To Report Child Abuse

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Below are answers to common questions about child abuse. Knowing the facts can help you protect your family and stop abuse before it starts.

Frequently Asked Questions

How is it possible for an abuser to convince my child to participate?

Abusers create a detailed plan to manipulate the child and/or the child’s family. By doing so, the abuser gains trust of the child and family. After forming this relationship, the abuser is able to take advantage of the time spent alone with the child.

Once groomed, the child finds it difficult to escape the abuse or feel comfortable telling anyone about the abuse. Grooming creates a sense of loyalty between the abuser and the child. In nearly 93% of child abuse cases, the child knows and trusts the abuser.

What does it mean when a perpetrator “grooms” a child or family?

Grooming is the building of a trusting relationship by a perpetrator to a child. Grooming makes it difficult for a child to escape the abuse and keeps a child from telling because the child has come to know, trust, and like the abuser. This creates a sense of guilt in the child, believing the abuse is their own fault.

Signs of grooming include:

  • Buying the child gifts/giving the child money
  • Finding excuses for alone time with the child
  • Treating the child as more special than other children
  • Viewing child when nude or exposing the child to nudity or pornography
  • Excessive inappropriate touching
  • Talking about sexual activity with a child

What is involved regarding sexual abuse between an abuser and a child?

Perpetrators break down the defenses of children by explaining that they were only playing a game. Abuse generally begins with touching and kissing and progressively moves to more severe sexual activity. The perpetrator gives names to the child’s and his/her own genitalia as to lessen the fear of what is happening.

Wouldn’t my child tell me if he/she was being abused?

Abusers manipulate children into keeping the abuse a secret. Children feel helpless to tell anyone about the abuse because the abuser has given the child reasons why they shouldn’t tell.

Reasons can include any of the following:

  • Abuser is a trusted family member/friend
  • Child believes no one will believe him/her
  • The child is ashamed or embarrassed
  • The abuser has made threats towards the child or the child’s family or is bribed by the abuser
  • The abuser blames the child
  • The child doesn’t want to get into trouble

If my child doesn’t tell me about the abuse, how else can I find out about it?

A recent study showed that 74% of the time abuse was disclosed it was an accidental disclosure meaning a third party had observed the abuse or symptoms, not the child (him/herself) disclosing. There are symptoms you can look for to see if your child has suffered from abuse.

These include:

  • Sexually acting out
  • Behavioral problems
  • Development of venereal disease and/or frequent fears, anxieties, nightmares, and/or poor self-esteem or depression
  • Adolescents may run away, commit crime, or become withdrawn
  • Self-harming behaviors or suicidal tendencies
  • It is important to remember that children may not show any symptoms of being abused. Because of this, it is important to do whatever you can to prevent and educate your children about sexual abuse. Teach them about “good touches” and “bad touches”, empower them to say “no”, and how to get away from uncomfortable situations. Remind them they should always tell you or a trusted adult if anything uncomfortable happens to them. By educating them and creating conversation, you can make a difference in preventing abuse.

My child has been sexually abused. How will it affect their mental health?

Many victims report that the emotional damage done by the abuse is more harmful than the actual abuse itself.

Mental health issues your child may experience include:

  • Depression
  • Damaged goods syndrome—”no one wants me”
  • Distorted body image which can lead to eating
  • Low self-esteem and poor social skills
  • Poor development and immaturity
  • Anger and hostility/inability to trust.

As parents, should we be concerned about the validity of our child’s allegations of abuse?

Children rarely lie about abuse. We urge you to always believe your child and follow through with the next step of reporting.

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- Rotary Club of Omaha Northwest

Thank you so much for coming to Children’s and speaking to our staff. Your talk on “Understanding Poverty” was excellent, and I could see “wheels turning” as some staff members commented on simple ways their interactions might make a difference for children and parents.

- Patty Carrell, CMSW

I have felt that my input has been highly valued and respected when it comes to doing my job, and that is something that speaks volumes to the working environment here at Project Harmony.

- Brenda Jewell

We began collaborating with the Project Harmony through their Connections program last year, and we’ve continued the partnership. Connections represents an extremely valuable partnership and an opportunity to provide our students with a bridge to mental health services.

- Papillion La Vista Community Schools

Our experience and partnership with Project Harmony/Connections has been fantastic! It is a comfort knowing we have a partner who can connect our students and families with the appropriate resources in times of crisis or trauma.

- Millard Public Schools

This shadowing experience actually made me very interested in this field. One aspect that helped me narrow my choice of careers is the environment that Project Harmony had. It was very upbeat, cheerful and bright.

- UNMC High School Alliance Program – Student Journal

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- Millard Public Schools

You have a top rate program – really national quality. I’m totally impressed.

- Lisa Fontes

At our last D2 Center Board meeting, I was describing the training and professional development we provide for our staff. At the top of the list was Project Harmony. Please know that you are providing an invaluable service to nonprofits in our community.

- Greg Emmel

Congratulations on the great media coverage of your Stewards class at Project Harmony on WOWT. You did a great job articulating the importance of prevention, and Susan was amazing too. Thank you so much for your partnership and all the important work you are doing.

- Cindy McElhinney – Darkness to Light

Just wanted to know that you made a difference in my life, and I will be using that momentum to make a difference in the lives of others. You are truly a rock star and a role model for me. Thank you for a new life I’m getting the chance to live.

- Anonymous

Many children through my caseload have received a backpack generously donated to the Project Harmony Triage Center. I have witnessed many faces light up when given the opportunity to pick out a new backpack, and I am very grateful for the generosity of the Junior League.

- DHHS – Children & Family Services

I have never felt as valued at other organizations like I do at Project Harmony. I really feel that the culture of a working environment is incredibly important. If an employee feels respected, valued and supported, that person will likely give more to fulfill the mission.

- Javier Castellote

Nick and Javier were great teachers and role players. It gave us an opportunity to see how someone in that situation would have reacted to our questions. They did a great job at showing us the difference between sympathy and empathy.

- Anonymous

I was able to shadow Mr. Nick Zadina. He was in charge of dealing with abused kids and help them. I am thankful to know all the information I learned during shadowing because it was eye opening.

- UNMC High School Alliance Program – Student Journal

The experience at Project Harmony was a deepening reminder of empathy that will be vital in my career as a nurse. I felt my perspective was widened on how others think, especially when discussing the assumptions we make.

- Anonymous

I didn’t know how many people work at Project Harmony, so I drew a lot to show how much Project Harmony means to me!

- Project Harmony Client

As difficult as a removal is on a child, the backpack they receive at Project Harmony provides a sense of belonging and hope. It truly is amazing something that seems so simple can change the perspective and shine light on these children.

- DHHS – Children & Family Services

Great leadership for a wonderful cause with outstanding long-term goals. Keep on doing all the good you do.

- Bill & Jean O’Conner

Project Harmony is the reason I started my journey in college. I just finished my associates and I'm going for my bachelors now in Child Protection and Juvenile Justice. Y'all helped my daughter back in early 2013 and I knew what I wanted to do with my life — help children.

- LaLa Ann

A young lady who works in our field told me that she loved what we do here at Project Harmony — she had been to Project Harmony seven years ago for a forensic interview. She said her positive experience was the biggest reason she is doing the work that she is today.

- Trainee

I found out that my foster son is going to have a forensic interview here at Project Harmony soon. It’s been interesting being on the other side of things and feeling so reassured that the child I care so deeply about is in very caring and capable hands.

- Jessica Kroeker

Nick demonstrated how one person could impact a huge group of student nurses by just attending his presentation. He gave me the reason, the courage to act, and the knowledge how to save victims that I will face in my future nursing career.

- Anonymous

I recently attended the Testifying Training course. Since that class I have been subpoenaed three times, and I had to testify at each hearing. Without this class I would have been less than prepared and too nervous to be credible. Thank you so much!

- Jenny Lewis

You are part of the solution.

The cycle of abuse does not have to continue, but we can’t end it alone. Anyone has the power to be someone who makes our community a safe place for all children.

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