It’s scary to think that making a phone call could change our lives. We can’t know beforehand what will happen after we file. We don’t know if our report will lead to a child’s getting protection or possibly make things difficult for the child. Sometimes the fear of family disruption or family break-up is so great that we’re tempted to ignore signs of abuse so that we don’t have to face filing a report. Here are three reasons why it can feel difficult to take action:
The person we suspect of abusing is someone we care about.
They may be the one who provides financial support and we’re afraid about what would happen to the family without that support.
We don’t know for sure if the child is being abused and don’t want to make a false accusation.
What’s at stake
Filing a report could lead to the rescue of a child from sexual abuse and can stop the child from living a life of trauma and suffering. Filing a report can also result in holding the person who is abusing accountable, putting an end to the abuse, and getting them treatment so that they will be able to stop abusive behaviors.
Possible consequences of not filing a report:
Not filing could mean the continued sexual abuse and devastation of a child. When no one speaks up, there is no one to help the child. The devastation of continued sexual abuse can be so far reaching that the child’s ability to recover, even as an adult, is jeopardized.
Non-offending parents who don’t file when they have reason to suspect abuse, can face legal consequences. If the abuse is disclosed, the parent who suspected the abuse may be at legal risk for failing to take steps to protect the child.
When no one files a report the person who is abusing may never be held accountable or get the specialized treatment needed to stop abusing. The risk that the abuser will continue to inflict harm and suffering is higher. Many people who sexually abuse children feel deeply ashamed, anguished and desperate. Most know how harmful their behaviors are, but don’t feel able to control them. Without intervention, the person continues to live a life of secrecy, lies, fear, and shame. But with the intervention that can result from filing a report, the abuse can stop, the abuser can be held accountable and get the treatment they need to change behaviors and act safely.
When making a safety plan, consider including the person who has been abusive in on the process
You may be able to support an adult who is abusing in getting treatment or in coming forward to the authorities, on their own, by talking to them directly about your concerns in a concerned, rather than confrontational way. Stop It Now!’s publication, Let’s Talk, offers guidance and advice on how to prepare and carry out these difficult conversations. When talking doesn’t work or isn’t safe, or if there is no time to talk due to the urgency of the situation, filing a report is of utmost importance.