Should I report suspect child abuse?

Child abuse is an ugly reality. Overlooking it will likely doom a kid to serious injury, psychological trauma, or even self-harming behaviors. There are generally four types of child abuse. They include physical abuse, child abuse, emotional abuse, and neglect. So what can you do if you encounter a victim of child abuse or neglect? What should you do to protect the child who is facing such danger?

Moral obligation

First, it's important to note that everyone is under the moral obligation to report suspected child neglect or abuse. Given the delicate nature associated with child abuse, many jurisdictions often allow anonymous tips. Nevertheless, some are mandated by their careers to report. These include medical and counsellors, social workers and school administrators.

Legal obligation

Some states have in fact criminalised failing to report suspected child abuse cases. For example, the state of Victoria has mandatory reporting. Such laws highlight the changing attitudes towards stamping out child abuse.

Persons who report alleged child abuse are normally protected from liability provided they act in good faith. Simply put, if you honestly believed that the health of the child was in jeopardy at the time of making the report, then even if your alarm is proved to be untrue, you cannot be held responsible for letting the authorities aware. Indeed, the law seeks to persuade people to report any suspected case of abused or abandoned children, and realises that reporting would be frowned upon if one would be easily held responsible for doing so.

If you decide to make a report about a suspected case of child abuse, note that you should make available the following information.

  • The identity of the child including their name, age as well as physical address
  • The caretaker's name and physical address
  • Any physical signs of neglect and abuse you observed. These include violent actions towards the child, bruises and scars.
  • Any behavioural tendencies of abuse displayed by the child
  • Your association with the child, and if mandatory, your name, career and address.

If you suspect a child is suffering abuse or neglect, you should get in touch with the local authorities immediately. You may also contact any local child protection service organization. More importantly, you should consult with one or more solicitors in your area to weigh in on the legal implications of making the report and find out whether or not you need to take any protections to shield against any unforeseen liability.