I suspect a child is victim.
What can I do?

Recognise the Symptoms

The symptoms that show the consequences of the sexual violence situations are not always obvious and decisive, as every child reacts differently to the victimization.

Some of these symptoms may be behavioural, physical or verbal, as for instance when the child uses phrases, which are "too adult-like" for their development.

Talk to the Child or youngster


In the face of a revelation or suspicion of sexual violence, it is fundamental to believe the child.

If the victim has asked for help or made a (more or less direct) confession to an adult, it is because they trust that person and believe that, somehow, they can be helped.

It is important to try, as the interlocutor of the disclosure/suspicion, to remain calm and maintain empathetic but neutral expressions with the victim.


In the face of disclosure, it is possible that the adult the victim is talking to will feel:

  • Anger, because the offender is carrying out sexual violence against that child

  • Frustration, because the child has not disclosed the situation before, or on the contrary, for disclosing the situation

  • Anxiety, for wanting to act in the "right" way with the victim or anxiety for foreseeing their new way of relating to the offender (particularly if it is a family element)

  • Fear of reprisals against the victim or themselves

  • Sadness resulting from the disclosure, for the child, the family or themselves

  • Shock, for not knowing this situation at all until its disclosure


These reactions are normal, but it is important that, when facing a disclosure or suspicion, you do not show them to the child.

It is also important not to judge or evaluate the victim's report, otherwise the victim may not disclose again or ask for help in a dangerous situation.


The investigation into the veracity of the facts is the sole and exclusive responsibility of the police and judicial authorities.


Any conversation with the child should take place in a safe place, where no interruptions are possible.

Furthermore, this conversation should be attended by as few people as possible - preferably, the conversation should only take place between the victim and the adult.


When confronted with the children's report, the adult should not make any value judgements:

  • About who perpetrated the crime: as it is often a person close to the victim, it is to be expected that the child will defend or try to protect that person, because of the closeness/affection/intimacy they have with the offender

  • About the type of act suffered: it is not necessary for the act to be physically intrusive for the victim to suffer the impact of it. The adult should not devalue some acts of sexual violence in detriment of others

  • About the child's (non)reaction: the adult should not judge the victim about why they did not ask for help earlier, or why she/he did not react in a certain way to a sexual assault (e.g. "why haven’t you defend yourself?") or even about potential acts that may blame the victim for what happened (e.g. "you also provoked the situation")

It is also important that the adult reassures a criança ou jovem vítima: deverá proceder-se a um reforço positivo the child victim: there should be a positive reinforcementof the disclosure (e.g. "speaking about it was very important", "you were very brave") and show the child thatthey can count on their supportfrom now on, as they were the person they asked for help.


Some of the information on this website has been simplified so that it can be understood by everyone. This simplification does not, however, put in question the accuracy and correctness of the contents. The content of this website was created by APAV as part of the CARE plus project, funded by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation. The content reflects the point of view of APAV, which cannot be held responsible for any use that may be made of the information contained herein.