Because 90% of child sexual assaults are perpetrated by someone that the child or family knows, perpetrators often build up a relationship with the child before attempting to abuse them. This process, called “grooming,” often includes building up trust with the child and other family members by spending time together, giving gifts, or otherwise filling a need in the child’s life.
Do not attempt to interview the child yourself or engage in “fact-finding.” The best way to ensure that the investigation is performed by trained professionals is to report the abuse to local law enforcement, Child Protective Services, or both. Consider the child’s safety and privacy when making your next steps.
It is critical that any disclosure of abuse be reported immediately. Some categories of professionals may have additional considerations regarding reporting.
Children often begin by disclosing abuse indirectly in order to determine how adults will react to the information. They may not share everything that occurred, or they may say that the abuse happened to someone else. It is important to remain calm, listen without judgement, and avoid reacting in a way that might indicate to the child that you are upset. If children feel that you are upset or angry, they may shut down and stop communicating about the abuse.