Hot potatoes for youth worker’s: I was sexually abused.

There have been many times in my career that I have been stopped in my tracks by something that has been said to me by a young person. None of them have had the effect on me that dealing with an allegation of sexual abuse has. Whether you are a youth minister, a chaplain, a street outreach worker or a case manager it is highly likely that you will deal with this at one stage in your career. According to the Centre’s Against Sexual Assault here in Victoria 1 in 3 women and 1 in 6 men are survivors of childhood sexual abuse.
I do not remember the first disclosure that was made to me but over the past decade or so I have had dozens. From young people in child protection custody to children from well to do families I have been on the recieving end of a number of quite horrific disclosures of abuse and neglect. The one thing I do remember is that if it wasnt for my training and the ammount of role plays that we did I would not have been ready to deal when the young person said they were sexually abused.
Recently I have been training chaplains in how to deal with a disclosure of sexual abuse and I thought it prudent to share this with you. Here are a few thoughts to help you in your response.

  1. Remember your duty of care. Any disclosure of abuse needs to be taken to the appropriate authorities. You are there for their safety first and foremost.

  2. Make sure that they are currently safe and that they will continue to be safe. If they disclose that they are being abused at home and that it happens every night then they need to be protected now… not in a couple of weeks.

  3. Listen to their allegation. If you have already spoken to them about your duty of care and they continue then they genuinely need to get it off their chest. Listen intently so that you can make notes later.

  4. Refer them to the police and child protection. In most developed states and countries the police and child protective services are the ones tasked with investigating abuse claims. You are not an investigator, you are a confidant.

  5. If it is possible, contact the young persons parents and involve them in the process of referral and healing.

  6. Finally make notes. you may be called on to give evedence in a court case so as soon as is practicable write down a detailed description of what was said and what you observed from the young person.

Above all of this you must comply with your states and countries legislation. If you are required to report issues of sexual abuse you MUST do it. We at Ultimate Youth Worker believe that we all have an ethical requirement to report even if we are not mandated. 

Aaron Garth

Aaron Garth is the Executive Director of Ultimate Youth Worker. Aaron has worked as a youth worker in a number of settings including local church, street drug and alcohol outreach, family services, residential care, local government and youth homelessness since 2003. Aaron is a regular speaker at camps, retreats, & youth work training events and is a dedicated to seeing a more professional youth sector in Australia. Aaron is a graduate of RMIT University and an alumnus of their youth work program. He lives in Melbourne with his wife Jennifer & their daughters Hope, Zoe, Esther, Niamh and son Ezra.

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  1. “If you are required to report issues of sexual abuse you MUST do it.” – I agree. To stop the increase of abuse victims, all abusers should be reported to the authorities. They’ll never stop doing harm when they’re given the freedom to do so. You can report to the authorities directly, or consult a lawyer first. Thanks for these tips, Aaron! 🙂

    Vesta Duvall @ The Zalkin Law Firm, P.C.

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