One of the most heart-breaking crimes in society is child abuse, be it in the form of neglect or emotional, physical or sexual abuse. These crimes are often not reported as children are either too afraid to tell someone or the perpetrator is being protected by his or her friends and family.

The UAE government has a zero tolerance to child abuse, with strict laws to prevent and fight these crimes and they make it easy for residents to report child abuse. In fact, it has now been made law that anyone who is aware a child being abused but does not report it, is liable for prosecution.

A special team has been put in place to develop best practices for rooting out child abuse. Led by the Ministry of Interior (MoI), the team has now grown into a department known as the Child Protection Centre (CPC) or MoI-CPC.

If there is one issue the MoI-CPC struggles with when it comes to successfully taking a case to court, it is interference by people who find or suspect that a child is being abused.

It’s easy to understand why, if a child discloses to a parent or teacher, the adult will question the child, often trying to get more information about the alleged crimes and trying to get as much information out of the child as possible. If the child has bruises, the adult may even take photos. These questions and actions only traumatise the child further and it’s likely that by the time the child needs to testify, he or she is too scared or even feel that they have repeated the story enough times. A lot of cases are lost because of this. No one wants to be forced to repeatedly relive their abuse just because everyone has asked him or her about it.

How to respond when a child discloses to you

If a child tells you that he or she is being abused, it is super important to handle the situation in the appropriate manner and then report it to the appropriate authorities.

If a child discloses to you, follow the following steps:

You need to listen closely to what the child is telling you. Try not show a reaction (shock or disbelief) and do not voice an opinion. If you say anything that makes it seem like the child is not telling the truth, they may stop talking and even deny their allegations later.

You need to reassure the child that they’ve done the right thing by speaking out. Often an abuser has threatened them to keep the secret and they need to know they are safe.

Tell the child it’s not their fault. Abuse is never the child’s fault and they need to know this.

Tell the child you believe them. They’ve told you because they want help and trust you’ll be the person who will listen to and support them.

You should explain what needs to happen next. If age appropriate, explain to the child you’ll need to report the abuse to the police but at the same time ensure them that they will be safe.

Don’t talk to the alleged abuser. Confronting the alleged abuser about what the child’s told you could make the situation a lot worse for the child.

Report the abuse as soon as possible so details are fresh in your mind and action can be taken quickly. The sooner the abuse is reported after the child discloses the better.

Reporting made easy and confidential

It is understandable that you may be hesitant to report child abuse, especially if you know the alleged perpetrator but the MoI-CPC guarantees that the identities of those reporting will be kept confidential.

How you can report child abuse

Call the hotline on 116111

Through the website:

Call 999

Go to any police station

Through an app that will be launched soon

Remember that you are under a legal obligation to report child abuse. Reporting child abuse can help stop re-victimisation and even save the life of a child.

Written by Cathlen Fourie, owner of CF Communications.

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