What to do if I suspect my customer is being sexually abused?

​If you begin suspecting that your customer/patient has been sexually abused

  • If a child/adolescent tells you about what happened, stay calm and listen. Remain neutral and avoid expressing your own opinions.
  • Do not interview the child/adolescent on your own initiative by actively asking questions about the matter. If he or she spontaneously continues talking, you can provide encouragement by saying, for example, "Tell me more about it". Avoid introducing to the discussion anything that the child/adolescent has not mentioned him- or herself, such as your own assumptions about the possible offender.
  • If the child's/adolescent's parent tells you about the matter without the child/adolescent being present, ask for more details. If the child/adolescent tells about the matter personally or is present while you hear about it from the parent, do not ask further. Instruct the parent not to talk about the matter in front of the child.
  • Avoid pressuring the child/adolescent into telling you about the matter and if he or she does not wish spontaneously to talk more about it, leave it at that.
  • Tell the child/adolescent, in a manner appropriate to his or her age, what will happen next; for example, that it is your duty to report the matter and the police's duty to investigate whether a crime has been committed.
  • Write down an exact description of the events, including who told of the matter and to whom, what this person said, where he or she spoke about the matter and when the suspicions arose. Note down, in as much detail as possible, who have been asking the child or adolescent about the matter, how many times the child or adolescent has been asked about it, what has been asked and what the child or adolescent has answered and explained.
  • Do not include your own interpretations; instead, use the words spoken by the person who told you about the matter.
  • Instruct the parents to write down anything the child spontaneously tells them about the matter and to avoid asking the child any questions about it.
  • Report the suspicion to the police as soon as possible.
  • Discuss and evaluate, together with the child/adolescent, his or her need for support.
  • Do not expose the child/adolescent to adult discussions about the matter. Avoid discussing the suspicion and any related matters with the parents or other people while the child/adolescent is present.
  • The timing of the suspected offender being informed about the suspicions might be relevant in the police investigations. Where possible, discuss with the investigating police about who will inform the suspected offender and when is the best time to do this.

Professionals have the duty to report suspicions

Professionals working within the social and health services, child day care services, educational services, youth services, morning and afternoon activities for school children, the police, fire and rescue services, the Criminal Sanctions Agency, refugee reception centres and parishes or other religious communities are obliged to report, regardless of confidentiality obligations, any suspicions of child sexual abuse they have become aware of through their work. The reporting duty applies to professionals both in the private and public sectors. This is because the rapid launching of criminal investigation is vital in investigating suspicions of sexual abuse. After receiving a notification, the police will investigate the matter, consider whether there are grounds to suspect an offence, and where necessary launch a pre-trial investigation.

When necessary, the child's or adolescent's need for treatment must be assessed within specialised medical care where sexual abuse is suspected. Prior to the completion of the pre-trial investigation, the suspected offence must not be discussed or investigated by treatment providers. During an ongoing pre-trial investigation, the treating unit should consult the police or the Forensic Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Center regarding the arrangement of treatment so as not to disturb the police investigation.

The instructions can also be used by others working with children and young people.