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CHILD PROTECTION CENTER

PSCA: Responding and Reporting

Responding to a Disclosure

When a child tells an adult that he or she has been sexually abused, the adult may feel uncomfortable and unsure as to what to do or say. The following guidelines may be helpful in responding to children who have disclosed sexual abuse:

  • Practice your response before you are in the real situation.  It is likely that anyone interacting with children will encounter this situation at some point.  It is best to be prepared. 
  • Pay attention to your body language.  Be on the same eye level as the child with no physical barriers between you. Find a private place to talk.  Do not panic or used shocked or disbelieving language.  Remain calm. The child may be confused or scared by a reaction of disgust or anger and might interpret this to mean that you find them unacceptable versus the act perpetrated on them.
  • Don’t interrogate or interview the child.  Listen.  Do not project or assume anything. Allow the child to talk in their own words.  Actively listen to the child. Do not try to determine for yourself if the allegations is valid or invalid.  The investigation is the responsibility of the professionals within the child protection system. 
  • Let the child know that it was brave to tell.  Believe the child and be supportive.  Confirm that it is ok to feel however the child is feeling.
  • As soon as possible, write down the actual words used in the disclosure and in your subsequent conversation with the child.  The child’s first statements may have forensic significance and the exact language used in questions and answers may be important.
  • Assess the child’s immediate safety. If the child is in immediate danger, a call to 911 or local law enforcement is warranted.
  • Report the disclosure.  Your call may make the difference in the life of a child.
  • Take care of yourself.  Hearing a disclosure is difficult.  Even when you know that it is the right thing to do, making a report is an emotional task.  Remember to breathe. Use your support system. Ask for help.  Releasing your stress and taking care of yourself is important.

 

Reporting a Disclosure 

Who Should report child abuse?

Florida Statutes Chapter 39 state that any person who has knowledge, or reasonable cause to suspect, that a child is being abused or neglects must report that information to the Florida Abuse Hotline (1-800-96-ABUSE). By law, failure to report suspicions of child maltreatment is a  first degree misdemeanor, as is interfering with or preventing another person from making a report.  Knowingly making a false report is a third degree felony.  All Florida citizens are mandated reporters of child abuse and neglect.

When should a report be made?

Any time that a child makes a disclosure of abuse or exhibits behavioral or physical indicators that have no other reasonable explanation, a report should be made as soon as possible.  If there is immediate danger to a child, call 911. Remember, a report is simply a request for an investigation, not an accusation.

How do I make a report?

There are three reporting methods for the Florida Abuse Hotline:

  1. Telephone a Hotline operator at 1-800- 96-ABUSE (1-800-962-2873).  Hotline operators are available to receive reports at this toll-free hotline 24 hours per day, 7 days per week.
    This is the  reporting method recommended by CPC.
  2. Fax a report to 1-800-914-0004.
  3. On-line at http://www.dcf.state.fl.us.  Reports made through the website are for non-emergent situations.  Please call the Hotline if more immediate action is required, you do not have sufficient information to complete the on-line report,  or if you prefer to remain anonymous. 
    Remember, a 911 call is warranted if a child is in immediate danger
  4. Telecommunications Device for the Deaf (TDD): 1-800-453-5145

 

Do I have rights as the reporter?

Florida law gives Hotline reporters three rights:

  1. Immunity from liability.
  2. Freedom from reprisal
  3. Confidentiality.
    Note:  These rights only attach to the person making the report.

Why should I make a report?

Everyone has a legal and ethical obligation to report suspicions of abuse and neglect. 
Often, a child’s only hope is a report made on his/her behalf by a concerned adult.

 


 

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