Signs of a disclosure

Less often do children come to you in private and tell you specifically what is going on, which is why it is important to know the signs of a disclosure when they do happen. One of the more common ways children disclose is through indirect hints. 

For example: 

"My babysitter keeps bothering me." or "Mr. Jones wears funny underwear."

Usually a child uses this form of hinting because he or she hasn't learned the specific vocabulary. He/she may feel ashamed or embarrassed to talk about it directly; or the child has promised not to tell. Sometimes it is a combination of these reasons. If you notice this behavior, gently encourage the child to be more specific. It is important to bear in mind the limits of his or her vocabulary; he or she might not be able to explain exactly what is happening. 

Additionally, the child may disguise the disclosure

For example: 

"I know someone who is being touched in a bad way." or "What would happen if a girl told her mother she was being molested but her mother didn't believe her?"

The child might be talking about a friend or sibling, but it is just as likely that they are talking about themselves. Encourage the child to tell you what they know about the "other child."

Often the offender uses threats to force a child to remain silent, so the child may disclose with strings attached

For example: 

"I have a problem but if I tell you about it you have to promise not to tell anyone."

When this happens it is important to let the child know it is not their fault. Tell the child you believe them and want to get them help. In order to do so, you need to make a confidential report to safe grown-ups who can help. You will respect their need for confidentiality so you will not discuss the abuse with anyone except to those directly involved in the legal process. 

Another sign to watch for is if a child has explicit knowledge beyond their years.

For example:

A child talks about the appearance of body parts, how they taste, smell, or feel.

These can be indicators something else is going on. Be sure to gently ask the child more questions. As parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and adults, it is our responsibility to protect children.


IF YOU SUSPECT ABUSE, CALL CENTRALIZED INTAKE, 855-444-3911 , RIGHT AWAY. IT IS NOT YOUR RESPONSIBILITY TO INVESTIGATE ABUSE, INTERVIEW THE CHILD OR GET ALL THE FACTS. JUST CONTACT THE AUTHORITIES WITH YOUR SUSPICION SO THAT CHILDREN AND FAMILIES GET THE SUPPORT AND CARE THEY NEED. IF A CHILD IS IN IMMEDIATE DANGER, ALSO CALL 911.