What should you do when you suspect abuse or neglect?
CALL THE HOTLINE AT 1-800-392-3738, The Children's Division staff this hotline 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. They will take information from you and respond to child abuse and neglect. If you live outside Missouri and want to report abuse or neglect of a Missouri child, call (573) 751-3448.
HAVE COMPLETE INFORMATION, Children's Division needs specific information to be able to respond to a complaint of abuse or neglect. Be sure you have:
- The name of the child
- The name of the parent(s)
- The name of the alleged abuser
- Where the child can be located
You will also be asked:
- Is the child in a life-threatening situation now?
- How do you know about the abuse/neglect?
- Did you witness the abuse/neglect?
- Were there other witnesses and how can they be contacted?
CONSIDER IDENTIFYING YOURSELF, If you are not required by occupation to report, you don't have to identify yourself when you make a hotline call, however being able to contact you later helps CD workers do a more thorough investigation. They may need to ask you for more information during the investigation process.
What if you're not sure it's abuse or neglect?
You can call the local local Children's Division office to discuss your concerns. They can advise you whether or not to call the hotline. They can also give you advice that might help you help the family in crisis.
Err on the side of over-reporting. If you have the thought "Maybe I should call . . ." -- DO! Not all calls to the hotline are determined to be abuse/neglect. However, Children's Division can often provide services and assistance that can help families prevent abuse.
How Can I Tell If A Child Has Been Abused?
Most children don’t tell about being abused right away. The signs and symptoms will usually be behavioral. Behavioral indicators may include:
- Withdrawing or aggression
- Sexual knowledge beyond their age
- Sexual acting out
- Regressing to an earlier developmental stage; sucking thumb, bedwetting, baby talking
- Fear of being alone with a certain person
- Excessive masturbation
There may be some physical signs including:
- Bruises, bleeding, infection in genital or anal area
- Pain or itching in genital area
- Unexplained headaches or stomachaches
- Rectal bleeding
Any one of the above does not mean sexual abuse has occurred, but may indicate reason to suspect abuse.
How Can I Help My Child If They Have Been Abused?
The time after a disclosure of abuse is difficult and emotional for everyone. The positive support your child receives from you is one of the most important things you can do at that time.
The child will cope best and heal from the abuse easier when he or she:
- IS BELIEVED-Tell your child that you believe her and you are glad she told. Make sure you let them know that they did the right thing by telling and they are not to blame for the abuse.
- FEELS SAFE AND PROTECTED-Parents need to provide both emotional and physical protection to their child. The child will be frightened by ranting, threatening anger towards the perpetrator. Be honest with your emotions but don’t let them observe you crying all of the time. The child often thinks she made you cry by disclosing.
- DOES NOT FEEL GUILTY-Remember the child is never to blame. The child should not feel ashamed about what happened to him. Remember the molester is often someone the child loves and cares for. He may have mixed feelings about him still. Talk about the inappropriate behavior the molester did rather than on the molester.
- HAS GOOD SELF ESTEEM-Parents, other family members, teachers, and counselors can help the child overcome her feelings of powerlessness and worthlessness that many abused children feel. Avoid negative criticism of your child and encourage her to try new things and experience success.
- FEELS ACCEPTED AND LOVED-A child’s disclosure of abuse is often scary and associated with acting out behaviors. It is usual for the child to have been threatened, coerced or bribed to remain silent. As a result of the abuse you may see behaviors such as anger, nightmares, bedwetting, clinging or excessive crying, fear of being alone with a certain person. Be patient with your child through this time.
- GETS THERAPY TO DEAL WITH THE ABUSE-We believe that every abused child should receive counseling to help them deal with the effects of the abuse and to get beyond this trauma. Some children only need a short amount of counseling while other children may need months and years.