How to disclose or report child abuse or neglect

Reporting or disclosing abuse takes courage and is often something that an individual will wrestle with for a long time. In many instances it can be years after the abuse occurred that it is reported.

Bolt Burdon Kemp’s expert team is dedicated to helping survivors of abuse make that difficult first step, and are on hand to offer guidance and advice about how to report child abuse.

Every police force in the UK has a specialist child protection team who is responsible for investigating allegations of child abuse and neglect. The police will usually take down brief details by telephone and then arrange a longer appointment to take place in person. At this appointment they may take a full statement, which can either be video recorded or written.

We recognise that reporting child abuse for the first time is an extremely difficult step to take. If you are considering reporting abuse or neglect, please contact us so that we can advise you further.

In the case of an emergency or if you suspect a child is at risk, dial 999 immediately and report it to the police.

Disclosing child abuse

  • Disclosing the abuse is completely your choice. Everybody is different – make your disclosure when you feel ready to do so
  • You are not alone – other survivors’ accounts of their disclosures can help you understand the process and learn from their experiences
  • Disclose the abuse to who you feel most comfortable telling. You may want to tell a family member, partner or friend. If you are uncomfortable speaking to someone you know you can speak to your GP or a specialist child abuse charity. You can find more information on these charities on our partner organisation page
  • Specialist child abuse charities can help guide you through disclosure to family members and friends
  • Disclose in the way you want to. You don’t have to disclose in person – you can do it over the telephone, in writing or by using a child abuse charity’s webchat service
  • Disclosure can be done in stages. You don’t have to disclose everything in one go – it should happen at a pace you are comfortable with
  • You don’t have to disclose every detail of the abuse you suffered – how much you disclose is up to you
  • Find support when you are going through the disclosure process. This may come from a family member, partner or friend or through support from a child abuse charity or counsellor
  • If the person you disclose to doesn’t respond to your disclosure in a good way, find someone else who is able to support you through the process. Try not to be deterred by any negative responses to your disclosure
  • Disclosing your experiences can feel like a great weight has been lifted from your shoulders. Remember that disclosure is your choice and ultimately you should deal with it when and how you wish to

How to report child abuse to the police

  • It may be hard to accept, but if you have experienced child abuse or neglect, a crime has been committed against you, and you are the victim of that crime. It is also important to understand that you are also a survivor, and that by telling the police you may play a part in bringing your abuser to justice, and helping to stop or prevent the abuse of others
  • You don’t have to do this on your own. You can ask someone else to speak to the police for you when making the initial contact, and ask them to make the appointment on your behalf. You can also take someone you trust to support you at the appointment. This may be a family member, friend or partner
  • You don’t have to deal with it all in one go. You can make an initial report to the police with very brief information and your contact details
  • If you don’t feel comfortable seeing the police at first, you can speak to them on the phone
  • It is a good idea to speak to a child protection officer even if you’re no longer a child. Child protection officers deal with crimes against children, and you were a child when this happened, so they are the right people to talk to
  • You can ask to speak to a male or a female officer – whomever you feel most comfortable with
  • When the time is right for you to report the abuse, you can ask for a private room to talk about what happened to you
  • You may have felt let down by the police in the past, or may be distrustful of them. The vast majority of our clients say that the officers they spoke to were sensitive and understanding and they felt the police were on their side, possibly for the first time in their lives
  • The police are trained in these matters and won’t be shocked by rude words or swearing. You can talk about what happened to you in a way that you feel comfortable with
  • It is important not to exaggerate or add details that you know to be incorrect. By giving your account of what happened to you accurately as you recall it, the more helpful it will be in enabling the police to investigate the crime committed against you

How Bolt Burdon Kemp can help

We understand that taking the first step towards rebuilding your life can be extremely nerve-wracking. We will deal with your enquiry at your pace and will not press you to discuss anything you are not comfortable with.

Our expert, highly sensitive team will guide you through the process of reporting child abuse to the police. Ordinarily this will involve making an initial 101 call and speaking to the police force responsible for the area in which the abuse occurred. Bolt Burdon Kemp will support you through every step of this process.

Our team are specialist child abuse lawyers and are experienced in speaking and listening to survivors of abuse. We will not be shocked or embarrassed by your story and will treat you with respect and dignity. People often feel a tremendous sense of relief having taken the first step of speaking to us and getting advice about what to do next.