Managing an Abused Learner

Since educators spend a great deal of time with abused children who are their learners, it is important that they know how to manage them in the classroom.

  • Try to give them extra attention but not so obviously that other learners feel that the child is being favoured.
  • Adopt a child-centered approach and assure them that you are available should they need to discuss a problem.
  • Communicate in a sensitive way.
  • Build a trusting relationship and positive self-esteem.
  • Make opportunities for the abused child to draw and do creative activities, e.g. draw your family or a person. This will help them to express their inner feelings and act as a release.
  • Initiate group activities e.g. play, or peer group counseling. Abused children often isolate themselves.
  • Never tell the class what the child may have told you as they will lose their trust in you.
  • Set aside some time in the afternoon for the child to come and talk to you. It is not advisable to become too involved or to take the child to your home. Rather call the appropriate referral team (CPU, Welfare etc).
  • Follow up calling the relevant authorities or discussing the progress with the mother or primary caregiver.
  • The abused child may be a restless sleeper who tosses and maybe has nightmares. As a result they are often tired and lethargic in class.
  • Sometimes abused children lack concentration and their marks may deteriorate, especially after disclosure when the consequences of “telling” may heighten anxiety. The educator may need to gently re-focus the child if day dreaming is noted and offer extra assistance to the child in order for performance to return to earlier levels.
  • Be sensitive to the child’s needs. Allow the class to have a “quiet time”, reading, listening to a story, etc.
  • If the child’s behaviour warrants checking, do so and do not ignore it because you feel sympathetic. Reprimand immediately and deal with the problem on a one-to-one basis later. Sometimes anxiety and trauma may prompt a child to test boundaries.

For educators and caregivers You can copy these rules and ask an educator to put them up in their classroom so as to inform the children about sexual abuse.


Rule 1: Your body belongs to you. You have the right not to be abused.

Rule 2: Sexual abuse is never your fault. Nothing a child does or doesn’t do excuses an older person who uses a child for sexual pleasures.

Rule 3: Sexual abuse is harmful. The deepest hurt is the way the sexual abuse makes certain children feel about themselves.

Rule 4: Good people can do bad things. Abusers may be good people in other ways, but the abuse is very wrong and must be stopped.

Rule 5: Usually sexual abuse does not stop by itself. Tell an adult who will listen and do something about it.

Rule 6: Keep telling people you trust about sexual abuse until someone listens.

Rule 7: What happens to a sexual abuser is never you fault.