What to Do if Someone Discloses to You
When someone discloses that they have been emotionally or physically abused in a relationship, here are some ways you can help.
- Listen, do not judge.
- You can express concern for safety, but do not judge or tell them what to do.
- Provide referrals to community resources such as domestic violence programs, shelter, legal services, including this website.
- Give hotline numbers. Baltimore County and City – 443-279-0379, Baltimore City (House of Ruth) – 410-889-7884
- Explore safety (recent level of violence, recent threats, recent escalation, thoughts re: impending violence)
- Must maintain person’s privacy due to safety concerns. Do not go to her/his partner if you know him/her and confront them.
When someone discloses sexual violence to you it can feel like a lot to handle. Here are some tips to help.
- Listen, be patient, and ensure you are using survivor affirming language.
- If the survivor is ready to report, offer to be there as a support. (See What To Expect When I Report an Assault)
- Share resources with survivor and encourage them to get professional support.
A woman is 7 times more likely to be murdered in the few weeks after leaving her abusive partner than at any other time in the relationship.
Child Sexual Abuse
If you suspect a child you care about is being sexually abused:
- Be non-judgmental and supportive. Use “I” statements (for example, instead of saying “You should feel…” consider “I am concerned for you”) and allow the child to speak without obstruction.
- Talk to the child directly, asking age appropriate questions about the abuse. Do this in a safe environment where the child feels comfortable.
- Remember the child may be frightened that they will get in trouble, recognize your tone and be patient with the child.
- A report should be made in the county/jurisdiction where it occurred. Here is a list of Child Protective Service offices: http://dhr.maryland.gov/child-protective-services/reporting-suspected-child-abuse-or-neglect/local-offices/
- Reporting child abuse can be difficult, but remember children are often unable to protect themselves. You can find out more information about reporting at http://dhr.maryland.gov/child-protective-services/reporting-suspected-child-abuse-or-neglect/.
- Tell your child you are making a report and continue to support them through that process.
An Adult Sexually Abused as a Child
If an adult reports that they were abused as a child:
- Stay calm and don’t ask too many questions. She/he will share what she/he is comfortable.
- Be supportive. Listen.
- Discuss next steps.
- Assess safety (i.e. is perpetrator still around, is person forced to be around perpetrator or is perpetrator around children).
- Ask: “What do you want/need right now?”
- Sometimes counseling is a good place to get started in order to deal with the trauma of past incidents. For more information see Trauma Therapy.
- This could be another situation in which a Child Protective Services report needs to be made as Maryland considers child abuse reporting to include abuse that occurred in the past when an adult was a child, even when a perpetrator is current deceased (see above section, Child Sexual Abuse).