Concerns of Physical Abuse

Responding to Concerns of Physical Abuse

Discovering that a child you care about has been physically abused can be devastating. You may feel overwhelmed, wondering where to begin on getting help and support for your loved one. The following is a list of steps to take that can give you and your child a sense of empowerment and safety.

Report concerning injuries as soon as possible

You can make a report either to the Oregon Child Abuse Hotline at 855-503-SAFE (7233), or to the local law enforcement agency in the town, city, or county where the injury occurred. The hotline screener may give you instructions on next steps.

Seek medical attention, if needed

Children should be medically evaluated by a professional trained in child abuse and neglect, such as the medical providers at the Children’s Center. If your child is having acute pain, injury, is acting abnormally, or having symptoms that worry you, seek immediate medical attention. Randall Children’s Hospital is the designated hospital for child abuse and neglect for after-hours concerns.

Ask your child only neutral questions

If your child makes statements about being injured, it is okay to ask a few neutral questions such as “How did you get hurt?” or “What happened?” But it is important to avoid asking leading or suggestive questions (questions which require a “yes” or “no” answer), or engaging in repeated questioning of your child. Do not attempt to video or audio record a disclosure on a recording device.

Document what happened

The types of information to document might include when and where the injury occurred, any additional information about the nature of the injury, and how the injury occurred. If your child disclosed to you how the injury happened, try to document the conversation. Write down the entire conversation per your memory. Keep in mind to document what questions and statements you made to your child and what your child’s exact words to you were, as much as possible. Only ask additional questions if necessary to ensure your child’s safety. In many cases, additional questions can be deferred to a trained professional.

Leave the investigating to the authorities

It is important to let the authorities handle any investigation. Do not confront the person you suspect of abusing your child.

Be careful about saying “I promise” to your child

It is important that you are seen by your child as a safe and trustworthy person. Even if you make a promise to your child with the best of intentions, it is not always possible to control what will happen.

Protect your child from additional conversations about possible abuse

Do not talk about the abuse concerns to others in front of your child. Talking specifically about the suspected abuse where your child can hear can be overwhelming for your child and may taint any further assessment taking place.

Use only non-physical forms of discipline

It is best to use natural and logical consequences, the removal of privileges, or time-outs when disciplining your child.

Get Support for Yourself

Children’s Center can provide family support and referrals to agencies to help both parents and children.

Stay Consistent

It is important that you and your child’s lives stay as “normal” or consistent as possible. The exceptions to this are any changes that need to be made to ensure your child’s safety.

Recognize the Strength in Your Child

Children are remarkably resilient. In fact, children often bounce back more quickly from adverse situations than do adults. If you can recognize the resilience in your child, can provide supportive resources such as counseling should your child need this, and can continue to keep your child safe, the long-term effects of the abuse should be greatly reduced.

Contact Children’s Center

Children’s Center is the Children’s Advocacy Center for Clackamas County. Our goal is to neutrally assess children and support their families when there are concerns for abuse or neglect. We offer families information about abuse and can help direct families to appropriate resources for themselves and their children. Children’s Center intake staff collaborates with families and community partners to discuss if a full assessment at the Center is appropriate and beneficial to the child.

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