Don’t Be an Enabler~When a Child is Abused, Here’s What to Do
1. If you see an act of child abuse in progress, step in and STOP IT. I have to wonder why the grad assistant who witnessed the rape felt he only had to report it to someone. Why didn’t he jump in, knock Sandusky on his butt, and protect the child? If you see a child being raped by an adult, please have the guts and good sense to intervene.
2. If a child tells you he or she is being abused, don’t panic, don’t act shocked. Make sure the child feels supported and protected. Say, “You did the right thing in telling me.”
3. Believe the child. Even if the offender is “good old Uncle Charlie,” tell the child, “I believe you.” It takes a courage for kids to speak up because they fear they won’t be believed. Kids need to know you’re on their side, and they almost never imagine sex acts unless they’ve experienced them.
4. Tell the child that he or she is not bad. Say, “He knew better; you didn’t know. We’ll make sure he can’t touch you again.”
5. Focus on the child’s needs. Don’t think about the reputation of any individual or organization. The moment you shift your focus off of what’s best for the child, you’re on the wrong side of the issue.
6. Don’t confront the offender in front of the child. Keep adult discussions away from the child. Kids need to feel protected. They don’t need to be upset, disturbed, and frightened.
7. Report the crime to the police. Law enforcement agencies in your area have trained investigators who will talk with you and the child, and who know exactly how best to handle the situation.
And don’t you dare tell me that you don’t have the heart to have “good old Uncle Charlie” arrested. If Uncle Charlie is molesting a child, protect that child!
I’ve heard too many horror stories of people who protected “good old Uncle Charlie” or “good old Coach Sandusky” instead of protecting children. You must have absolute moral clarity: Child molesters belong in jail where they can’t hurt children. If you don’t call the police, then you are an accomplice and no better than a molester yourself.
8. If the molester is a member of the clergy, DO NOT report the abuse to church officials. If the molester is a coach or teacher, DO NOT report the abuse to the school authorities. Some churches and organizations worry more about lawsuits and bad publicity than about kids. Just call the police.
9. Don’t call Child Protective Services—investigating crimes is not the function of CPS. If the police determine that CPS should be involved, they will make that decision.
Don’t let the predator talk you out calling the police. Most predators are amazingly persuasive—that’s how they entice their victims, and that’s how they get people to cover for them instead of reporting them. Don’t be taken in by a charming predator.
10. After you call the police, call the ChildHelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4ACHILD (1-800-422-4453). The ChildHelp counselor will listen to your concerns, answer your questions, and direct you to local support services for the child.
Finally, don’t you ever use the “benefit of hindsight” excuse! I’ve armed you with the foresight to do the right thing to protect a child—and that child is counting on you.
The reason I tell you all this? Because, I was once that boy.
Michael Reagan is the son of President Ronald Reagan. He is a political consultant, the founder and chairman of The Reagan Group, and president of The Reagan Legacy Foundation. Visit his website at http://www.reagan.com, and visit the Michael Reagan Center at Arrow Child & Family ministries. Portions of this column are adapted from his book “Twice Adopted.”
A child needs your protection. The adult predator needs serious help.