Trauma triggers are reminders of the traumatizing event, and they can be almost anything: sounds, smells, articles of clothing, places or people who remind the child, consciously or unconsciously, of an abuse event. Triggers can cause memories to suddenly surface. When a trigger suddenly brings a memory to mind, the child may feel emotions identical to the ones experienced during the abuse and may choose to:

According to state law, all Floridians are mandatory reporters. They must report child abuse and neglect they suspect. Suspicions of sexual abuse should be reported to the Florida Abuse Hotline immediately. The Hotline counselor who takes your information will immediately assess the information available to see if it meets the criteria to initiate a protective investigation. The Florida Council Against Sexual Violence has developed a guidance paper titled FCASV: Mandatory Reporting, which can assist you in understanding the obligations of mandatory reporters.

Florida Statute Chapter 39, Section 201 outlines the mandatory reports of child abuse, abandonment, or neglect; mandatory reports of death; and the central abuse hotline.

F.S. 39.201 states that:

(1)(c) Any person who knows, or has reasonable cause to suspect, that a child is the victim of childhood sexual abuse or the victim of a known or suspected juvenile sexual offender, as defined in this chapter, shall report such knowledge or suspicion to the department in the manner prescribed in subsection (2).

Subsection 2(b) Each report of known or suspected child abuse by an adult other than a parent, legal custodian, caregiver, or other person responsible for the child’s welfare, as defined in this chapter, shall be made immediately to the department’s central abuse hotline. Such reports may be made on the single statewide toll-free telephone number or via fax, Web-based chat, or Web-based report. Such reports or calls shall be immediately electronically transferred to the appropriate county sheriff’s office by the central abuse hotline.

You can also review the entire Florida Statute on mandatory reporting.

“Abuse” means any willful act or threatened act that results in any physical, mental, or sexual injury or harm that causes or is likely to cause the child’s physical, mental, or emotional health to be significantly impaired.

If your child told someone else about the abuse before telling you, you should still report it to the Florida Abuse Hotline. Professionals such as teachers, clergy or medical professionals who know about the abuse are required to report it to the Florida Abuse Hotline immediately, but they are not required to inform you.

Remember: The abuse and any consequences that result from reporting it are entirely the abuser’s responsibility. In spite of how difficult it can be to report child abuse, it’s the right, legally responsible and courageous thing to do. Download a copy of How to Report Abuse: Overview.

More Information about the Hotline

The Florida Abuse Hotline serves as the central reporting center for reports of abuse, neglect, and/or exploitation for all children and vulnerable adults in Florida. It receives calls, faxes and Web-based reports from citizens and professionals with concerns of abuse, neglect, or exploitation on children and vulnerable adults in Florida. It also determines if the information provided by the reporter meets statutory criteria (legal standards) for the Department of Children and Families to conduct an investigation. Even if your report does not trigger an investigation, it will likely still be helpful in preventing further abuse.

Before you report, gather as much information as you can. See What We Need to Know for a list of important information. If you don’t have some of the information, you must still report any suspicions. You can download a Reporting Details form to help document the initial report and a Contact Tracking form to assist you in keeping a record of who you interact with regarding your child’s case. Watch the video below for information about the reporting process for child sexual abuse.

For more information, download Reporting Abuse of Children and Vulnerable Adults, a document about the Florida Abuse Hotline provided by the Florida Department of Children and Families. To find information about resources in your local district, go to the Florida Resources page of this guide.