Every person has the responsibility to ensure that children are kept safe from harm. There are family law rules in place in British Columbia that speak to the best interests of children. So, what should you do if you suspect a child in your family is being abused ‚ either physically, emotionally or sexually?
First, it‚ important to understand the indicators of potential abuse. Children who are being abused often show signs that something is wrong. Some warning signs include:
- Bruises or other marks on a child
- Fractures that can’t be explained
- Poor hygiene
- Inappropriate clothing for weather conditions
- Marked changes in attitude
- Withdrawn or fearful behavior
- Displays of sexual knowledge that is age inappropriate
If you are an adult the child trusts, they may voluntarily offer information to you about their abuse. In such cases, it‚ important to stay calm and reassure the child that they are believed. Let them know it’s not their fault. Never agree to keep the information secret, since you will probably need to notify the authorities or an attorney to help resolve the situation ‚ especially if their immediate safety is in jeopardy.
The law makes it clear that it is incumbent upon anyone suspecting abuse to notify the proper authorities. If you suspect a minor 19 years of age or younger is being abused, you should report your concerns to a provincial child welfare worker. It is not up to you to prove anything ‚ the authorities will investigate individual cases.
If you are a family member of a child whom you suspect is being abused, you may wish to speak with a family law lawyer about what steps you can take. They can give you insight into options to put the child out of harm‚ way.