One of the most common areas in the field of trauma where new therapists require
guidance is regarding how to handle disclosures of child sexual abuse. Following are general guidelines
to assist you. Remember, always consult with your supervisor, agency or consultant since each situation
you encounter will have unique characteristics.
Limits Of Confidentiality:
The BC Child Family and Community Service Act (CFCS Act) requires anyone who suspects
that a child is being abused to report this to the Ministry of Social Services & Housing (the nearest MCFD
office to where the child resides, Emergency Services, or Zenith 1234-the Helpline for Children). If you
fail to do this, it is considered a criminal offence and you could be fined up to $10,000.00 and/or six
months in jail. You cannot say that you received the information about child abuse in confidence
(unless you are a lawyer and you received the information from a client) and use this as an excuse for not
reporting suspicion of abuse.
You can make a report even if you are not sure of the details and you cannot be sued as long as you
honestly believed that a child was in danger. You may report anonymously.
Responding To A Disclosure
Am I the first person that my client is telling? If a client starts talking about
child sexual abuse the first thing you want to know is if it has been reported or not. If it has been
reported then you have no obligation to do so again. Simply find out who the abuse was reported to and
document this information. If you are the first person to find out:
1. Ensure that your client knows that if you are told the story you are obligated to report.
2. Employ all your skills and knowledge about helpful responses. (See handout on Helpful Responses).
3. Ascertain who the offender is, what happened, where and when. You need to assess the immediacy of the
situation, specifically, the safety of the child’s current living situation and the possible need for
immediate medical attention: