Child Abuse: Disclosures and Indicators


The B.C. Handbook for Action on Child Abuse and Neglect  offers a wealth of helpful information for individuals who work with children. Many of the tips and guidelines in this resource will support an adult in dealing with preventing and responding to child abuse.

One section of the handbook entitled “What to Watch For” explains that it is the responsibility of anyone who provides services to children to watch for signs of possible child abuse or neglect. “There are two main types of signs – disclosures and indicators. You should be prepared to recognize and respond to both,” the handbook explains.

The handbook also includes comprehensive lists on different types of abuse and indicators that individuals can observe. “It is important to note that many indicators – especially those of a behavioural nature – may be signs of other problems,” notes the handbook. “However, a series or cluster of indicators observed over a period of time may be a child’s reaction to abuse or neglect, and may appear as dramatic changes from the child’s normal behaviour.”

All on their own, indicators do not prove child abuse or neglect, the handbook notes. However, the handbook encourages people working with children to view indicators as a sign that we need to know more about the child’s circumstances. “That is why they should be reported to a child welfare worker,” the handbook explains.

The handbook also includes a helpful section on dealing with disclosures of child abuse and neglect. Disclosures, the handbook notes, can be direct or indirect.

  • DIRECT DISCLOSURES: Direct disclosures are when a child tells you directly that they are being abused or neglected. “Research shows that children often tell about their experiences many times before action is taken to respond,” states the handbook.
  • INDIRECT DISCLOSURES: Children also disclose abuse indirectly. In these cases, children do not tell directly about their abuse. They may communicate about their experiences of abuse indirectly through behaviour, art, stories, appearance, questions or conversations.

Pages 37-39 of the handbook provide helpful tips for “Talking to the child” and “What to do when a child discloses abuse or neglect.”

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