Child abuse?

One of my fifteen year old students mentioned (twice now) that she sometimes gets into fights with her parents that result in her being bruised. She didn’t seem too upset by it, but she could be just playing it cool. I’m a new teacher, so I’ve never been in this situation before. In the U.S., I know there are mandatory reporting laws about stuff like this. I care about this student quite a bit, but I’m not sure if getting her family into trouble will be the best thing for her. She’s extremely intelligent, and seems capable of making her own decisions regarding whether to involve the authorities. What do I do?

Report it to the appropriate body. Regardless of how it turns out at least you can look yourself in the mirror without feeling ashamed.

EDIT: before anyone says she can tell the authorities on her own, she already did. The authority she chose was you. She expects you to do the appropriate thing with the information she gave you.

You’re in a really tough spot and all I can say is good luck. I agree with skoster – she may be able to make her own decisions, but that doesn’t mean she is clear-minded on the issue. A lot of people, especially in family-driven Taiwan but also everywhere in the world, let familial abuse go unreported because they don’t want to bring trouble onto the family. (If you’ve ever watched a Lifetime original movie, you know the story.) Unfortunately I don’t know who you should report it to, or if there is anything they can even do about it.

tsukinodeynatsu posted this in an old thread:

Additionally, from the same old thread:

[quote=“ShaoLeFen”]In case anyone searches and finds this thread again, the thing to do is to call 113 from a landline or pay phone (cell phones don’t work for some reason). I had to do this myself just a moment ago, and the situation of my student was not nearly as bad as the original poster sounds. Just get as much info as you can, like the child’s Chinese name and address if possible. You can probably get their school name and ID number from their school uniform if they come straight from public school. I even used used my cell phone to take a picture which I e-mailed in to an address they gave me on the phone. I don’t speak Chinese, and it just them a minute to get a translator on the phone. The whole process went smoothly.

As an aside, I think it’s pathetic that any adult let alone a teacher or school staff (public or private) would fail to do anything about this. Or advise someone to sit back.

This is the e-mail they gave me if anyone is too shy to call:[/quote]

As sad as this sounds, you need to be prepared to lose your job over this.

So you think reporting it will actually help her situation? She mentioned she told her dad she would call 113 after he threw something at her, and it just “made him more mad.” The last thing I’d want to do is put her in a worse situation by making her parents think she ratted them out. Will she be removed fom her home! If not, will anything actually happen to make her situation better? If she is removed from her home, where will she go? Is that really what’s best for her?

Does she ever come to class looking bruised or seriously hurt? Or randomly missing classes for a period of time?

Just curious

Well, I guess the OP could offer to visit the student’s home with a few friends in a black BMW with opaque windows, and then discuss with the father over a nice cup of tea how attached he might be, hypothetically speaking, to his thumbs. It’s the Taiwanese way :thumbsup:

She never comes to class looking seriously hurt, but she does miss more class than anyone else I know, and for vague reasons, like “her sister’s sick,” “her mom’s taking medicine,” or “she’s sick.” I have been looking back on that with more suspicion lately. At first, I just thought it was a communication problem or a cultural difference. The secretary that relayed that information doesn’t have very good English, and I’m still getting used to the Taiwanese culture, so maybe “my mom took some laxatives” is a normal excuse for missing class.

The situations she’s described have come up in casual conversations we’ve had outside of class. For example, she said that she’s mad at her parents for wanting to take her phone away from her after 10:30 at night, when she wants to say goodnight to her boyfriend. They got into a fight about it, and that’s when she got hit. I don’t think it’s ever ok to hit a child, so I don’t want to blame the victim here. But I’m not eager to rush to the authorities to have a teenager removed from her home in a situation like this. I remember what it was like to get into fights with my parents when I was that age, fights that made my parents lose their temper and judgement as I forcefully asserted my independence. As much as they failed at being the grown-ups in the situation, it would have been terrible to see them go to jail. It would have made me feel more helpless and powerless if someone I trusted went behind my back and got my parents in trouble, especially if that left me in a foster situation.

Thanks everyone for helping me think through this. I still don’t know what’s best for her, but I can’t stand the idea that things might be worse than she says they are. I might try to get more information from her before deciding what to do. In any event, I don’t have any of the details I need to call the authorities with (I only have her English first name). I won’t go back to that branch for a few more days.

It sounds terrible to say, but there is a wall of cultural difference here, where slapping a child is a normal way to punish them for bad behavior. Obviously, this should not be accepted, but I doubt authorities would consider that abuse. You need to talk to her more and convince her to tell you more about what happens, and explain that you are concerned for her.

HOWEVER, you need to protect yourself, too. It’s another thing that shouldn’t need to be said, but you need to make sure that you’re keeping yourself above suspicion (assuming that you are male and your student is female). If you talk with her a lot after class, do it in an open area where other people can see you, even if they can’t hear, and preferably where there is a security camera because you don’t want to be accused of anything by anyone down the line.

Children do get PSA’s and emergency information in their reading, too. I read an edition of the 國語日報 where they discussed “appropriate” vs. “inappropriate” touching, with illustrations, to children.

Thanks for your advice. I would like to get a Taiwanese perspective on this, to see what a Chinese teacher would do in a similar situation, but I’m not sure how to go about getting that perspective. If it turns out I feel like I need to report the situation, I’d like to keep my reporting anonymous if possible.

Do you think foreigners are under more suspicion here, or would you give the same advice to anyone spending time alone with an abused teenager?

In my personal opinion, the likelihood of you being honestly mistaken for having inappropriate conduct with a student is near zero. But if you report her for abuse and the family finds out and wants to get even, wild accusations could start flying. Best to err on the side of caution.

I welcome dissenting opinions, though.

Are teachers here mandated reporters like they are in the US?

One of my friend’s student’s mom blatantly treats her son like total shit. He’s totally out of control. But it’s not the visible type of abuse, as in he’s not covered in bruises — he’s just very obviously been seriously neglected and unloved, and is emotionally unstable. He wants to know if there’s an authority he can report her to, or whether that would even be effective. Or if it might just cost him his job.

I’m prepared for the answer to this question to be bleak.

You are not a counselor nor understand the culture. Honestly, as quick as you can ask if a trusted local or boss could be brought in and discharge your responsibility. Tell a clergy person but transfer the “com” to someone qualified. You may loose your job or be like the cop called into a domestic abuse case and both parties attack you.
Helping is great and seeing someone injured is justification to break confidentiality and move it someone above you.

1 Like