As a concerned parent, friend, or neighbor, you can help a child victim by being compassionate and alert and educating yourself. Your ability to provide assistance, however, will depend on the type of traumatic event or exploitative action that the child has been exposed to. When a child has informed you of a past abuse, you can offer aid by listening, not blaming the child, and allowing him or her to bring up the topic when he or she feels comfortable. You can also suggest that a child sexual abuse victim seek out support groups and therapy and provide assistance with locating these resources locally.
If you suspect a child is being harmed, you can take action to inform the proper authorities. In the United States, some states have toll-free hotline numbers that can be used to report child abuse and neglect. Most states have some form of child protective services agency or department of social services. Through these agencies, you can call and make a report about a child victim. Often this information can be reported anonymously.
Before placing a phone call, you may want to write down all the facts you are aware of in order to ensure the child victim gets the assistance needed. For instance, writing down the dates and times in which you noticed suspicious bruises or were informed by a child that she or he had not been fed for several days will help authorities decide on how to proceed and the urgency of the matter. When a child is in immediate danger or harm, however, calling emergency assistance is generally needed. Examples of such emergencies could be hearing a child scream out for help or seeing a child being punched or slapped by a parent. By contacting the authorities when such situations occur, the violence can be stopped and the child can get medical attention if needed.
To report a sexually exploited child in the United States, you can make a report online at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s CyberTipline. The tipline can be used to report on various areas of child exploitation, including child pornography, prostitution, and online enticement. Reports are accepted from any country in the world.
Your ability to help a child victim is not just limited to helping a child after a traumatic event has occurred. By joining, donating to, and advocating for services and policies that promote the health and safety of children, you can become a grassroots advocate. For instance, you may decide to send letters to editors of local papers, call legislatures, and meet with other public officials. Through changes in legislation and public policy, child advocates hope to improve public understanding of child victimization issues and create safer and more nurturing communities where abuse, neglect, and other such issues are less likely to occur.
By joining child advocacy centers and not-for-profit organizations, you may also be able to prevent and intervene on behalf of a child victim. Such organizations often provide public education on child abuse, as well as volunteer training opportunities. Through such training, you may be able to get a better understanding of what constitutes child abuse, learn how to identify victims of child support, and acquire knowledge of how to give support to victims and their families. These organizations can be found at the local, national, and even international level and include various child victim services.