Tusla - Ireland's Child & Family Agency

How should I deal with a disclosure of abuse from a child?

Everyone should be alert to the possibility that children with whom they are in contact may be being abused or at risk of being abused. The wider community of relatives, friends, neighbours, professionals and voluntary workers are well placed to be aware of a child’s welfare. They should know how to recognise and respond to the possibility of abuse or neglect, so as to ensure that the most effective steps are taken to protect a child and to contribute to the on-going safety of children.

It is very difficult for a child to tell someone that they are being, or have been, abused. A child needs to have someone they can trust in order to feel able to disclose abuse they may be experiencing. They need to know they will be believed and will get the help they need. Without these things they may be vulnerable to continuing abuse.

As a trusted adult, a child may decide to disclose their experience of abuse to you. You should deal with such a disclosure sensitively. Accept what the child has to say – false disclosures are very rare.

If you receive a disclosure of harm from a child, you may feel reluctant to report this for a number of reasons.  For example, the child may say that they do not want the disclosure to be reported, or you may take the view that the child is now safe and that the involvement of Tusla may not be desired by either the child or the family.

You are not required to judge the truth of the claims or the credibility of the child. However, you need to inform Tusla of all reasonable concerns about a child.

If, as a mandated person, you receive a disclosure of harm from a child, you must make a mandated report of the concern to Tusla .

The following steps are suggested for dealing with a disclosure of abuse form a child:

  • React calmly
  • Listen carefully and attentively
  • Take the child seriously
  • Reassure the child that they have taken the right action in talking to you
  • Do not promise to keep anything secret
  • Ask questions for clarification only. Do not ask leading questions
  • Check back with the child that what you have heard is correct and understood
  • Do not express any opinions about the alleged abuser
  • Ensure that the child understands that you must tell someone who understand this area and who can help
  • Make a written record of what the child has told you as soon as possible, in as much detail as possible
  • Treat the information confidentially
  • Contact Tusla’s Duty Social Work Department without delay and report the disclosure made to you. 
  • Continue to support the child

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