Supporting A Child Who Discloses Abuse

When a child discloses an uncomfortable touch or sexual encounter to you, it might be one of the most difficult moments of your life as a parent, guardian, or adult caregiver. Here are some ways to positively handle these situations.


  • Be strong. You might be angry, in disbelief, or distraught, but the child needs a calm and caring reaction from an adult.
  • Be supportive. A child must hear affirming words and see affirming actions that they’ve done the right thing, you care, and it wasn’t their fault. "You were brave to tell me."
  • GIve comfort. Respond in a comforting manner that in no way shames them or makes them think they did something wrong to deserve what happened to them. "I'm going to help."


  • Do NOT interview the child or dig for the truth. Questions you might ask could confuse them or cause walls to go up.

Important to know: Test Messages

Children don’t always clearly and directly tell that they’ve been abused. Sometimes information is provided a little at a time, and the process can span weeks, months, or even across years as children test reactions by adults around them. These subtle messages can sometimes be missed in the following ways:

  • Expressing that they don’t want to be babysat anymore. "Can't you just stay home?"
  • Resistance over leaving for daycare.
  • Not wanting to go to a place or be with someone. "I hate Thanksgiving with them. Uncle Nate gets so weird."
  • Resistance is not always defiance, but a "test message" to be explored by asking more.

Report Or Get Caring, Expert Guidance

When a child does disclose sensitive information to you, it’s important to relay this information to the appropriate professionals. They will investigate the incident for you. When you question a child, they might get defensive and withhold saying more. 

If you suspect a child to be sexually abused, or a child has disclosed sexual abuse, call the agency for your county.

Outside the region, call your county social services or local law enforcement.

If a child has medical concerns due to the possible sexual abuse, go immediately to the nearest emergency room or medical facility.

Cass County North Dakota
Social Services
(701) 241-5765

Clay County Minnesota
Social Services
(218) 299-5200

After Hours

Call For Help

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Find More Resources

Find more information about typical behaviors of abusers, teaching a child body safety, and other steps to protect.

Based at Dakota Medical Foundation
4141 28th Avenue South Fargo, ND 58104  |  (701) 271-0263

About Stand to Protect

We focus on adult education surrounding child sexual abuse prevention in Cass and Clay counties.

Perpetrators of child sexual abuse use profound manipulation to enforce secrecy, often overpowering abilities a child might have to disclose. We help adults see common abuser behaviors and learn 10 protection steps that empower kids, bring greater safety and lower risk. We teach through powerful and positive one-hour sessions at youth organizations, businesses, churches, schools, PTAs, service clubs or community settings.

This content is based upon evidence in research literature and shaped by collective experiences of Red River Children’s Advocacy Center, Cass and Clay County Social Services, Prevent Child Abuse ND, and Sanford Center for Biobehavioral Research. Leadership for the collaborative work of Stand to Protect is provided by Dakota Medical Foundation. 

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