Reporting: Who, Why, What

Who to Report to

The first step in getting help for yourself and your child is reporting the abuse to the police or your local child protection agency. This resource can help you find the number. As scary as it might seem to call the agency, remember that caseworkers are specifically trained to deal with abuse situations and to make sure that your child is safe and gets appropriate help. You can also call a free reporting hotline.


Why You Should Report

Sexual abuse is a crime in all 50 states, and all states have an additional law that requires reporting. Report the abuse even if the offender is a child or an adolescent.

Think of it this way: if you don’t report the abuse, the offender is left free to abuse other children. It’s not just your own child you’re protecting.


What Happens Next

Once a report is made, you have the right to a legal advocate and a victim advocate. To that end, a team of people will work with you and your child. The team usually includes:

  • A caseworker who will investigate the report, make sure your child is safe, and arrange support, medical care if needed, and counseling
  • A doctor who will examine your child
  • Police officers who will investigate, collect evidence, prepare the case, and make any necessary arrests
  • A lawyer for the county where the abuse happened, who will handle the case through the criminal justice system
  • A counselor for your child

After the initial report, there are often two parallel processes that begin: the legal process to investigate the case and the healing process your child and family will go through.


Protecting and Supporting Your Child

After disclosure, your child will need as much protection and support as you can give. These guidelines can help:

  • Don’t let your child see the offender until after the investigation takes place. Even then, never force your child to see the offender or leave your child alone with the offender.
  • Continue to believe your child. Tell your child he or she is okay and safe.
  • Be careful about whom you tell. Ask the people you tell not to tell others. Encourage people who know about the abuse to treat your child in the same way they normally would.
  • Talk with a trusted friend or counselor about your own feelings. Try not to discuss the abuse, its effect on your child, or your feelings about the abuse in front of your child or your other children. Doing so can make them anxious and unnecessarily re-expose your child to the trauma.
  • Read more about healing after reporting.

A Note About the Legal Process

You will have little control over the legal process. It may feel frustrating and will often move more slowly than you want it to. Just remember that your most important role during the investigation is to support your child. Keep in mind that even if the police and district attorney decide not to pursue legal prosecution, it doesn’t mean the abuse didn’t happen or that your child doesn’t need help.