As a crisis responder, you become somewhat conditioned to NOT think with your heart. Dealing with a child or senior abuse situation will tax that concept to the maximum.
Not dissimilar to Domestic Violence, responders will be dealing with conflicting points of view. The abused is coming from a point of fear of losing what they know is their only support system. While the abuser will confess to feelings of frustration and being at the “end of their wits”.
The initial discussion with the police or 1st responders should focus on what has happened and if there is a consensus concerning any abuse being involved. If the consensus is that abuse or neglect is definite, the police or area law enforcement officials should be encouraged to call any victim assistance organization and child protective services available.
At this point, your attention is to turn to the child or senior. Introduce yourself and let them know that you were called to assist them. Establish a calm, helpful relationship with the “victim”. In a small child’s case and if the responder is a woman, this may involve allowing them to sit in your lap and cuddle them. If the responder is a male, then sitting on the ground/floor with the child would be appropriate. In the case of an elderly client, a friendly touch on the hand or shoulder may provide comfort. Again, always sit at or below the level of the one who is the subject of the abuse. Never stand over them. They are already intimidated by someone.
Small talk with the child or adult goes a long way in establishing a comfort level. A comfort level that will encourage them to discuss what has or is happening. In one noted situation, the child fell asleep in the arms of a lady responder. Upon waking, she felt safe and began telling her story. The story was then communicated to the police and child protective services resulting in the child being removed from the dangerous, abusive environment.
Addressing the nuts and bolts of the call, crisis responders, can as part of the ongoing dialogue establish the “victim’s” name, age, family information and in the case of a senior, their social security number if known. Friends or relatives may need to be contacted.
It is important to establish any medical conditions. In the case of children, “where does it hurt” and in the case of elders any illness or surgeries they have recently experienced. If conditions warrant, asking a senior where it hurts readily identifies additional abuse issues. As part of the general health assessment, ask when the last time they ate or had anything to drink.
When a senior is found wandering a bit a detective work may be in order. Check nursing homes in the area as well as local area stores to see if the “customer” is known or looks familiar.
For more details concerning the process of Crisis Response management, watch for Lesson #14 Traffic Accidents Involving Fatalities.