As I teacher for years I had to sign off that I read or watched a video informing about types of abuse, scenarios, signs, and my mandated responsibility to report. In the last couple years (since July 1st, 2012)the Georgia Reporting Child Abuse Law was updated to include volunteers mandated to report as well. We must report no later than 24 hours from the time there is reasonable cause to believe a child has been abused to the Department of Family and Children Services (DFCS).
As a stay at home mom who volunteers a bit, I recently had to sign off on watching a video and that I am aware of my responsibility to report suspected abuse. As a parent of seven and four year old sons, all I could think about was my own kids and protecting them.
Children are to be taken seriously every time they report something “weird.” I am aware that there are, unfortunately, false accusations, but that is not the norm. Those who work with children need to protect themselves and the children they watch over by taking precautions or having another trusted adult with the child in certain scenarios like going to the bathroom, driving a child home or an overnight stay.
As teachers, parents, and volunteers things to be aware of:
- The more signs, the greater the risk.
- Trust your instincts about a scenario/person not being safe.
- Abusers manipulate children.
- Abusers groom children for abuse.
- Abusers entrap children and lead them to feeling responsible for the acts as well and therefore more hesitant to tell.
- The majority of victims are abused by someone they know.
- We must be responsible for protecting these victims.
We, parents, can protect our children by:
- Teach self-protection and self-power. Knowledge is power. Tell them things adults should never do, signs of danger, and what you want them to do in these scenarios.
- Develop a plan for staying safe in public places like find a mother or woman if they are lost. I’ve told my sons to scream, “Get away stranger!” and run to another mom looking for a stroller.
- Know who you child is with and where they are at all times.
- Trust your instincts when determining who your child can spend time with.
- When appropriate teach your child the anatomically correct name for private body parts.
- Teach the No Touching Rule (no one has the right to touch their private parts, those covered by a bathing suit).
- Teach the No-Go-Tell Rule. If someone touches them in a way that makes them scared or uncomfortable: Yell “No!” Get away as quickly as possible. Tell an adult they trust.
- Never downplay a child’s report of weird behavior.
- Tell your child never to keep secrets about touching or weird feelings.
- Respect your child’s own sense of personal boundaries. Don’t make your child hug or kiss someone when they are uncomfortable doing so.
- Teach children that it is okay to say no to an adult when they ask you to do something that doesn’t sound like the right thing to do or makes them feel uncomfortable.
- Develop good lines of communication with your child.
- Inquire about your child’s dramatic mood swings. Talk to your child and try to find out what is behind the change of behavior.
- Teach children about appropriate boundaries.
How to handle a victim telling you they have been abused:
- Be a good listener.
- Don’t overwhelm them with your own feelings of anger. They may have conflicting feelings about their abuser especially if the abuser is a family member.
- Reassure them that they are not to blame. Don’t sympathize with or protect the possible abuser.
- Be non-judgmental of the victim’s statements, such as a lack of faith in God.
- Do not promise a child to keep it secret.
- If the victim is a child and there is reasonable cause to believe the child has been abused, then report the incident to the Department of Family and Children Services (DFCS).
- Refer to therapy/support.
These are my own notes and highlights from the information I’ve read and videos I have watched at my child’s school and church. I have a link to the video from my church. It is from the Catholic Church , but whatever your faith or lack of, there is good info here: You Matter Safe Environment Video.