If you know or suspect someone is being abused, report the abuse to civil authorities. Then help the person get in touch with other resources for protection and healing, including medical help, Church leaders, and professional counselors.
Guidelines for Talking to a Victim of Abuse
Be caring, compassionate, and sensitive when speaking with victims of abuse. They may not be ready to talk about the abuse right away. The following guidelines are most helpful when speaking with a youth or adult who has the capacity to describe their experience. Younger children, or those with decreased physical or mental abilities, may need additional support when talking about their experiences.
1. Take time to listen.
It may take some time for a victim of abuse to start telling their story. It is important to be patient and listen. Reassure the person of your love and confidence. If possible, go to a safe and comfortable place where you can talk. Remain calm and take time to listen.
Do not panic or overreact to what the person tells you. This could stop the person from talking with you.
2. Take the disclosure seriously.
It is rare for a report of abuse to be false. As you listen, do not dismiss or attempt to minimize what the person has told you. Because the person may be afraid to tell you what has happened, be understanding and supportive of them as they talk. Show empathy. Reassure them that it took courage to tell you about the abuse and that you believe what they have told you.
With child abuse, the offender might have threatened the child by saying that physical harm or other bad things would happen to them if they ever told anyone about the abuse. Reassure them of your love and desire to keep them safe and protected.
3. Do not blame the person or suggest that the abuse was somehow their fault.
Remember the story of Joseph who was sold into Egypt. He had a dream that he would be his brothers’ leader. When he told his brothers about the dream, they hated him for it and later cast him into a pit and sold him as a slave (see Genesis 37). Even though Joseph told the brothers about the dream, it was not his fault that they treated him like they did. Joseph did nothing wrong and was not to blame.
A victim of abuse may feel guilty and responsible and assume that they are to blame. They may think they should have been smarter or stronger to stop or prevent the abuse. When children are abused, they are often enticed or tricked. Reassure victims that the abuse is not their fault and they have done nothing wrong.
4. Seek help.
Seek help immediately from civil authorities, child protective services, adult protective services, a victim advocate, or medical professionals. These services can help protect the victim and prevent further abuse. See the “In Crisis” page for more information.
Church leaders and members should fulfill all legal obligations to report abuse to civil authorities. Bishops and stake presidents should go to counselingresources.ChurchofJesusChrist.org for more information.
5. Help the victim connect with resources.
The victim may need help from outside resources and other professional help, including civil authorities, medical services, legal services, professional counselors, and Church leaders. You may offer to go with them to visit these resources and to create a plan to help them stay safe.
The bishop can also provide resources and support to deal with the abuse and begin the healing process.
If the victim is a minor, encourage them to talk to their parents or guardian about the abuse, if they have not already. If a parent is the offender, encourage them to talk to the non-offending parent or another trusted adult who can help.
Community and Church Resources
(Some of the resources listed below are not created, maintained, or controlled by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. While these materials are intended to serve as additional resources, the Church does not endorse any content that is not in keeping with its doctrines and teachings.)
- “Tips for Talking with Survivors of Sexual Assault,” Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN)
- “If You Suspect a Child Is Being Harmed,” Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN)
- “When Someone You Know Is Being Abused: Safety and Well-Being Tipsheet Series,” National Center on Domestic Violence, Trauma & Mental Health
- “How to Help a Friend Who Is Being Abused,” womenshealth.gov
- “Is Someone You Know Being Abused?” IRIS Domestic Violence Center
- “Domestic Violence and Abuse: Recognizing the signs of an abusive relationship and getting help,” HelpGuide.org