What to do if you suspect a child on your team is a victim of abuse
As a coach, you will be spending 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 spending this much time with your team members, you may discover some things that you wish you never happened. Child abuse is one of the scariest and hardest things to deal with. If you suspect one of your players is a victim of abuse, it can be very hard to know what to do. It is important to intervene and take action.
Confront the child in a loving and gentle way
For an abused child, it can be very scary to talk about the abuse they are going through. They may feel like it is impossible to get out of the situation they are in. Talk to them calmly and quietly about the suspicions you are feeling. They may not talk about it the first time you ask them, so be patient and follow-up with them about the concerns you have. Never pressure the child to tell you anything as this can make them close off even more.
Look for the signs
When you suspect that a child is being abused, there are certain signs that you must look for. Physical signs are the first that you should keep an eye out for. If you see repeated bruising that doesn’t make any sense, this is a big indicator of a troubling situation. Any burns or broken bones that make no sense can also be very scary signs of abuse. Unkempt hair, poor hygiene, and malnutrition can also be signs of neglectful behavior. The behavioral signs of abuse are very important to look out for as well. Extreme behaviors can be a sign of abuse. If a child is overly withdrawn, angry, sad, or shy, this could be the sign of repeated abuse. Problems with grades and truancy can also be a sign of abuse. If a young child is already experimenting with substances, this could be a warning sign.
The quicker you act, the better
While you may be afraid and not know what do, it is important to act quickly and seek help as soon as you can. The first 96 hours after an abusive incident are very important. Medical assessments that 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 out of a dangerous situation.
Make sure to reassure the child it is not their fault
Children who are enduring abusive situations constantly need reminders that this is not their fault. You must let them know that they did the right thing by telling you what is happening. Let them know that this has happened to other kids and it is not just something bad that only happened to them. This will help further their belief that it really is not their fault.
Jessica Kane is a writer for SteelLocker Sports. A leading provider of sporting goods and training programs for coaches, players, parents and institutions with a primary focus on youth sports.