Debra Allnock, Pam Miller and Helen Baker. University of Bedfordshire and NSPCC. September 2019.
This review of research presents different aspects of the impact of disclosure of child abuse by a child, adolescent or adult. The different ways in which children disclose are covered. The mode of communication, may be verba (directly telling or indirectly – by e.g. saying does not want to go somewhere), or non-verbal by actions. Spontaneity or intent may be factors. Children may want teachers to notice signs such as self-harm, eating disorders, acting out in class, and being alone and withdrawn at school.
Disclosure can be traumatic and have both short and long term effects on children’s emotional wellbeing and need to be handled correctly. Some children report feeling ‘relief’ and ‘pride’ after disclosing. However, children also report feeling embarrassment, anger and sadness.
Younger children are more likely to confide in a parent or family member, while adolescents are more likely to confide in a friend or peer. Professionals in universal settings such as health and education are well placed to identify children who are experiencing – or have experienced – abuse and may be trying to communicate this. Teachers are the professionals to whom children most commonly make initial disclosures. Seldom is it to police or social workers.
Professionals should consider appropriate support for children, and their families, in the immediate period following disclosure.