It is normal to find such situations difficult to know how to deal with. However, you could make a critical difference in the life of the abused or neglected child and it is imperative that you take steps to act immediately.
– Talking to the abused or neglected child
If you choose to talk to the child then you must try to show that you are there to provide unconditional support and reassurance. If you show any form of denial of the abuse then an abused child, who may already find it difficult to discuss the abuse, may shut down completely. You should provide reassurance that they have done nothing wrong. It is important not to interrogate the child but rather let them speak for themselves about what has happened to them.
It may be better to leave it to a professional to talk to the child if you feel that either the safety of the child or yourself could be put at risk by talking directly to them or if you feel less than confident about talking with the child.
– Get the child help by reporting the abuse or neglect
It is critical to act on your suspicions and report the abuse or neglect to get help immediately to the child. The effects of abuse and neglect are often for life. They can affect self esteem, the ability to form relationships, can lead to lost job opportunities, drug and alcohol abuse and may even lead to putting more children at risk of abuse.
Even if you only have suspicions, the child protection services and police are best placed to investigate your concerns rather than yourself. They will only remove the child from their home if the child is clearly in danger. Others may have raised their own suspicions and by reporting your own concerns, this may be enough for action to be taken when the abuse or neglect would have otherwise been left to continue.