What do I do if I suspect abuse?
If a child discloses that he or she has been abused by someone, it is important that you listen to them most of all.
- Call the Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-252-5400 or if the child is in immediate danger CALL 911 – You may remain anonymous.
- Failure to report suspected child abuse or neglect is punishable by imprisonment of up to 180 days and/or a fine of up to $1,000. (Texas Family Code, Chapter 34).
- Reports from professionals and concerned citizens are received by child protective services (CPS) staff alerting them to concerns about a child's welfare.
- You may also file a report of suspected abuse using a secure web site: www.txabusehotline.org.
Be prepared to provide the following information:
1. Child’s name, age and address
2. Brief description of the child
3. Current injuries, medical problems or behavioral problems
4. Parents’ names and names of siblings in the home
- Investigate – leave this to the professionals.
- Ask leading questions (a question that suggests the answer or contains the information the questioner is looking for – That man touched you, didn’t he?).
- Make promises.
- Notify the parents or the caretaker.
- Provide a safe environment (be comforting, welcoming, and a good listener).
- Tell the child it was not his/her fault.
- Listen carefully.
- Document the child’s exact quotes.
- Be supportive, not judgmental.
- Know your limits.
- Tell the truth and make no promises.
Ask ONLY four questions:
1. What happened?
2. Who did this to you?
3. Where were you when this happened?
4. When did this happen?
Asking any additional questions may contaminate a case!
Signs & Symptoms of Abuse
Signs of Physical Abuse
- Unexplainable changes in the child’s body or behavior.
- Any injury (bruise, burn, fracture, abdominal or head injury) that cannot be explained.
- Is always watchful and “on alert,” as if waiting for something bad to happen.
- Shies away from touch, flinches at sudden movements, or seems afraid to go home.
- Appears to be afraid of adults
- Wears inappropriate clothing to cover up injuries, i.e. long-sleeved shirts on hot days.
- School failure.
- Headaches or stomachaches with no medical cause
Signs of Emotional Abuse
- Behavioral change tends to reflect the anxiety that results from a stressful situation of any type
- Lack of Concentration
- Reports a Lack of attachment to the parent
- Excessively withdrawn, fearful, or anxious about doing something wrong
- Acts either inappropriately adult (taking care of other children) or inappropriately infantile (rocking, thumb-sucking, tantruming
- Extremely passive or aggressive behavior
Signs of Sexual Abuse
- Extreme sexual behavior that seems inappropriate for the child’s age.
- Genital pain or bleeding, as well as a sexually transmitted disease.
- Doesn’t want to change clothes in front of others or participate in physical activities.
- Runs away from home