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Helping the child abuse victim is a multi-step process. To help a child abuse victim, you first need to establish the facts to identify the problem. Reporting child abuse can help remove the child from a dangerous situation, and you may also contact a child abuse hotline for assistance, advice, and support. Establishing trust between the child and yourself can help the child begin to heal and form a positive child-adult relationship again. Ensuring the child receives professional counseling is another way to help a child abuse victim.
Child abuse affects children from all walks of life. Child abuse victims come from all economic and social backgrounds. Knowing what to look for in a child abuse victim is the first step in helping the child. If you are a teacher or supervisor of children, your daily interaction may help you recognize the signs of child abuse. Personal intervention can take place once you've identified the problem.
If a typically outgoing and happy child suddenly becomes withdrawn, shy, or generally mistrusting of adults, this can be a warning sign. Perhaps you are a family member or close friend who notices unusual behavior, such as refusal to go to daycare, go to school, or be alone with a certain individual. These could be signs of possible child abuse.
Child abuse may take several forms. Physical abuse is certainly one form, but emotional abuse can also have a serious effect on a child. Sexual abuse can scar a child emotionally for a very long time and requires proper intervention or professional counseling. Helping the child abuse victim means contacting authorities to report the issue, so action may be taken to remove the child from harm. Once you are certain a victim of child abuse faces no further threat, you can help him heal and recover.
Assuming the child has received professional counseling, he will also benefit from establishing relationships with an adult he can once again trust. Offering unconditional friendship without being judgmental is one thing you can do. Assure him that you are there for him and he can depend on you consistently. When the child is ready to open up and initiate your friendship, he will let you know, so do not force it upon him.
Once the child has disclosed information regarding his experience, there are further ways to help the child abuse victim. Encourage him to express his feelings of hurt, fear, or anger. Also, let him know that nothing that happened is because of anything he had done. Do not become excited or emotional as the child shares his experience. Assuring the child he is safe can make him feel secure.
Unfortunately, there is no one "fix" that can help a child abuse victim, and it will take effort on your part. It will take time to help the child heal and become a trusting and productive adult. With patience, understanding, and love, you can succeed.
People are often afraid to report child abuse because they don't want to label someone as an abuser if no abuse is happening. However, the person who suspects the abuse needs to consider what might happen if it goes unreported.
It's always a good idea to get a second opinion about reporting suspected abuse from someone who can keep the information confidential.
Most people are going to be in the position to help report the suspected abuse more often than in any other capacity. This is a serious responsibility and should be recognized as such.
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