The First Steps

The First Steps - Getting Started

1. Know the signs of child abuse 
Signs of abuse may include:
  • Depression or anxiety
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sudden change in grades
  • Headaches
  • Constant Stomach Aches
  • Bedwetting not associated with training
  • Defecating or soiling of underwear
  • Pain urinating or with bowel movement
  • Bruising
  • Change of friends
  • Going inward and being more anti-social 
  • Fear of all people or certain people
  • Sleeping issues including nightmares
  • Anger or aggression

2. Believe your child when they tell you they were abused

  • You may want to dismiss and invalidate the abuse or maybe it is too overwhelming to even believe your child has been abused by your spouse, partner or significant others.
    • While this is difficult to do, know a child may only tell once. It is extremely important that you acknowledge what you have heard. Do not deny it or say it is not true.
    • Know that only 2 to 6% of abuse disclosures by children are untrue. Trust your child. Most likely your child is telling the truth.
    • Remember, this is what happened to your child, not whom they are.
    • There is no shame for the abuse victims. Talk about what they tell you, so they know this is not their shame or guilt.
  • Tell your child you believe her/him.
  • Tell your child it is not their fault and how proud you are of them that they shared this with you. Most children do not tell. If they are telling you, it means they trust you.  
  • Do not ask any leading questions; let them tell you.
    • Do not put words into their mouth by asking questions you may have. You must let them lead the conversation.
  • Stay calm. Getting angry will only make your child shut down.
  • Let them tell as much as they are willing. This may be the only time they are able to tell. If you allow them to speak, they will know you care and may be more able to tell another person.
  • You can ask what happened and how did that make him or her feel.
    • You can repeat what your child said, to validate that you heard them and to reassure them you understand the situation.
    • You can ask if they are OK, and say you are concerned about them, you can tell something is bothering them, etc.
    • You can ask how it happened. Know they may tell you of the abuse, but most likely they will not say who did it for they have probably have been threatened not to tell. Many children want to protect their abuser, especially if it is a parent.
    • Do not make promises to your child. Tell them you will seek the right help and do all you can do to help. 
    • Remember, most children who are abused have been groomed for years and they may not even know how to label the abuse or understand that they were abused. They may only know instinctively something's not right.
  • It will be OK if you did something different already. Most protective parents do not come to our site until their child has already been abused. You do want to tell your child that you believe them now though. You should thank your child for being brave to tell you and you are sorry for being unable to hear what they had to say earlier.  

3. Protect your Child

  • This step is necessary. You need to stand up for the protection of your child by having the right boundaries and taking the hard step to state to another person that your child has been abused.  
  • If you see signs or hear your child might have been abused, ask for professional help via a physician or counselor. Look for a counselor who is trauma informed and has a background in the type of abuse your child has suffered.
  • Tell the professional you are concerned. Let them do the discovery; you only give the facts of what you see and heard from your child.
  • You are not a mandated reporter. Many courts are likely to be suspicious of parents in custody disputes who directly call the authorities. This can be a catch-22. However, protective parents are allowed to report the abuse.
    • Call your local law enforcement agency, who will cross report to your local child protection agency.
    • Many, if not most, counties have a multi-disciplinary interview center where sexually abused children are interviewed by a forensic interviewer. 
    • If you do not report this abuse and someone else reports it, you could be found to have endangered your child.  
    • If your child has visual signs of abuse, have this documented by a professional.
    • Note, children who have been sexually abused should have an immediate SART’s (Sexual Abuse Response Team) exam. Not all hospitals offer this service.
  • You do not need to have all the answers.

4. Ensure Your Child is Safe
  • If authorities begin an investigation of the abuse allegations, they can move forward with temporary emergency protective orders to protect your child/children during an investigation.
  • Seek Professional Legal Help 
    • CPPA does not give out legal advice nor do we have lawyers on staff. 
  • If you are able to afford an attorney, hire one that is recommended to you or whom you research. Lawyers vary in their knowledge and understanding of abuse allegations.
  • If you cannot afford an attorney, please know many parents do represent themselves in court. While this is a disadvantage if the other parent has a lawyer, you can do this. Many before you have done this with no experience.
    • Go to your county's Superior Court homepage. 
    • There will be self help sections and directions on how to file, what forms to fill out and information on their self help center.
    • Go the your county's self help center for free legal advice.
  • Find the right counselor for yourself as well.  
  • You might need to go to an abuse shelter in the beginning, or the shelter may help you prepare on how to leave an abuser.
  • File for protection with these possible orders:
    • Restraining orders
    • Custody change
    • Supervised visits
  • Follow the laws and the Court Orders
    • You must follow all current court orders.
    • If you have no court orders:
      • Do not take your children out of state.
      • If you are in a shelter, you will be provided direction on how to protect yourself and your child/children.
      • Call the local law enforcement to report your whereabouts to ensure authorities know you have not kidnapped your child/children.
      • Advise the abuser/your spouse of your actions as much as possible including your location, unless the shelter advises against disclosing your location, and keep a line of communication open.
  • While we know of some parents who have gone into hiding to protect their children, we do not recommend you do this. The system has not protected many children and we are doing our best to end this crisis for you. We are working to ensure the professionals follow the law to provide for your child/children to be safe, therefore we must follow the law. Most protective parents who go underground are found. Sadly, this is the choice of some protective parents, because the courts are not protecting our children from abuse as they should in all cases.

5. Remember Self Care
  • Find a Support Group for Yourself
    • CPPA will be starting a weekly support group soon. Join the list here to hear updates.
    • Join established groups at your church or a church near you, AA, Al-anon, Divorce and Relationship Recovery, TAALK, etc.
    • Lean into friends and family. While support groups are helpful, there may be some friends or family who can support you during this time. Know that everyone has their own boundaries and if they are unable to help you, know they may not have the right tools to do so or may be dealing with their own issues. Do not take it personally if a friend or family member is overwhelmed by your situation. Some people may avoid your for maybe they were abused and have not disclosed it yet. Others may just not know what to say.
    • Join Facebook groups that support protecting children, including our page at
  • Create a healthy routine 
    • This time of your life will not last forever, but it can overwhelming and difficult. Creating a healthy route is essential to walking through this journey.
      • Get good sleep
      • Exercise, even if it just a 15 minute walk
      • Eat well
      • Check in with friends and family as human connection is very important
      • Journal your experience
      • Meditate
  • Create new mantras and slogans
    • Abusers have a way of creating doubt for the courts as well as family members. Gaslighting is a typical tactic for an abuser to use on their victims and those whom they wish to silence. Their words may play over and over again in your head. It is time to turn them off.
    • Create a new mantra, write it out, draw it, post it and look at it every day.
    • Create one for your child/children as well as say it with them every night.
      • I am a strong, smart, beautiful/handsome, courageous and kind person.
How to Navigate Family Court
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