Talking about abuse and neglect

If you feel worried, you might want to talk to the parent or another member of the family or whānau about your concerns.

Talking to families

If you’re comfortable talking to the family directly about something that worries you, here are some tips that others have found useful.

  • ‘Every mum wants to do their best – they don’t want to be hideous.’
    Choose a quiet time to talk rather than when there’s lots going on.
  • Focus on supporting the parent as well as providing safety for the child – eg, ‘If things get too much, you know you can drop him round to me for an hour or so.’
  • Ask questions and encourage parents to reflect on things, eg, ‘You talked about trying to cut back on drinking – that must be hard, how’s it going?’
  • Talk about what you’re hearing and seeing but avoid criticism, eg, ‘Sounds like the baby’s giving you stress – I was wondering if things are all right.’
  • Talk about your worries in a way that shows your concern, eg, ‘You’re my friend and I really care about you. I worry that you and the kids might get hurt.’
  • Appeal to the family’s desire to do the best for their child – eg, ‘If we keep hitting our kids, nothing will ever change – they’ll just grow up and hit our grandkids.’
  • ‘If you’re an adult and you’re observing this stuff speak up, act promptly and get the ball rolling. There’s a line.’
    Talk about consequences, eg, ‘If something happened and she was home by herself, you and I would never forgive ourselves.’
  • Acknowledge the reality of what’s happened, then ask for their ideas about what they could do differently, eg, ‘He probably won’t stop having parties and getting wasted – is there a safe place the kids could go?’

Don’t try to intervene in a violent situation or when people are angry or drunk – call the police on 111 or Oranga Tamariki – Ministry for Children on 0508 326 459. If you are concerned that your safety may be put at risk by reporting and wish to remain anonymous, phone Crimestoppers NZ on 0800 555 111.

Talking to children

If you’re talking with a child and you’re worried something’s wrong, ask open questions to clarify whether you should be concerned:

  • I’m wondering if you’re OK?
  • What’s wrong?
  • How come you’re not with your mum/dad/nan?
  • How are things for you at home?
  • What can I do to help?
‘I’m all about the kids … I can’t not help them.’

If a child tells you they have been hurt or abused, take them seriously. It is unusual for children or young people to make up stories about this.

It is important they feel they’ve done the right thing in telling you.

  • Let them know it’s good they told you.
  • Tell them it’s not their fault and it’s not OK.
  • Tell them you will get help – say something like ‘thank you for telling me, now I need to find someone to help me make sure you’re safe’.
  • Don’t let anyone who may be involved in the abuse know the child has said anything to you.
  • Write down what they said and how you responded.
  • Don’t question them further – it can confuse them and make further investigation more difficult.
  • Ring Oranga Tamariki on 0508 326 459 or the police on 111 as soon as possible.

The quotes included in this material are from ordinary New Zealanders who’ve taken action to keep a child safe. Be one of them.

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