What should I do if you suspect that a child on your team is a victim of abuse
As a coach, you spend a lot of time with the kids on your team. Your team members look up to you and will listen to you in important matters, even outside of sports. When you spend so much time with your team members, you may discover some things that you wish never happened. Child abuse is one of the most frightening and difficult things to deal with. If you suspect that one of your players is a victim of abuse, it can be very difficult to know what to do. It is important to intervene and act.
Confront the child in a loving and gentle way
For an abused child, it can be very frightening to talk about the abuse they are going through. They may feel that it is impossible to get out of the situation they are in. Talk calmly and quietly with them about the suspicions you are feeling. They may not talk about it the first time you ask them, so be patient and follow them up on the concerns you have. Never press the child to tell you anything, as this may cause them to close even more.
Look for the signs
When you suspect a child is being abused, there are certain signs you need to look for. Physical signs are the first things you need to keep an eye on. If you see repeated bruises that make no sense, this is a great indicator of a worrying situation. Any burns or broken bones that do not make sense can also be very frightening signs of abuse. Unpleasant hair, poor hygiene and malnutrition can also be signs of negligent behavior. The behavioral signs of abuse are also very important to watch out for. Extreme behavior can be a sign of abuse. If a child is overly withdrawn, angry, sad or shy, this may be a sign of repeated abuse. Problems with grades and delusions can also be a sign of abuse. If a young child is already experimenting with drugs, this may be a warning sign.
The faster you act, the better
While you may be scared and do not know what you are doing, it is important to act quickly and seek help as soon as you can. The first 96 hours after a violent incident are very important. Medical assessments can be made quickly after an incident that can be very crucial in any criminal investigation. The longer you wait, the harder it will be for social workers to help remove this child from a dangerous situation.
Be sure to reassure the child that it is not their fault
Children who are exposed to violent situations constantly need reminders that it is not their fault. You need to tell them that they did the right thing by telling you what’s going on. Tell them that this has happened to other children and it is not just something bad that just happened to them. This will help promote their belief that it really is not their fault.
Jessica Kane is another author SteelLocker Sports. A leading provider of sports equipment and training programs for coaches, players, parents and institutions with a primary focus on youth sports.