Child abuse is tragic because, unlike an adult, a child does not have the resources to help him- or herself in many cases. Often, those near the child suspect neglect or violence. Unfortunately, people are hesitant to report suspected abuse for a number of reasons – most often because they are worried about being wrong. Stop worrying. It is better to be wrong and report a possible case of child abuse than to be right and not say anything. You main concern here should be the care and safety of the child involved.
Not every state has a hotline for child abuse. However, if your state does, this is the first place to turn because it puts the case on the radar right away. Unfortunately, lines at child abuse hotlines are often busy for long periods of time. Keep trying. Eventually, you will get through and be able to report your case.
Before you call, take a moment to gather information about the child, his or her family, and the problems as you see. First and foremost, have the child’s full name and, if possible, age, address, and home phone number. The hotline call attendant will ask about details of the case, so you’ll have a chance to fully explain your suspicions. Make a note as to the dates you’ve seen marks on the child, should that be the case. Also make a note of specific acts of verbal or physical violence that you’ve witnessed in person. The attendant will also ask you what other children are in the house and where the child goes to school, so find out this information if you can.
As you are making the call, make sure that you write down all of the information surrounding your report. Note the date and time as well as the name of the person with whom you talked. Ask lots of questions about your next steps and their next steps, and don’t hesitate to ask for a manager. If you feel like the matter isn’t being taken seriously, your best option is to hang up and call the police or 9-1-1 if you believe that the child is in immediate danger.
If you aren’t sure if the child is actually being abused, it is a good idea to report the incident anyway. Children often try to hide their abuse because they think it is their fault or are worried about getting into more trouble. When in doubt, report.
Never take matters into your own hands. The court system is set up to protect children as much as possible. You can do your part by simply reporting the problem. Do not put yourself at risk as well. Remember, you can report anonymously if you feel uncomfortable giving out your name. The focus here is making sure that the child is as safe as possible, not pointing fingers at accusers. The only way to help stop domestic child abuse is to report it to the authorities.