When anyone makes a claim of sexual assault, no matter their age gender or sexual history, we have an obligation to listen. Reserve your opinions, do not challenge veracity and please resist offers of advice. Just listen. If you have no professional experience, do not pretend you know what is best. Offer support and then follow that up with actual support! Your personal experiences, or those of others you know are not relevant. Listen to everything if you can. Say very little. Even if you think you know what they’re going through, remember that you probably don’t. Your experience is not theirs. When dealing with a child, depending on your role, you may be required to report. If you are a professional, you should already know this and know how to proceed. If you don’t know, don’t guess. Ask someone you trust. Another professional, of course. You may feel a need to contact the parent or guardian. Let the authorities handle that. It’s definitely not your responsibility and it could go awry. An adult does not need your intervention, no matter how well-meaning it may be. As I said, just listen. There is probably a good reason you were chosen to bear this burden. And a burden it is. Although you may not have been asked to keep this information to yourself, it’s safe to assume that you are expected to do so. Again, if you are a professional, and the claimant is a child, you MUST report to the proper authority. Ask your supervisor if you have one. Call the child abuse hotline if you don’t or if your supervisor isn’t sure of what to do. Try to prevent anyone other than the proper authority from speaking to the child. You do not need further corroboration. If your supervisor, or whoever, insists, be firm. Only trained professionals know how to properly interview children under these circumstances.
It is much more complicated than I just described. Tis has been the very short version. I am not about to teach a six week certification course in six paragraphs. I have been following, as you may have deduced, the Supreme Court Justice nomination hearings. Without political insinuation I must say it has been, to put it mildly, horrific. Transparency aside, to make this into a public spectacle is most egregious. Perhaps we have become a society where nothing is private, not coincidentally since the proliferation of social media platforms. Nonetheless, some degree of decorum could and should remain. Staying true to my previous statement, I do not wish to further divide the process along party lines, so I will not comment on the demeanor of those involved. Emotions bubble up, spill over and color the proceedings. Take a lesson from that and remain composed…as much as you can. Try to remember that you have been entrusted with what may be the most significant harrowing experience in a person’s life thus far. So you didn’t ask for it. I get that. But it is yours now so handle with care. One more thing. It’s not a reality show, regardless of how dramatic it appears. Real lives are on the line here. Calm, cool and patient are key terms to keep in mind. Thank you for your restraint.
P.S. If you have questions, ask. I may be able to help if we keep it hypothetical outside of the treatment space. Otherwise, make an appointment. We have experience and expertise in this area. Thanks.