Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting

Discussion of Sexual Abuse Scenario 1

The correct answer for Scenario 1 is Yes.

The situation referenced in Scenario 1 should be reported to DFCS as neglect.

Georgia law specifically prohibits sexual contact between a grandparent and a grandchild. O.C.G.A. § 19-7-5 (2012).

Key Concepts in Scenario 1:

  • Mandated reporters are required to report the sexual abuse of a child in Georgia.
  • Unusual behavior, particularly around the bathroom, can be a sign of sexual abuse.
  • People react to severe trauma differently. One person might be uncontrollably emotional while another might be completely unemotional on the outside.
  • Responding to a report of sexual abuse appropriately is important.
  • Safeguards should be put in place so that the student doesn’t need to tell the story over and over prior to investigators arriving.

Features of Scenario 1:

One sign of inappropriate sexual contact can be seen in bathroom behavior. A student who starts going to the bathroom outside of their normal pattern could be doing so in response to reactions their body is having to sexual assault. Of course, the student might also have a stomach virus, but the fact that the student in question is sitting back down gently with signs of discomfort is a further indicator that something may be wrong.

Urinary tract infections (causing frequent bathroom requests) as well as physical discomfort when sitting are common physical reactions to sexual assault. The presence of symptoms such as these in students should alert child serving professionals to consider whether or not the child is safe.

Students who have been sexually traumatized may appear very emotional or they can appear very emotionally blunted. The student in this scenario has a blank face and a faraway gaze where she is typically animated and engaged. She also looks at the teacher blankly and reports the sexual assault by her grandfather without emotion. This initial reaction to significant trauma is common and should not be a reason to dismiss the validity of the student’s allegations.

Responding appropriately to someone disclosing a sexual assault is difficult and important. It is typically recommended to respond by thanking the person for sharing with you and saying that you are going to help. In this scenario, you have all the information required to make a mandated report, so additional questions about what happened are unnecessary and discouraged because they may interfere with an investigation.

Helping by getting the student to the nurse is necessary in this instance because you do not know the extent of her physical injuries. Here, it is important you make sure the student is evaluated for medical stability. The school nurse is the first logical step to ensure she is stable. Asking quietly for a private meeting with the nurse between the two of you allows for a gentle transition. Recognizing that the student is traumatized, being emotionally gentle and easy is warranted.

It is typically recommended that a student who has just reported a sexual assault not be required to continue telling the story to others. It is best that she tell the story next to investigators. In this situation, it might be important to lead the conversation with the nurse by saying that the student told you some things and you are going to make sure she gets help. Report the physical symptoms as they were explained to you and be clear that the nurse understands that the student has already described what happened to cause them. As the nurse takes over, gently excuse yourself with assurances that you are going to continue helping.

Immediately follow the protocol for reporting sexual abuse as a mandated reporter.

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