Adults know they should report abuse and neglect, but sometimes they do not do so. Let’s examine five reasons why adults don’t report child abuse and neglect, and dispels some myths associated with each.
As a result, you are paralyzed and prone to second-guess yourself. You decide to work very hard to forget about what you witnessed. This is a normal response when you observe something that makes you uncomfortable. Remember it’s a child who needs your protection. Don’t second-guess what you just saw and don’t minimize it.
1. You’re shocked and frightened by what you see or what you hear.
2. You doubt yourself and think you are the one who is overreacting. Every day we doubt ourselves about something. Maybe you are overreacting, but then maybe you’re not. You could be saving a child. Don’t worry about overreacting, make a report.
3. You think “It’s not my child so it’s none of my business, I shouldn’t judge others.” Every child is our business if it involves child abuse and neglect. Adults will happily take part in the success of every child, but we are distant when it involves protecting a child.
4. You think “If I make a report I won’t be able to remain anonymous.” You fear retaliation, which is a very normal and valid concern. However, you can absolutely remain anonymous. If you make the report you will be asked some information about the child and the person who you believed did something inappropriate or abusive. The more information you have, the better. For example, names, addresses, etc. Make the report and Child Protective Services will determine if they will follow through on the report. You have done your job.
5. You think, “Only professionals can handle this.” Anyone can observe inappropriate behavior done to a child by an adult — the person who observes the behavior should report the behavior. Everyone is a mandatory reporter. Making a report allows professionals to assess the event and make the determination to open a case that can involve police intervention, additional family services to provide support, etc.
Don’t close your eyes and ears to child abuse.