Date 7th January 2018
Child Abuse is it anyone’s responsibility
It is everyone’s responsibility
Hearing the Child Abuse Cry for Help is Not Always a Simple Task
Amongst the reasons a cry for help is lost in the cacophony of sound that surrounds our everyday lives. Often the child does not make clear disclosure of facts and the full extent of the abuse they are suffering. They may minimise the extent of the abuse, and they may not convey the full story of their abuse.
Another reason may be the linguistic skill of the listener and that of the child.
During my research for this article. I read of cases where children will talk about the abuse they are suffering. For example one case notes, told of an 11-year old stating that she had been raped. Another 15 year-old, attending therapy for a straight forward matter, said that she had sex with an older man. Only much later in the interview she declared that the sex act was nonconsensual. Once she declared that she went on to describe the details of the level of force that used. It was almost an hour in the session that she asked, had she been raped?
Importantly, in the latter case it was the skill of the counsellor that facilitated the disclosure. Helping the child to speak freely. In this case the pressure shifted. From the child, being responsible for disclosing the facts, to the counsellor who supported her.
You can understand when a child approaches an adult trying to relate an event. Unless the adult is trained or at least instructed what signals to watch for. The cry for help can go unheard, or even dismissed. Sometimes the adult recognising their inabilities is afraid. They may inadvertantly influence the facts in a negative way. More often in these cases the child is told to go away and make sure that they are not exaggerating.
There is a marked difference in an allegation made in an anonymous counselling session to that of a disclosure to a teacher or social-worker. In a Child-Line counselling session, the focus is on supporting the child. By contrast, teachers and social workers are duty bound to report disclosures. Any statement that the child produces forms evidence. This may be used in later criminal proceedings.
In collecting information from a child the counsellor or teacher has to take care. Reporting only the words the child uses without using leading questions is difficult. But it can be necessary in collecting the information.
It is also understandable that a child may be unwilling to relate devastating facts to a stranger. They need help in constructing their evidence.
This creates a paradox if the counsellor or teacher is a total stranger. Regardless of age, a child may rely on the adult. Helping them uncover the depth of information required.
While the gathering of evidence in this way must collect uncontaminated evidence. It fails those children who actually need the help of an adult to say the words they cannot express.
Adding to the complexity the child may not understand or want to follow our road to prosecution. What they do seek is emotional support and an end to a life changing experience.