Some Frequently Asked Questions

Adults who understand child abuse are in a better position to protect children from possible abuse. The following frequently asked questions are designed to provide information about child maltreatment. If you still have questions after reading these materials, please call us at (843) 723-3600. We are here to help.

What are the types of child abuse?

There are several types of child abuse. Read more about them here.

What can I do to help my child if they disclose abuse?

When a child discloses abuse, it is crucial for the important adults in his or her life to express belief, support, and protection of that child. It is important for parents to know that they do not have to investigate the abuse. Professionals whose job it is to talk with children in just these situations, are there for that reason. If a child has been abused, being believed and supported by their caregiver is critical.

How should I ask my child about being abused?

If you do not have any indication that your child has been abused, it may be more appropriate and helpful to give your child information rather than question them. For example, saying to your child that as their parent it is your job to keep them safe and you want them to tell you if someone or something scares or worries them. Giving them examples such as, some kids get scared of bigger kids because they bully them, or hit them. Some kids get scared because someone tries to get them to do something wrong like take something that doesn’t belong to them or someone tries to touch them or make them touch another on their privates. Ask your child if there might be other examples or things that scare or worry kids. Tell your child that you want to know about any of those things so that you can help them stay safe. You may then suggest that if anything like getting hit, having someone bully them or try to hurt or touch them on their privates has happened that you want to know so that you can help stop what is happening. If your child does tell you about being abused, it is very important that you contact the proper professionals, rather than trying to find out additional information yourself. These professionals’ jobs are to talk with children about just these things.

What do I tell my child if he or she discloses abuse?

Assure your child that he or she is not in trouble and you will do your best to keep him or her safe. Encourage your child to tell the truth. Do not question your child. (Instead, contact the proper authorities.) If he or she mentions the abuse, listen to what your child says. Pay attention to his or her feelings and provide comfort.

Is spanking considered child abuse? Is there a difference in spanking with your hand and spanking with an object?

Spanking is not necessarily physical abuse. However, spankings that cause injury to a child can be considered physical abuse. Whether the spanking is administered with a hand or an object, it can still result in injury to the child. We have learned through years of research that there are other methods of discipline that are more effective and won’t injure the child. Physical punishment fact sheet.

Can a child consent to having sex with an adult or much older child?

No. Children are simply not mature enough to make an informed decision regarding having sex.

What type of person typically sexually abuses children?

There is no one set of characteristics that describes people who sexually abuse children. Sex offenders are represented in every socio-economic, ethnic, religious and racial group. We do know that over 90% of child sex offenders are someone that the victim and the victim’s family knows.

Wouldn’t a child who has been sexually abused be fearful of the offender?

Not always. People who sexually abuse children usually want to continue to have contact with the child so the abuse can continue. They also want the child to accept the sexual behaviors as okay. For these reasons, many offenders show special attention toward their victims, including acts of love and gifts (some people call this “grooming” behavior). Offenders may define the relationship and the child as special. Individuals who sexually abuse children often appear as loved and cherished adults in or close to the child’s family who play a positive role in the child’s life.

Why wouldn’t my child tell me if he or she were abused?

Only 1 out of 10 children tell about their abuse during childhood. Abusers often threaten their child victims or the children’s loved ones with harm if they tell about the abuse. Even if not threatened, children may not tell because they are afraid bad things may happen in their family (e.g., someone may be harmed, get in trouble, or go to jail). They may feel afraid that they will not be believed or will be blamed for not stopping the abuse.

Young children may not tell because they do not know what sexual or physical abuse is or that it is wrong. Older children may feel guilty due to accepting special attention and gifts or may not want to lose that attention.

Isn’t it better for my child not to talk about the abuse so he or she can forget about what happened?

Studies show that actively avoiding memories or reminders of the abuse may actually lead to worsened emotional or behavioral difficulties later in life. While avoiding issues of sexual or physical abuse may be more comfortable for the adults, children may be left feeling responsible, ashamed and confused. Abuse happens under conditions of secrecy. Openly talking about the abuse lets the child know that it is okay to tell and that the adults in the child’s life can handle this disclosure. Communication is a critical tool in resolving the problem: it helps the child understand the abuse, clarify who is responsible and to feel okay about him or herself.

My significant other has hurt me in front of my child; what effect will this have on him or her?

Domestic violence can teach a child that it is ok to hit or be hit. We want our children to be safe and learn that violence to them and/or from them is never acceptable. As a parent, you are your children’s role model and they learn so much from what they see, not just what they are told.

My children were in the other room when the violence occurred so that would not have an impact on them, would it?

It actually could. Hearing violence and aggressive language can be frightening to a child. Seeing injury to any caregiver also has a negative effect on a child.

What will happen if my child comes to Dee Norton?

Contact with the Dee Norton Child Advocacy Center and the family usually begins with telephone communication to set an appointment. A family advocate will meet with you upon arrival and help begin the process. A trained professional will meet with you and interview your child. The length of the interview with the child can vary and may last from 15 minutes to over an hour. Most families spend about two to three hours for their initial appointment. A medical examination may be needed. If so, staff from the Medical University of South Carolina, provide these services on-site at Dee Norton. These trained medical professionals specialize in providing examinations for children. The exam is non-invasive and every effort will be made to make your child feel comfortable. An assessment of your children’s emotional and behavioral functioning is also available. This appointment will be scheduled when you are at the first appointment, and will take place on a different day. Read more about our Services here.

Will my child have to testify in court?

It is possible. Certainly the idea of court can be intimidating to children as well as adults. The goal is protection of the child as well as the community. Many caregivers worry about the consequences of their child testifying in court. If a child is properly prepared for testifying, it can greatly reduce their anxiety and fear. In fact, many children have felt empowered that they get their “day in court” to tell the judge what happened to them. Child sex abuse and the emotional stress of the legal system.