Is your child a victim of abuse? Police share which questions to ask

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Sex crimes against children always garner public outrage, but for parents concerned their child might be a victim, finding the right questions to confirm their suspicions might not come easy.

Sgt. Dan Oliver with the Sedgwick County Sheriffs Office says that it is best for parents to ask questions that are open-ended and non-leading.

“Not directly asking ‘Did that bad man touch you’ but more of ‘I have observed a change in behavior and I have these types of concerns, is something happening?’,” Sgt. Oliver said.

Not every child will answer questions like these; they might be embarrassed or scared because the abuser threatened them.

Sgt. Oliver works in the Missing and Endangered Child Unit in Wichita, dealing with numerous crimes against children. He says not to discount a child’s concerns.

“Kids don’t just make stuff up like this for no reason,” Sgt. Oliver said. “So any investigation we do in law enforcement, we try to corroborate stories, and evidence. Part of our jobs as detectives and truth seekers is to get a quality interview, take that information and find ways to corroborate it or discount that information.”

“So when you decide that you need to have this conversation with this child, be mindful of the time and the place and how do you go about having this conversation. You don’t want to do this at the dinner table or the Christmas dinner. Somewhere private, somewhere quiet, somewhere the child feels comfortable.”

Sgt. Oliver says that parents can teach their children some preventative steps. By teaching their children that body parts are private and it is not okay for others to ask them to undress – besides situations like doctor visits – and to say no if they feel uncomfortable.  

“The newer way of looking at things is to tell the child basically consent; if a kid doesn’t want to do something that an adult is telling them, maybe talk to the child about why the child doesn’t want to do and you may learn that there is a reason that they are uncomfortable,” Sgt. Oliver said.

“Sometimes kids don’t want to talk to the parental figure because they feel like they are in trouble and reaffirming to your child that they can and should talk to others if they are having someone is hurting them or abusing them. They can talk to a teacher, a doctor, a fireman, policeman whoever… and I tell kids that if something happens to you in the future, tell as many people as you can until somebody helps  you.”

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