Abuse Helpline – 1800 991 099. You could also provide information to the parent about where they can get help and advice.