What Should I Do If A Child Discloses Sexual Abuse?

Ripples International, what to do when a child exhibits signs of sexual abuse

A Child could disclose signs of sexual abuse and you need to know what they are.First of all, keep calm. Your shock or anger may be misinterpreted as condemnation of the child. You don’t want the child to feel she can’t confide in you.

4 Things You Must Do First

Keep Calm: It is important to remain calm. Children may interpret anger at the perpetrator as anger to them.

Believe the child: In most cases, children do not lie about sexual abuse. Let the child know that you believe her/him. Reassure the child that the abuse was not her/ his fault.

Listen to the child: Let the child tell you what happened in her/his own words. Expect that the story may not be complete and that more details may come out as time goes by.

Seek Medical attention: The child may be suffering internal injuries that are not noticeable. A medical exam can also provide valuable evidence.

What shouldn’t I do?

Overwhelm the child: Do not stand over or invade the child’s personal space. This may make the child feel powerless. Do not pressure the child to talk if she /he is not ready. You are not trained to interview a child victim.

Make promises: Don’t make promises that you are not sure you will be able to keep. Don’t promise things like: You will never be hurt again or the offender will go to jail. The child has put all her/his trust in you. You don’t want to break that trust

Confront the offender: Confronting the offender, especially in front of the child, may be harmful or even dangerous. Leave this to proper authorities.


Here’s A Real Incident We Had To Deal With

(We’ve changed the names of the victim and school to protect their identities)

Wangari (not her real name) is a girl we helped rescue from child sexual abuse.

She’s a bubbly 12 years old, who comes from a region in Meru called Buuri in Igembe North Constituency. Her parents separated when she was very young. The mother would go to work with the elder brother leaving Wangari in the care of her father. Her father, a casual laborer, has been staying with his daughter in a rented house at the nearby market.

At the time we heard of Wangari, she was a pupil at Thooto Primary School in Buuri. Her teacher noticed her odd behavior in the classroom, where she was distant, sullen and refraining from any attempt to participate in class discussions or walk up to the blackboard to try out some of the math challenges. Inevitably, she could no longer avoid her turn to attempt the sums. When the teacher called her name, she declined to go up front. Eventually, after several queries, she slowly got up and walked to the blackboard. That’s when her teacher noted her unusual walking style.

She was quick to note that something was amiss. She quickly asked Wangari to return to her seat and gave the rest of the class an assignment for the rest of the class. After class, when all the students had departed to other assignments, she walked over to Wangari and sat next to her.

As she asked Wangari for information, the little girl lowered her head. The teacher was keen to note that she was in great pain and great distress. She comforted Wangari and informed her that she could confide in her.

Wangari complained that her father was doing ‘bad manners’ to her and the reason she could hardly walk was because of severe pain in her private parts. The girl was taken to the local dispensary and upon examination, it was discovered that she had had been defiled several times. She was diagnosed with vaginal infections.

Local police, accompanied by the Doctor, went to Wangari’s home to confront the father. Her dad was questioned but he denied having any information on what his daughter was going through. He was cautioned and the case went unreported.

Three weeks later, Wangari’s teacher noted similar behavior. This time, immediaet action had to be taken.

She reported  the matter to the head teacher who informed the area assistant chief who followed the case and reported to the police, had the perpetrator put in police custody, took the girl to the hospital and then referred Wangari to Ripples International Brenda Boone Hope Center (Tumaini Center) for protection, shelter, counseling and legal advice.

The case is in court and we hope justice will be done.


The nightmare of abuse doesn’t have to leave a permanent MARK. Healing is possible!

If you do see or notice instances that look like a child could be the victim of sexual violence, don’t panic.

Call the Ripples International HOTLINE on +254 (0) 734 949 493 or email or and we’ll get in touch with you with the appropriate steps of action

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