How and When to Report Suspected Abuse
Parents & Friends
If you are a parent or friend concerned about a child in your life, you're in the right place. Children may not always know how to talk about abuse, so it's our jobs as adults to know the signs and do the right thing.
Children who have been abused may experience all, none, or some of the following signs. Trust your instincts. Suspected abuse is enough of a reason to contact the authorities. You do not need proof.
For more information on how to report abuse, refer to the "How to Report" section at the end of this page.
If you are uncertain if you are a mandated reporter, please see the mandated reporter info page to learn more about whether or not you are mandated to report in the state of Hawaii. However, remember that all adults have a responsibility to report child abuse, even if they are not a mandated reporter.
If a mandated reporter has any reason to believe that child abuse or neglect has occurred, or that a child may be a victim of child abuse or neglect in the future, they must immediately report. Any suspicion is enough to report; you do not need proof.
DO YOU KNOW THE SIGNS?
Some signs that a child is experiencing violence or abuse are more obvious than others. Trust your instincts. Below are indicators of child abuse that can include–but are not limited to–these signs. Suspected abuse is enough of a reason to contact the authorities. You do not need proof.
Visible signs of physical abuse may include unexplained burns or bruises in the shape of objects. You may also hear unconvincing explanations of a child's injuries.
CHANGES IN BEHAVIOR
Abuse can lead to many changes in a child's behavior. Abused children often appear scared, anxious, depressed, withdrawn or more aggressive.
RETURNING TO EARLIER BEHAVIORS
Abused children may display behaviors shown at earlier ages, such as thumb-sucking, bed-wetting, fear of the dark or strangers. For some children, even loss of acquired language or memory problems may be an issue.
FEAR OF GOING HOME
Abused children may express apprehension or anxiety about leaving school or about going places with the person who is abusing them.
CHANGES IN EATING
The stress, fear, and anxiety caused by abuse can lead to changes in a child's eating behaviors, which may result in weight gain or weight loss.
CHANGES IN SLEEPING
Abused children may have frequent nightmares or have difficulty falling asleep, and as a result may appear tired or fatigued.
CHANGES IN SCHOOL PERFORMANCE & ATTENDANCE
Abused children may have a difficulty concentrating in school or have excessive absences, sometimes due to adults trying to hide the children's injuries from authorities.
LACK OF PERSONAL CARE OR HYGIENE
Abused or neglected children may appear uncared for. They may present as consistently dirty and have severe body odor, or they may lack sufficient clothing for the weather.
Young people who are being abused may engage in high-risk activities such as using drugs or alcohol or carrying a weapon.
INAPPROPRIATE SEXUAL BEHAVIOR
Children who have been sexually abused may exhibit overly sexualized behavior or use explicit sexual language.
If a child in your life displays any signs that may concern you, as a trusted adult you can create a safe space for them to share. Talk to the child, ask open ended questions, and respond in a nonjudgemental tone.
"Have you ever been hurt by a person taking care of you?"
"Is anyone touching you in a way that's doesn't feel good?"
"Are you afraid to tell? Telling me anything is OK."
"Has anyone asked you to keep a secret from me?"
"Is everything OK? We trust you, you can tell us. We will support you."
if a child discloses abuse to you...
Believe the child.
Allow the child to talk.
Show interest and concern.
Reassure and support the child.
Take action. It could save a child’s life.
Panic or overreact.
Confront the offender.
Press the child to talk.
Promise anything you can’t control.
Overwhelm the child with questions.
Blame or minimize the child’s feelings.
How to report Suspected Abuse
If you believe a child is in immediate danger, please call 911.
To report suspected abuse or neglect, please call the Child Abuse and Neglect reporting line:
Oahu – 808-832-5300
Toll Free Neighbor Islands – 1-888-380-6688
If you have any suspicion of labor or sex trafficking, please call the Human Trafficking reporting line:
Oahu – 808-832-1999
Toll Free Neighbor Islands – 1-888-398-1188
The police or child welfare services will walk you through the process on how to make a report. To make sure you are prepared, please read the CWS Guide for Mandated Reporters .
*This information was provided by the Hawaii Department of Child Welfare Services.