17.4.1 What do you do if you suspect child abuse?
Dealing with child abuse is difficult. It is important to be sensitive and tactful. Your priority must be the health and safety of the child. If you suspect the child is being abused, you may wish to discuss this with the child and – if appropriate (see below) – with other family members. If family members know about the problem, ask what they have done to try to stop it. If they were not aware, ask them about their opinion and what they think should be done. Formulate a plan with the family and then monitor the situation. If the abuse is being done by one or more members of the family, tell them of the potential consequences of what they are doing.
The family should also be aware of the legal protection of the child and that it is a serious criminal offence to harm a child in this manner. Again, monitor the situation. If there is no change and you continue to be concerned, you should do what is locally appropriate. This may include involving other family members, neighbours and local elders in safeguarding the child. It also helps to know what kinds of programmes are available to support children who are victims of abuse. In many parts of the country, there are special police officers with expertise in dealing with victims of abuse. If you have reason to believe that the child’s life is in danger, it will be necessary for you to act immediately in informing the appropriate authorities.